C.D. 4: Rice visits Israel

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UPDATE: The Kathleen Rice party visiting Israel figured out a work-around the FAA ban on U.S. flights to and from Tel Aviv, and she is expected to return Thursday.

Said Rice spokesman Eric Phillips: "We are leaving on a flight connecting in Europe that routes to JFK. If everything holds, our return timing won't be much different than originally scheduled." - Tom Brune in Washington

Democratic Congressional candidate Kathleen Rice -- who is running in a district with a prominent Jewish population -- landed Monday night in Tel Aviv, Israel, to meet with economic and national security experts and local community leaders, her campaign said.

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Rice, the Nassau district attorney, was scheduled to return to Long Island on Thursday, but aides said that date is now uncertain with many airlines postponing travel to and from Israel in light of a rocket falling about a mile away from Ben-Gurion International Airport on Tuesday. She is traveling with Rabbi Hershel Billet, a former president of the Rabbinical Council of America and longtime rabbi at a Woodmere synagogue.

“Our congressional district has a special bond with Israel, and nobody is more committed than I am to strengthening that tie and to advocating for our shared values and interests,” Rice said in a statement. “As a lifelong advocate of Israel and our Jewish community – and for a peace process that is lasting and inclusive of all faiths – I am here to gain a deeper, eyewitness understanding of the divides that have put so many civilians in danger across Israel and in Gaza. This is the most complex geopolitical region in the world. If our policymakers are truly interested in its stability and in our own national security at home and abroad, then we must be willing to see firsthand the situation on the ground not only during times of relative peace, but also in times of conflict.

“I am looking forward to listening and talking to families affected by the violence,” Rice continued, “and to the cultural, economic and military experts on the front lines of the region’s long road toward security and prosperity.”

Rice, whose Twitter account Tuesday showed her visting the Western Wall, faces Republican Bruce Blakeman in the 4th District race to succeed Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola). Blakeman, who is Jewish, was formerly presiding officer of the Nassau County Legislature, and represented the heavily Jewish Five Towns region of the county.

Blakeman has made Israel a central component of his campaign, and on his website has a lengthy description of his views about the issues there. Earlier in the campaign, he spoke out often about the kidnapping of three Israeli teens, and reacted to the discovery of their bodies by criticizing President Barack Obama’s foreign policy.

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"Israel is the spiritual capital of the world. I have always thoroughly enjoyed my visits to the Jewish homeland,” Blakeman said in a statement Tuesday. “It is important that America stands firmly behind Israel's mission to destroy Hamas.  Secretary Kerry and the Obama Administration must stop bullying the Jewish State and let them finish the job against their enemies.”

Before the discovery of the kidnapped boys’ bodies, Rice had also spoken out against the crime, saying, “The U.S. should provide all the support and assistance it can in helping to find these teenagers and bring their kidnappers to justice.”

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