Republican U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman returned from his first trip to Israel with admiration for Israeli optimism and an unflagging support for the Jewish state.
The incumbent in the Sixth Congressional District won more than 57 percent of the vote with two opponents in 2016. For 2018, Dan Kohl of Mequon, the nephew of former U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, is running as a Democrat. Scott Olmer of Plymouth is running as a Republican.
Grothman returned in mid-August from a weeklong working trip to Israel for members of Congress. The trip was sponsored by American Israel Education Foundation, a charitable organization affiliated with AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby.
“The best thing was not even something that was an official part of the tour,” Grothman said. “Meeting with a lot of young Israelis …. seeing the optimism in Israel’s future.”
He saw historical sites and met with Israeli military officials, but it was the positive outlook of ordinary Israelis that really struck him.
“I was expecting a little bit of pessimism too,” he said, given that in Gaza and the West Bank there are “all the people there who are raised to hate Jews.”
If he had any criticism for Israel, it was regarding its response to Palestinians teaching hate. “I think they have to be a little bit more demanding in terms of the education,” he said.
Asked about a possible two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Grothman raised reservations, saying “we have yet to see an Arab dominated country that wants Israel to exist.”
Grothman went on, taking aim at the left.
“Some people get confused and put Gaza or the West Bank on a pedestal,” he said. “I got news, Gaza and Palestine are not ready to bloom into a Western-style state.”
He did say Israel is trying to do nice things, like setting up medical facilities along the Syrian border to assist refugees. He noted that Gaza is not occupied.
The congressmen on the trip met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Grothman described him as a “down-to-earth guy.” They also met with a close associate of Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who Grothman felt was “unimpressive.” Without the press present, congressmen were asking him about educating young Palestinians to kill Jews, Grothman said. “He really wouldn’t face that issue at all.”
Asked about how the Trump Administration is doing with regard to Israel, Grothman said the administration is “instinctually favorable” to Israel because “the Trump Administration is pro-America and Israel and America are both Western countries.”
“There are some people who for whatever psychological reason don’t like Western countries. They think that somehow Western countries are enjoyable places to live because they’ve taken advantage of other countries and that’s not true. Their country is built on honest government with a free economic system, governed by laws.”
It’s not Israel’s fault that you wouldn’t want to live in Gaza, he said. “Gaza’s got a corrupt government. Gaza’s destroyed the green houses that Israel left behind.”
“Barrack Obama, he ran around the world doing an apology tour for the United States,” he said. “It’s a little frustrating to find people in America who feel America has something to apologize for.”
As a Christian, Grothman enjoyed seeing the Sea of Galilee. He also visited Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Masada. Regarding his trip to Masada, he said it “was kind of surprise to me to, how desolate it is. I can’t think of anything in the U.S. that desolate.”
“Obviously, things are more compact in Israel,” he said. “People are having to squeeze onto a smaller amount of land.”
He loved the trip.
“It was tremendous in so many ways.”
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This story has been corrected from the original version, which misstated the margin of victory in the 2016 election for Rep. Glenn Grothman. He won more than 57 percent of the vote with two opponents in 2016.