weighing in

Meeks: U.S. commitment to Israel aid is ‘absolute and unequivocal’

Rep. Gregory Meeks, who is competing for the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s chairmanship, said on an AJC call that he opposes conditioning aid to Israel

European External Action Service

Former European Union High Secretary Federica Mogherini meets with Congressman Gregory Meeks

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) expressed his firm opposition on Thursday to conditioning U.S. assistance to Israel if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government unilaterally annexes portions of the West Bank.

“We know the extreme importance in the region to make sure that Israel has the right to defend itself — and the dollars that we give Israel to defend itself is absolute and unequivocal,” Meeks said in a Zoom call hosted by the American Jewish Committee. 

Meeks is competing with Reps. Brad Sherman (D-CA) and Joaquín Castro (D-TX) for the chairmanship of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, following the defeat of current chairman Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) in New York’s Democratic primary. 

Earlier this month, The Times of Israel reported that — following a public lobbying effort from J Street and other groups — all three candidates expressed support for a measure that would prohibit Israel from using U.S. military assistance to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank. 

“Of course there are disputes in regards to policy, in regards to some of the things that President [Donald] Trump has done, and some of the things and some of the issues that Prime Minister Netanyahu has done, and so we have the ability to talk about that,” Meeks stressed. “But we understand that Israel has a right to defend itself, our strong ally — in a bipartisan way. We stand strong in that regard.” 

The Democrat, who represents portions of Queens and Nassau County, called the recently announced UAE-Israel accord “a tremendous step in the right direction” toward achieving peace in the Middle East. “The agreement with the UAE and them acknowledging Israel… and now that Israel has made the agreement not to move forward with annexation — that’s working together,” Meeks said. “And if we can get the other countries in the region… to join them, we may be moving in the right direction. That is huge.” 

On the call, Meeks also commented on the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) questionnaire that asked New York City Council candidates to commit not to travel to Israel if elected. “I urge members to travel anytime they get the opportunity to the region because that changes your mind and gives you a better understanding of what’s taking place [in] the region,” Meeks said.

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