JNS.org – Reactions from the pro-Israel community have poured in as Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) is projected to lose his seat to Jamaal Bowman, a progressive, in New York’s 16th Congressional District as a result of the Tuesday’s primary.
As of early Wednesday morning, Engel, who has served in Congress since 1989 and is the chairman of the influential U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, has received less than 36 percent of the votes, while Bowman has garnered almost 61 percent of the votes.
“I’m a Black man who was raised by a single mother in a housing project. That story doesn’t usually end in Congress. But today, that 11-year old boy who was beaten by police is about to be your next Representative,” Bowman said in a statement on Wednesday morning. “I cannot wait to get to Washington and cause problems for the people maintaining the status quo.”
Despite campaigning against Bowman, Democratic Majority for Israel’s political action committee congratulated him on his projected victory against the 16-term congressman.
DMFI PAC President Mark Mellman said his group looks “forward to working with him as a Member of Congress.”
“Eliot Engel earned our support in this race by his forceful leadership on behalf of a progressive agenda, which includes a strong US-Israel relationship,” continued Mellman. “His constituents apparently concluded, however, that he had lost touch with them, and that is, of course, wholly their decision to make.”
“It is important to note that, from voters’ point of view, support for Israel was not part of the debate in this race. The one exception: in the final hours of the campaign, Mr. Bowman worked to burnish his pro-Israel credentials writing a newspaper op-ed stating his personal opposition to the BDS movement, his support for continued US aid to Israel, and backing Israel’s right to defend itself from Hamas and other terrorist groups.”
Similarly, the Jewish Democratic Council of America, which had also supported Engel, congratulated Bowman and championed his progressive views.
“We are confident he is committed to the priorities of Jewish voters such as fighting gun violence, combating climate change, ensuring access to affordable education and health care, and advocating for racial justice and criminal justice reform, and we look forward to working with him to further this agenda in the House,” the group said.
Nevertheless, the Republican Jewish Coalition said that Engel’s projected defeat demonstrated “the shift in the Democrat Party away from support for Israel [accelerating] dramatically.”
RJC also said that Engel “has done a great deal for the U.S.-Israel relationship,” while Bowman “has an extreme and dangerous agenda.”
Bowman was endorsed by fellow New York Democratic congresswoman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as well as Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Justice Democrats.
Engel, a well-known figure in the pro-Israel community, has long been a prominent speaker at the annual AIPAC Policy Conference.
AIPAC declined to comment on Engel’s likely loss.
‘An end of an era’
Meanwhile, B’nai B’rith International CEO Daniel Mariaschin told JNS that Bowman’s projected upset would mark the end of an era.
“Eliot Engel had been a longtime friend of the community, a strong advocate for close relations between the US and Israel, and an outspoken critic of the Iranian regime,” said Mariaschin. “To say he will be sorely missed would be an understatement.”
However, Pro-Israel America is holding out hope for an Engel comeback as absentee ballots still need to be counted, thereby pushing the announcement of the final result to early July.
The organization told JNS, “Pro-Israel America is proud to support Eliot Engel and will wait until the votes are counted here. Pro-Israel America will always step up and rally to defend pro-Israel champions like Rep. Eliot Engel, who has done so much for the US-Israel relationship. The pro-Israel community remains strong, as does support in Congress for America’s alliance with Israel.”