U.S. Congressman Eliot Engel addresses the Jerusalem Post Annual Conference in New York.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
NEW YORK – Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told Jerusalem Post Editor-in-Chief Yaakov Katz that support for Israel should not be politicized.
Speaking at the Jerusalem Post Annual Conference in New York, Engel (D-NY) was asked about the latest remarks by Democratic politicians, such as Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).
“We have to make sure that there is a strong majority to help the State of Israel,” he responded. “I don’t think it helps to make it a political football. We have 33 Jewish congressmen, and 31 of them are Democrats. When someone is wrong, we need to call them out, no matter which party they are from.”
When asked about the close relationship between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump, Engel said: “I wouldn’t tell any prime minister what to do, but it’s better not to have Israel [be a] political football. It’s important not to play politics. I want to make it so everyone supports Israel.”
Engel also addressed the possibility of new negotiations with Iran and said that the US should monitor its activities.
“I don’t trust the Iranian regime,” he said. “That was the reason I was against the JCPOA [Iran nuclear deal]. We need to keep an eye on them. I didn’t like the JCPOA because it didn’t prevent their nuclear program. It postponed it, which is a good thing. But Iran can’t be allowed to expand into Syria. I think it’s very important; we’re going to monitor them very carefully.”
“I don’t think you can look at anything rationally when it comes to Iran,” he continued. “Who knows what’s going on behind the scenes there? I’m not advocating a war, because we went to wars in Iraq and elsewhere and were burned. We need to be careful; we need to balance it. But we can’t allow Iran to do those things.”
He added that Russian President Vladimir Putin can’t be trusted.
“I don’t trust Putin, I don’t trust him,” Engel said.
“I don’t think any Israeli leader could turn a back on Putin, but I think everyone in Israel understands that Putin is not a nice guy,” he said when asked by Katz if Netanyahu is correct in trying to maintain close ties with Putin. “Any prime minister has to deal with Russia because it’s an important power in the region. But I don’t believe what he says. No doubt they interfered in the  elections, and no doubt they will try to do so in 2020.”
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