Issues

Dem Rep Engel Says Sanders’s Israel Stance Is Disqualifying

NY congressman: Anybody who talks about conditioning aid to Israel 'doesn't get my vote'

Rep. Eliot Engel (D., N.Y.) effectively ruled out supporting Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) for president on Monday, saying anyone who favored conditioning aid to Israel would not get his vote.

"Conditioning aid to Israel has to be just about the stupidest thing I've heard in the 33 years I've been in Congress. It's absolutely outrageous," he said at a panel for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference. "I don't care from what party. Anybody who talks about conditioning aid to Israel doesn't get my vote."

Sanders has repeatedly said he would use the billions in aid the United States gives Israel as leverage, urging it to roll back settlements and negotiate more favorable peace terms with the Palestinians.

"I would use the leverage of $3.8 billion," he told the anti-Israel group J Street in October. "It is a lot of money, and we cannot give it carte blanche to the Israeli government, or for that matter to any government at all. We have a right to demand respect for human rights and democracy."

He has frequently called Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu "racist" and assailed Israel's treatment of Palestinians. Sanders has never attended AIPAC's annual conference and called it a platform for bigotry last month; AIPAC fired back, calling his attack "odious" and "shameful."

Engel, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is facing a primary challenge from his left in 2020, partly in response to his support for Israel.