WASHINGTON – Florida will hold its primaries next week ahead of the November midterm elections, and one of the candidates for the Democratic primary in the state’s 13th District is Eric Lynn, a former Pentagon official who served as senior adviser to the defense secretary and worked on promoting Iron Dome funding, among other issues. If elected, he said, ensuring that the US and Israel are strengthening their relationship would be a priority for him.
Who is Eric Lynn?
The congressional hopeful grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida, and spent his academic life as a student at both Northwestern University and Georgetown University Law School. His studies included one year of international relations courses at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
“I was very intrigued and attached to the history of the Middle East and international relations,” he said. “And I wanted to have an experience in Israel studying at the Hebrew University and specifically on international relations. That was different from my experiences as a kid who went to Israel in a summer youth group.”
"I wanted to have an experience in Israel studying at the Hebrew University and specifically on international relations. That was different from my experiences as a kid who went to Israel in a summer youth group."Flordia Democratic candidate Eric Lynn
He said that some of the classes he took were taught in Hebrew.
“It was a very challenging time for me because instead of going out socializing at the bar with the rest of the college students, I was spending most of the time with a dictionary at my desk trying to finish the reading in Hebrew because it wasn’t my native language. Congressman Ted Deutch, who is a great friend of mine, told me that when I win this election, hopefully with the help of the people of Florida, I’ll be the first member of Congress who speaks Hebrew fluently.”
After coming back to the US, Lynn worked as a congressional staffer for several years, including for then-senator Barack Obama when he was running for president.
“I was part of the national security team, and after president Obama won the election, I started as a senior adviser to the secretary of defense at the Pentagon,” he said. “I worked for Bob Gates and for Leon Panetta.
“Part of my role was to work in the Middle East,” said Lynn. “I was the lead for almost six years on the US-Israel defense relationship for the secretary of defense. And that means working on our joint military training exercises. That means all of our high-level meetings between the secretary of defense and the minister of defense. And then there was a project that I worked very personally on and I was a lead on, which was known as the Iron Dome.”
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post in 2017, Lynn said that from spring 2009, when he became a top official in the US Defense Department, until 2014, he was the one fighting in the trenches of Washington defense politics to get Iron Dome funding.
As Lynn said at the time, back when he entered his office at the Defense Department, he found “a classified file about Iron Dome which Israel had been working on for some time and had come to the US asking for funding... but the file had a 2008 rejected stamp.
“I looked at the file and thought that this is something that seems really important to protect Israel and others around the world, including eventually US troops and other civilians. There was no effective short-range rocket defense out there,” he said.
“I started talking to people in the Pentagon. But military leaders do not tend to change their recommendations, and along with the civil bureaucracy, they had looked at it before and concluded that it didn’t work that well... it’s too expensive... they had rejected it once and were not going back there.
In a conversation this week, Lynn told the Post, “I think that we need to continue to strengthen our partnership on defense intelligence sharing, and a range of issues that are mutually beneficial to the United States and Israel. One of these issues is obviously the Abraham Accords.
“I think that we need to continue to strengthen our partnership on defense intelligence sharing, and a range of issues that are mutually beneficial to the United States and Israel. One of these issues is obviously the Abraham Accords."Flordia Democratic candidate Eric Lynn
“I support the normalization of relations between Israel and any country in the world that is willing to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and to work with the State of Israel. And I do think there are steps forward for a number of states going forward,” he said.
“Obviously, the key nation that everyone is focused on for improving our relationship with is the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. And I do think there have been some steps taken in the right direction there, such as overflight rights that were rejected in the past.”
In recent years, several Democratic representatives have called to condition aid to Israel, a call that Lynn said he categorically rejects.
“I was proud to be the lead at the Pentagon on foreign military financing, or FMF for short, which is where Israel receives its foreign military aid,” he said.
“I was proud to work on the F-35 foreign military aid, as well as many others. And I can tell you that I am 100% opposed to any conditioning of foreign military financing for our relationship with our ally, Israel, and I am absolutely disappointed with those in my party and in the Republican Party who put obstacles up and vote against support and aid for Israel. I am proud of my personal work with the Iron Dome. It has saved so many lives as a defensive system protecting civilians.”
"I can tell you that I am 100% opposed to any conditioning of foreign military financing for our relationship with our ally, Israel, and I am absolutely disappointed with those in my party and in the Republican Party who put obstacles up and vote against support and aid for Israel."Flordia Democratic candidate Eric Lynn