Embattled congressman Eliot Engel, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has bragged that he sits down with the rightwing pro-Israel organization AIPAC on “every piece of legislation coming out of the Foreign Affairs Committee.”
In a 2018 speech to an AIPAC gathering in his NY district, Engel noted that he and Rep. Nita Lowey had both been in the House 30 years and were soon to assume chair positions that they could use to help Israel.
We are at the cusp of being in a position as chairs of the Foreign Affairs Committee and Appropriations Committee to make sure that Israel continue to receive support, and the United States and Israel stand as one. There’s a bunch of legislation coming out of the Foreign Affairs Committee. I want to tell you that I sit down with AIPAC on every piece of legislation that comes out. I think it’s very, very important. In the past 30 years I have attended 31 consecutive AIPAC conferences in March, I haven’t missed one. [Applause].
Engel personifies a tradition in the Democratic Party of being “PEP” — or progressive except Palestine.
In his campaign to hold his seat representing the Bronx and Westchester in next week’s Democratic primary, Engel has repeatedly hailed the demonstrations over racial injustice and bragged of marching with Black Lives Matter, “to protest the systemic forces of racism, police brutality, and abuse of power.” He has endorsed much of the progressive program of his challenger Jamaal Bowman. He says he is for a Green New Deal, immigrants’ rights, a higher minimum wage, and universal health care as a “human right.”
Engel and Bowman differ most sharply on Israel. Bowman is for conditioning aid to Israel over its unending settlement project. While Engel has said that is out of the question, and has refused to criticize settlements.
Engel gave a speech to AIPAC in a White Plains temple two years ago, when the first crop of insurgent Democrats in Bowman’s camp, Justice Democrats, were about to be elected to Congress. Engel said that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and two other soon-to-be-congresswomen who offered sharp criticism of Israel “need to be educated” about Israel, so that the Congress would maintain its “overwhelming… bipartisan” support for Israel.
Engel took a one-sided view of the conflict, saying that Israel wanted peace and Palestinians had repeatedly rejected offers.
We’re going to continue to strive for peace. But when it comes to peace it takes two to tango. The Israelis have shown time and time again over the years, that they are willing to compromise, they’re willing to come to a decision to have peace with the Palestinians, and each time the Palestinians have rejected it. Once with Ehud Olmert, once with Ehud Barak, the Israelis said yes to a peace deal and the Palestinians said No.
And he said Arabs have wanted to push Jews into the sea since 1947.
I also like to remind people that in 1947 the United Nations met, the Security Council, and they decided to partition what was then historic Palestine… We all know the history. The Jews said yes, once again, the first time, and the Arabs said no… they tried to push the Jews into the sea. It didn’t work. Each time that is what happened, the Israelis said yes, and the Palestinians said no.
He concluded his remarks, “Am Yisrael Chai, the people of Israel live.”
Engel said that the House Foreign Affairs Committee was a model of bipartisanship and as chair he would maintain “overwhelming support for Israel across the aisle.”
That bipartisanship has filled Engel’s campaign coffers as he battles down to the wire. He has received over $600,000 from a pro-Israel group with close ties to AIPAC and to Republican sources of money. Many pro-Israel groups have rallied to his cause.
P.S. How odd that of all Engel’s issue links on his website, the Israel tab takes you to a 404 error. I wonder if this isn’t a reflection of the fact that the Democratic base is actually critical of Israel and willing to support sanctions.
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Featured image: Eliot Engel with Benjamin Netanyahu, and Theodor Herzl in Background, 2011. From Engel’s Flickr Feed