INTERVIEW: Eliot Engel Discusses U.S.-Israel Relationship

Jewish Insider caught up with Congressman Eliot Engel, ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, in New York City on Sunday.

“We don’t have a king in this country. We have three co-equal branches of government,” Engel told Jewish Insider with respect to the executive branch’s growing power on foreign policy issues. “I think that there are things that are important to members, and we will pass laws and hope the President will sign them. For instance, I am circulating a bill which would slap sanctions on anyone who aids and abets the Syrian regime. We are looking into Russia’s influence on this election and Russia’s ties to the President and others in the Trump administration. And these are the things that have to come from Congress. I think it’s a shared responsibility and no matter who’s been the president, who’s been in Congress, there is always that antagonistic kind of pulling and tugging, but I think there is a very important role of Congress to play and as the ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I intend to fulfil that role.”

On bipartisan Congressional support for Israel: “Support for Israel has always been bipartisan and ought to stay that way. I tell this to my friends in the government of Israel, also. They have to work with both parties because that’s the way it is. You know, different parties are in power at different periods of time. You don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket.”

Q: Will a cozy relationship between Trump and Netanyahu turn Israel into a partisan issue?

Engel: “I think that Bibi is doing what any prime minister and leader of a country would do and that’s to have good relations with the U.S. He didn’t always have good relations with Obama. But you see, I want to make it so that the U.S. and Israel are so close together that it doesn’t matter who’s prime minister and who is president at any given time. I want to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship so it won’t really matter.”

“Look, there’s one democracy in the Middle East and it’s Israel, and Israel elects its leaders. The U.S. doesn’t elect Israel’s leaders, and Bibi Netanyahu has been the leader of Israel a long time and we have to respect it and work with him. I have no trouble working with him. I respect what he has done. Does that mean that I have agreed with everything he’s done? No. I didn’t agree with everything Obama did and he was from my party. Obama did some really good things for Israel, but he did some – as my grandmother would say – ‘narish’ (foolish) things. So, everything is a balance.”

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