Lingle, Hawai'i delegation to visit Israel next week
By B.J. Reyes
Associated Press Writer
Gov. Linda Lingle and a 27-member delegation from Hawai'i are headed to Israel next week on a visit the governor says will be more about strengthening relations and raising the state's profile than about the politics of the volatile Middle East region.
Lingle, who is scheduled to meet with high-level government officials including Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said she also requested meetings with members of opposition parties, women's groups, academic institutions and others.
"It's not just to meet with the people who are in power now, but all the other people as well," Lingle said yesterday, after announcing the visit. "We're trying to get just a well-rounded view for everyone."
The Hawai'i delegation's trip follows similar visits by other governors including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and New York Gov. George Pataki, and is not an endorsement of any politics, Lingle said.
"It's not an endorsement of anything except that it's America's greatest ally in the Middle East," said Lingle, who was elected in 2002 and is the state's first Jewish governor. "They've invited us to go and it raises Hawai'i's profile in the world, and we think that has a lot of value for our state."
The delegation is scheduled to leave Sunday and return May 22. Among the areas members plan to visit are Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Golan Heights and Galilee, Lingle said.
Joining the governor on the trip are state Adjutant General Robert Lee, Business and Economic Director Ted Liu, Agriculture Director Sandra Lee Kunimoto, Human Services Director Lillian Koller, Rep. Mark Moses, R-40th (Makakilo, Kapolei, Royal Kunia), and Vivian Aiona, the wife of Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona.
Representatives from Hawai'i's Jewish community, the University of Hawai'i and other sectors of the state's economy also are part of the group.
The state officials will meet with their Israeli counterparts and discuss plans for upcoming partnerships, development opportunities and other cooperative partnerships, Lingle said.
"It gives us a chance to deal with a government that's very much an economy much like our own," she said. "Our economy is military, agriculture and tourism and trying to move into technology.
"Israel's is agriculture, military and tourism, but they've had some great success in technology."
No state money is being used for the trip, Lingle's office said.
The Israeli government is paying all expenses for Lingle, Aiona, the governor's communications adviser Lenny Klompus, and half the expenses for Kunimoto and Koller.
State Democratic Party Chairman Alex Santiago declined comment.