American Jewish Committee (AJC), the global advocacy organization for the Jewish people, last week hosted a delegation of parliamentarians from Austria for a five-day study visit in Washington, DC, and New York. The seminar was organized in partnership with the Embassy of Austria.
Led by MP Martin Engelberg from the center-right Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), the group conducted meetings on a wide range of topics, including the situation in Israel and the Middle East, America’s partnerships with Europe and Israel, the future of the Abraham Accords, Jewish life in America, and the global fight against antisemitism.
“We appreciate Austria’s strong and principled support for Israel and the Jewish people. As levels of antisemitism continue to rise around the world, this high-level delegation of lawmakers visiting the U.S. to engage with American Jewry is a powerful expression of the deepening friendship based on shared values and interests,” said Michael Sieveking, AJC’s Director of U.S. Diplomatic Engagement. “It is essential that Europe and America cooperate closely on supporting Israel, especially now – at this defining moment – as the Jewish state defends itself following the horrific October 7 attacks by Iran-backed Hamas terrorists and works to free the hostages. Israel is our first line of defense against Iran‘s terror network.”
Over the course of the visit, in addition to engagements with U.S. officials, the parliamentarians met with thought and faith leaders, visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, attended hospitality dinners with local AJC board members, and held discussions with AJC leadership, think tanks, and academics.
Among the eleven Austrian lawmakers who participated in the AJC program were members of AJC’s Transatlantic Friends of Israel (TFI) inter-parliamentary group. Founded by the AJC Transatlantic Institute in Brussels in 2019, TFI is the first-ever cross-party friendship caucus specifically committed to strengthening the partnership between Israel and the United States, Canada, and Europe.
The Austrian TFI Chapter was launched in October 2021 under the leadership of its Chair, MP Engelberg, who spearheaded the visiting delegation of lawmakers from his own ÖVP, the Greens, and the liberal NEOS party.
“In these challenging times, the high-level talks we had in Washington and New York were very helpful. With our cross-party delegation of the Austrian Chapter of the Transatlantic Friends of Israel, we gained important insights on the situation in Israel, the U.S. strategy to combat antisemitism, and the political situation in the United States. We were able to share insights about Austria and Europe with our American partners. We return to Austria with many helpful impressions and we appreciate the excellent cooperation with AJC,” said MP Engelberg.
“All the insights we gained on the TFI delegation’s visit to the United States showed us one thing very clearly: the rising tide of global antisemitism is a serious problem for all of society. While many efforts are underway to combat hate, much more work needs to be done to eradicate the evil of antisemitism,” added MP Johannes Margreiter, TFI Austria Co-Chair from the NEOS party.
A centerpiece of the program was the AJC-convened roundtable discussion on Capitol Hill with Austria’s Ambassador to the U.S., Dr. Petra Schneebauer, and bipartisan members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL), the Congressional Co-Chair of TFI. The parliamentarians exchanged views on the situation in the Middle East, Iran‘s escalating terror, and the need for a strong and unified approach across the Atlantic in support of Israel.
“I welcome the visit of the Transatlantic Friends of Israel to Washington, D.C., and New York,” said Ambassador Dr. Schneebauer. “The close transatlantic relationship is more important than ever during these turbulent times. Austria stands in solidarity with Israel in the fight against terror and supports Israel's internationally recognized right to defend itself against this barbaric attack of October 7, 2023.”
“It was a pleasure to welcome Ambassador Schneebauer and my Austrian TFI colleagues to Capitol Hill at the AJC roundtable,” said Rep. Schneider. “While Israel continues to face existential threats from Iran and its proxies Hamas and Hezbollah, standing together with our European partners in support of Israel and our shared democratic values is as critical as ever.”
Under the auspices of the Embassy of Austria, the group held separate meetings with officials in the U.S. Department of State, including Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism, and Ambassador Dan Shapiro, Senior Advisor for Regional Integration in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.
The Embassy also held a ceremony welcoming new Austrian citizens who are descendants of victims and survivors of the Holocaust and other persecuted persons. In New York, the group met with Austria‘s UN Ambassador, Alexander Marschik, alongside Israel‘s Deputy Permanent Representative Jonathan Miller.
In New York, the group held a joint meeting with Austria's Ambassador to the United Nations Alexander Marschik and Israel's Deputy Permanent Representative Jonathan Miller. In addition, the parliamentarians met with Austria's Consul General Helene Steinhäusl.