With rumblings of revolution and war in the Middle East, maybe summer 2013 wasn’t exactly the best time to take off for a free deluxe tour of Israel, but freshman Democratic congressman Juan Vargas, accompanied by his wife Adrienne, managed to soldier along. According to an official free trip report filed August 19, Vargas and spouse enjoyed the hospitality of the American Israel Education Foundation on a tour that “educated members of congress about the U.S.-Israel relationship.” The foundation is an affiliate of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, known as AIPAC, a key lobbyist for foreign policy positions endorsed by the Israeli government.
From August 4 through 13, Vargas and his wife were put up at the five-star King David Hotel in Jerusalem, the Scots Hotel (“with direct frontage on to the Sea of Galilee”) in Tiberias, and the Merom Golan in Merom Golan, the latter used for a “dayroom to prepare for departure.” Transportation costs were $5970 each, total lodging ran $2490, and meal expenses were $900 each.
Other costs, including $500 per person to pay for security (“AIEF considers the security of its trip participants as its highest priority. A security team accompanies all participants throughout the trip”), ran $1766 each. All told, the couple’s junket cost its sponsors a grand total of $19,914. Side trips included a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; a “strategic survey of Jerusalem”; and a meet-up with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority. Then it was off to the Gaza Strip for “Living with the Threat of Rockets” and “America’s Role in Protecting Israel.”