Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank recently spent some time with Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, just after the congressman returned from a trip to Lebanon.

Milbank writes that Issa, whose grandfather emigrated from Lebanon in 1914, is the only member of Congress to visit the besieged country, while 22 others have visited Israel since the latest conflict between the two countries began. Fresh from his trip, Milbank reports that Issa wants to boost financial aid to Lebanon and have the United Nations step in and redraw national borders in the Middle East if the Israelis and their Arab neighbors can’t come to terms by a U.N. deadline.

“Let’s not stay with the tradition that the parties shall agree,” Issa said…”We’ve drawn artificial lines before, not the least of which is the very creation of the state of Israel, so let’s finish drawing that part of the map.”

While Milbank dubs Issa “a conservative Republican with a powerful sympathy for the Arab cause,” he explains that it’s not always an easy thing to be.

He supports the Iraq war and voted for a resolution backing Israel in its fight with Hezbollah, but he has also accused Israel of “apartheid” and scolds the Bush administration for “missed opportunities” to win Arab friends.

Al-Jazeera propagandists ridicule him, and the radical Jewish Defense League tried to bomb his office after a WorldNetDaily.com commentator dubbed him “Jihad Darrell.”

Not fully trusted by either side, Issa is apparently used to the awkwardness, which Milbank writes dates back to his time as a Lebanese Christian delivery boy for a kosher butcher.

The awkwardness continues. He complained about a House resolution last month condemning Israel’s enemies, but voted for it anyway after his alternative version failed. He opposed sanctions against Syria, but he vigorously supports the U.S. campaign in Iraq.

Some might see these as contradictions. Issa portrays it as evenhandedness. One minute he’s condemning Israel’s targeting in Lebanon (“they blew up all the fuel tanks just to see them burn!”) and the next, he’s bemoaning Arab intransigence (“they never focus [on] what is a legitimate compromise”).

Check out Milbank’s column here.

DANIEL STRUMPF

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