Congressman Ted Deutch: Bipartisan Congressional Support for Israel Will Continue
Rep. Deutch speaks with the American Jewish Congress about the Middle East, domestic politics, and Democratic support for Israel
New York (January 2019) – This week, the American Jewish Congress hosted an exclusive Executive Briefing Call with Congressman Ted Deutch (D-FL-22), the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s influential Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa. Over the course of the conversation, hosted by American Jewish Congress President Jack Rosen, Rep. Deutch touched on such topics as the U.S. withdrawal from Syria, the government shutdown, legislating against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and the standards to which the United States should hold its allies.
Born to the children of Jewish immigrants, Congressman Deutch has been involved in pro-Israel advocacy since childhood, and took part in pro-Israel campus activism as a student at the University of Michigan. In his roles as a Florida State Senator and again later as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, he played a role in passing landmark items of legislation to combat Iran’s illicit pursuit of nuclear weapons. Today, in addition to his role on the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, Congressman Deutch is the Co-Chair of the Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, and the newly-elected Chair of the House Ethics Committee.
The American Jewish Congress hosts its Executive Briefing Calls in order to connect its audience with significant players in U.S. and Israeli politics, the American Jewish community, and beyond. Previous briefings have featured Members of Congress, Israeli security practitioners, journalists, and diplomats, including U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Senator Ben Cardin, Senator Roger F. Wicker, Congressman Joe Wilson, etc.
The conversation opened up on the subject of U.S. foreign policy priorities with the induction of the 116th Congress. “I think what you’ll see in the new Congress, in the new majority – certainly these are my priorities – that strengthening and protecting our allies is critical,” the Congressman said. “It is, I would argue, more important now than ever for Congress to have a strong voice in support of our allies…That’s especially true in the Middle East. Enhancing Israel’s security and working toward peace need to be priorities of the Foreign Affairs Committee.”
On the domestic front, the Congressman made it clear that, while he supports comprehensive BDS legislation, the debate over whether to pass Israel-related legislation during the shutdown is not a good indicator of support for/opposition to Israel. “I just want to take a moment to use this to highlight the fact that support for Israel is – and needs to be – bipartisan. And just as I will not ascribe to the Democrats who are focused on reopening the government any anti-Israel animus in their position, I will likewise not ascribe anti-Israel animus to Senator Rand Paul, who singlehandedly prevented the U.S.-Israel Security Systems Authorization Act from going forward.”
When it comes to newer Members of Congress who have expressed negative attitudes toward Israel in the past, such as Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Congressman Deutch believes bipartisanship will ultimately win out, especially as new members become more educated on the issues and gain more experiences.
“When you have a conversation with new members about the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship and the goal of working toward a two-state solution, once they’ve developed a better understanding, I’m confident that the strong bipartisan support that we’ve seen in Congress is going to continue.”
He continued: “I also think it’s important for supporters of Israel…to help [progressives] understand that on the issues they care about – whether it’s LGBT equality or women’s rights or democracy or humanitarian aid – on the issues they care about, there’s only one country in the region who shares their views,” and that “they should embrace the U.S.-Israel relationship because it is consistent with who they are as progressives.”
The American Jewish Congress is grateful to Congressman Deutch for sharing his unique experience and perspective on these critical issues, and for taking the time to speak directly with fellow members of the American Jewish community.