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Hakeem Jeffries hopeful Bowman will become a pro-Israel member of Congress

‘While his perspective is certainly different than Eliot Engel’s, I think there's obviously a recognition and an openness there as it relates to the State of Israel’

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House Democratic conference chair Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) answers questions during a press conference following a meeting of the House Democratic caucus May 17, 2021 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, expressed hope that his likely new colleague, Jamaal Bowman — who beat Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) in the Democratic primary for New York’s 16th district — will join the majority of the Democratic Party in support of Israel. 

“Mr. Bowman has explicitly said he doesn’t support BDS. And so, while his perspective is certainly different than Eliot Engel’s, I think there’s obviously a recognition and an openness there as it relates to the State of Israel, its relationship to the United States and its importance,” Jeffries said during a Zoom call on Wednesday hosted by the American Jewish Committee.

Jeffries added that Bowman’s opposition to BDS creates “a pathway there to more dialogue because he’s clearly open to a perspective of the shared values, the shared strategic importance, based on his explicit condemnation of BDS.” 

In a recent interview with City and State New York, Bowman, whose win against Engel was announced after weeks of ballot-counting and who doesn’t face a serious general election challenge, said that part of his foreign policy focus is to be “more involved” in the humanitarian needs of Palestinians. “As a humanitarian leader, we need to be more involved to say more about what’s happening in Kashmir, what’s happening in China with the Uighur Muslims and what’s happening in Palestine with the Palestinians,” Bowman declared.

Bowman added that when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian issue, he differs with his predecessor, on “occupation, annexation and detaining Palestinian children… It doesn’t mean that… I’m not pro-Israel. I am in full support of Israel. I’m also in full support of the human rights of the Palestinian people.”

Jeffries stressed that the House Democratic Caucus is “a big family, a diverse family and an enthusiastic family,” but “at the end of the day. I think that the overwhelming sentiment is that we’re going to work together on behalf of the American people to advance shared values and objectives.” 

Referring to Bowman and Cori Bush — a Justice Democrats-backed candidate who, like Bowman, unseated a longtime Democratic member of Congress and has aligned herself with ‘The Squad’ — Jeffries said that “it remains to be seen what their perspectives are going to be as they come into that family.” He pointed out that Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), one of the ‘Squad’ members elected to Congress in 2018, voted with the Democratic caucus on the anti-BDS House resolution.

“I actually think that when you begin to look at a caucus generally,” he said, “it’s important to look at everybody individually and their perspectives and how they articulate and vote, and that you’ll actually find something different than what the media often projects.”

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