Congressman Barber visits Israel for the first time
JERUSALEM/TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Arizona Congressman Ron Barber (D-2) is in Israel for the first time this week on an official visit with a delegation of United States Representatives.
He spoke over the phone with 9 On Your Side Friday morning from Jerusalem.
Barber has met with Israeli and Palestinian officials about the recently restarted peace negotiations, as well as Israeli hi-tech business leaders about the prospects of creating economic ties between Israel and Southern Arizona.
Barber tells 9 On Your Side he credits a combat wound bandage, made in Israel, with saving his life on Jan. 8, 2011. Deputies applied that bandage to stop the bleeding while they rushed him to University of Arizona Medical Center.
During his week-long trip, Barber visited a fortified indoor playground that can withstand a direct hit from a rocket launched by Hamas in Gaza.
"In particular, I want to make sure Israel's security is protected I whatever agreement comes out," Barber said of the peace talks looking to resolve the centuries old conflict.
Both sides are hopeful about this latest round of negotiations, in part because of Sec. of State John Kerry's determination to bring both sides to the table, Barber said.
The unrest in Egypt following last month's overthrow of the country's first democratically elected government is another security concern for Israel.
"We need to stabilize Egypt right now and I'm hopeful the military leaders of that country will soon call for elections," Barber said.
But Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, say the biggest threat is Iran's pursuit of a nuclear bomb.
"The opportunity for them to provide that weaponry to terrorist organization is something we need to be very mindful about," Barber said, adding Iran is also a threat to the United States' security.
In addition to foreign policy meetings, Barber has spoken with Israeli hi-tech industry leaders. His goal is to bring more Israeli development to the University of Arizona's Research Park.
Barber said he also spoke with Israeli government officials about Raytheon and other Southern Arizona defense contractors helping produce the Iron Dome. Developed by the U.S. and Israel, the Iron Dome is a top of the line anti-missile defense system.
Just last November, it shot down 86 percent of 1,500 missiles Hamas fired at Israel.
"I want to make sure that we bring the Iron Dome co-production project to Tucson where we can both have jobs for Tucsonans and others to come work on that project," Barber said, "as well as provide a back up production facility to protect israel with this incredibly effective defense mechanism."
Barber's trip has taken him across the country from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv to the Golan Heights in the northern part of the country. He has also crossed into the Gaza Strp and Ramallah in the West Bank to meet with Palestinian officials.
The delegation of U.S. lawmakers is meeting Friday with the Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren.