Ahead of the 117th Congress convening on Jan. 3, Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) was elected by his fellow Democrats to be chairman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, while Rep. Michael McCaul (R-N.Y.) was re-elected by his Republican colleagues to be the committee’s ranking member.

The committee plays a crucial role in shaping policy on issues pertinent to the Jewish and pro-Israel community from U.S. assistance to Israel to countering Iran to tackling other Mideast issues.

Meeks, who beat out Reps. Joaquín Castro (D-Texas) and Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) to become the first African-American to hold the top spot, will succeed Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), who was upset earlier this year in his primary.

While Meeks has said that U.S. assistance to Israel should be “absolute and unequivocal,” he has warned against Israel using any funding to possibly apply sovereignty to the West Bank, though it’s already U.S. law that the defense funding can’t be used in Judea and Samaria.

Jewish Democratic groups applauded Meeks’ election on Thursday to the chairmanship.

“Congressman Meeks brings to that role extensive experience, deep knowledge, and a longstanding commitment to the U.S.-Israel relationship,” said Democratic Majority for Israel president and CEO Mark Mellman. “We also celebrate the historic nature of this election as the congressman is poised to become the first black chair of the committee.”

“We were delighted that Congressman Meeks addressed our supporters recently to discuss his strong support for Israel, his opposition to additional conditions on U.S. security assistance to Israel, his support for a two-state solution, his commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and his plan to restore America’s standing around the world,” he continued.

In a statement, Jewish Democratic Council of America executive director Halie Soifer said that “Meeks has a long history and strong record of supporting the U.S.-Israel relationship, and we are confident he will work with President-elect Joe Biden to restore American global leadership, including in the Middle East.”

“We are confident that Rep. Meeks will also work with a strengthened Biden administration State Department to restore the importance of diplomacy and multilateralism as core tenets of U.S. foreign policy,” she continued. “This is important to Jewish Americans, who want to see America work with our allies to confront global challenges such as COVID-19, climate change and Iran’s nuclear development.”

The American Jewish Committee also welcomed Meeks’ selection.

Pro-Israel America also welcomed Meek’s selection, saying that he has a long history of supporting Israel.

“A dedicated advocate of the U.S.-Israel relationship throughout his over two-decade tenure in the House, Congressman Meeks has co-sponsored legislation condemning the dangerous Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and has consistently supported the absolute and unequivocal U.S. commitment to Israel aid,” said the group’s executive director, Jeff Mendelsohn, in a statement.

Similarly, Pro-Israel America praised McCaul.

“In today’s environment, having leadership on both sides of the aisle that understand, value and support America’s alliance with Israel is critical for our security,” Mendelsohn said. “Representative McCaul is a strong champion of the U.S-Israel alliance, we are proud to have endorsed him for re-election in 2020 and look forward to continuing to work with him to advance peace, security, and shared prosperity through a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.”


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