Last September, while standing on the floor of the United States House of Representatives, Congressman Ted Deutch (FL) assailed fellow Democrat and anti-Israel Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (MI) after she accused Israel of war crimes. Deutch’s speech detailing how Tlaib’s “rhetoric is consistent with those who want to dismantle the one Jewish state in the world” follows his staunch defense of Israel during his 12-year tenure in Congress. Last month, congressman Deutch announced that he would be retiring from congress to become the new CEO of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), succeeding David Harris.
The congressman represents Florida’s 22nd congressional district which covers the city of Boca Raton, otherwise referred to as New York’s 6th Borough. Deutch often speaks about summers as a camper turned staffer at Camp Ramah and its impact on shaping his Jewish roots. Incidentally, his work on behalf of Jewish causes is bolstered by a sincerity that is lacking in today’s political arena.
As a congressman, Deutch was one of 25 House Democrats who opposed the flawed 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear deal. More recently, he broke with members of his party to praise the historic Abraham Accords and in 2018 stated that he was proud to visit the new US embassy in Jerusalem. Within US Jewish communal circles, disappointment in Deutch’s retirement is tempered with the assumption that his Israel advocacy will carry through to his role as CEO of the AJC.
While that may be true, the lawmaker’s congressional absence will soon leave the House of Representatives without a critical pro-Israel leader on the Democratic side of the aisle. Moreover, Deutch’s retirement, coupled with an exodus of several moderate Democrats, will further encourage far-left progressives to shift US policy against Israel. To date, 31 House Democrats reported that they would not run for reelection, signaling a 30-year high in Democratic retirees.
As Israel was defending itself against rocket attacks during its war against Hamas last May, Deutch joined eight of his Democratic colleagues who spoke before the House in defense of Israel. The handful of Democrat representatives who rebuked Hamas were quickly outnumbered by the larger group of progressives who took to the floor to denounce Israel.
As a House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) member, Congressman Deutch also serves as Chairman of the Middle East, North Africa, and Global Counter Terrorism Subcommittee. Among its, the HFAC is responsible for holding classified hearings on a host of sensitive topics ranging from Iran’s nuclear activities to the US administration’s counterterrorism strategies.While other Democratic members on the HFAC include Congressmen Brad Schneider (D-IL) and Brad Sherman (D-CA), both of who are favorable towards Israel, Deutch’s retreat will help advance the interests of leftists serving on the committee. Antisemitic congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN, is the current vice chair of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Global Human Rights while Jewish congressman Andy Levin (D-MI) is considered a rising star within the Democratic party. Last September, Levin introduced the J Street and Americans for Peace Now endorsed the Two-State Solution Act, which would make it US policy to refer to the West Bank, consisting of east Jerusalem and Gaza as occupied territories.
Using his perch as a sitting representative on an influential committee, Levin has garnered a respectable 45 cosponsors, all of whom are Democrats. That Deutch’s retirement should occur a mere four years following the election of Levin symbolizes the sea change in congressional liberal attitudes towards Israel. Without Deutch helping thwart progressive moves involving Israel, the political persuasions of Democrats like Levin and Omar will be emphasized and eventually reconfigure the liberal narrative surrounding congressional attitudes towards Israel.
And while the Florida lawmaker is often able to set aside his partisan biases when it comes to the Jewish state, the behavior of Democrats like Levin mirror political trends outside of congress, where the US and Israel relationship has ceased symbolizing the bipartisan issue from around which Democrats and Republicans can rally. Earlier this month, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) newly formed PAC released a list of its 2022 midterm endorsements, which contains 61 Republicans and 59 Democrats. Soon after the reveal, an outcry ensued over the slate listing 35 Republicans who questioned the 2020 US Presidential election outcome.
Yet, said criticism from controversial groups such as J Street ignore the fact that AIPAC’s mission as a single-issue organization is to cultivate relationships under the pro-Israel umbrella irrespective of political positions outside of the US-Israel sphere. It bears mentioning that liberal critics also discount that the roster of endorsees includes 25 Democrats who voted to back the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, a move which to many Israel advocates represents a crucial and misguided decision.
Deutch is an integral voice against the expanding dissonance between Democrats and Israel. And while retaining Jewish institutional integrity is essential, the congressman’s upcoming leadership position at the AJC leaves congress with a dearth of Democrats willing to take their party to task for their fractious language concerning Israel. His withdrawal from politics is also emblematic of the brewing unease among centrist Democrats.
In Texas, 17-year Democrat incumbent congressman Henry Cuellar is facing a tough runoff against 28-year old immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros, whose campaign is supported by the antisemitic Justice Democrats PAC. While Cuellar contends with some legal issues, the close election indicates the dangerous mainstreaming of far-left politicians, a segment once considered outliers among Democrats.
Regarding Democrats’ tougher stance involving Israel, J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami excitedly quipped last May, “We think that this is becoming the center of the Democratic Party.” With Congressman Deutch departing Congress, Ben-Ami’s vision is one step closer to reality.
The writer resides in New York. Her work has appeared in The American Spectator, The Algemeiner, JNS, and Israel Hayom.