Engel’s Defeat in N.Y. Should Spur Netanyahu to Rethink Annexation – but It Won’t

Throughout his 30-plus years in Congress, Eliot Lance Engel has been one of Israel’s staunchest supporters on Capitol Hill. He supported Labor government policies, as in the Oslo Accords, as well as positions held by Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli right, including opposition to the Iran nuclear deal and support for Donald Trump’s transfer of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.

– Bibi Eyes ‘Annexation Lite’ as Pandemic Panic Returns

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Engel is liberal on most domestic issues but fiercely hawkish on foreign affairs, particularly on policies that advance Israel’s national security interests. He is considered a classic AIPAC-type congressman, one of a dwindling group of old guard Democrats who have helped maintain a semblance of bipartisan support for Israel in an era of political polarization and Democratic radicalization.

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New York Democratic House candidate Jamaal Bowman greets supporters in Yonkers, New York, on June 23, 2020.Getty Images / AFP

Results of the Democratic primary held in New York’s 16th Congressional elections held on Tuesday indicate that the veteran Jewish Representative has been defeated by his surging upstart rival Jamaal Bowman.

The African-American school principal had trailed Engel by significant margins throughout the eruption of the coronavirus pandemic in New York and up until the recent outburst of public rage following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. In recent weeks, support for Bowman has skyrocketed, bringing him to within striking distance of his formidable and supposedly invincible opponent. 

Alarmed by Engel’s dwindling poll numbers, pro-Israel groups spent millions of dollars in an effort to buttress his campaign. Old-guard Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer intervened on his behalf.  Bowman, on the other hand, was endorsed by the leaders of the Democratic progressive wing, including Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, as well as by the slew of radical Democrats who have distanced themselves from their party’s traditional support for Israel, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley.