Ryan announces trip to Jerusalem: 'America is not safer when we back away from Israel'

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WASHINGTON, March 21 (UPI) -- U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan on Monday announced that he will soon take his first trip abroad as congressional leader, to Israel, as part of his backing for the embattled Middle Eastern nation.

In an address at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference Monday, the Wisconsin Republican said he would take the trip when Congress recesses for Easter.

"It is always a good thing when America's leaders declare their support for Israel. But it is not enough," he said. "The speeches, the statements -- all the words in the world mean nothing if you don't back them up with action.

"That is why, two years ago, when the rockets were falling on Tel Aviv, the House approved emergency support for the Iron Dome. That is why, within just two months of my becoming Speaker, we voted to fund every penny of our security assistance commitment."

The congressional leader said his planned trip is partly motivated by a desire to provide Israel with more than "vague assurances that we've got their back" -- especially in view of last year's landmark nuclear accord between Tehran and Western allies, which Israel staunchly opposed.