On tour

Meeks details plans for committee’s Israel trip

The trip will depart in July and include meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders

Bebeto Matthews/AP

Congressman Gregory Meeks, D-NY, Wednesday, May 22, 2019, at LaGuardia Community College in New York.

An upcoming congressional delegation to Israel will be an opportunity for legislators to “be focused on support for Israel and its security and at the same time focused on the humanitarian concerns of the Palestinians,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks (D-NY), who is leading the delegation, told Jewish Insider on Wednesday.

The trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories will be Meeks’s first as chairman.

Meeks, who took over the committee in January, replacing pro-Israel stalwart former Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), cited last month’s war in Gaza, the Abraham Accords and the new Israeli government as having shaped his decision to prioritize traveling to Israel.

“To have an opportunity to sit down with this new government in Israel and bring together a bipartisan delegation from the United States Congress, where we can be focused on support for Israel and its security and at the same time focused on the humanitarian concerns of the Palestinians, it seems to me to be the right time and the right message to get that done,” Meeks said. “I just think that it’s really important to do.”

The group is also planning to meet with Palestinian leadership. Meeks, who represents parts of Queens and Brooklyn, said multiple committee members had already joined the trip, which is set to depart sometime in July, but did not name any of the legislators who had already signed onto the delegation, deferring to the members themselves.

“We have a lot of members who want to go, so that’s not an issue,” he added.

No committee members contacted by JI have confirmed participation so far.

Meeks said he hopes to hear how the U.S. can help keep Israel safe and address Palestinians’ humanitarian concerns.

“We’ve got to try to figure out how to move forward with a two-state solution,” Meeks said, adding that he sees the Abraham Accords, which normalized relations between Israel and several Arab states, as “a window of strong opportunity to have change.”

Two prominent critics of Israel’s policies during the recent conflict — Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Joaquín Castro (D-TX) — are members of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Meeks said he hopes that representatives who oppose some of Israel’s positions will join the delegation. 

“Hopefully we’re going to have a cross-section of members from all different viewpoints. I think that’s what’s good about our committee,” he said. “That’s what we’re going to be looking to travel with so that everybody can get information and ask questions.”