Democratic and Republican lawmakers are vowing to challenge a limit on U.S. defense aid for Israel that President Barack Obama included in the recently signed Memorandum of Understanding between the two nations.
The agreement, that was reached in September, guarantees Israel $38 billion in aid over 10 years, but it also states that if Congress increases the aid, Israel is obliged to return the extra funds. U.S. Reps. Paul Gosar (R-Texas), Randy Weber (R-Ariz.), and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said at the Agudath Israel of America’s annual legislative luncheon in New York City that the restriction is “unconstitutional” because it would interfere with the ability of Congress to fulfill its mandate as a co-equal branch of the federal government. Engel vowed to fight every step of the way, to bring about the revocation of the aid limit.
U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries stated that the aid restriction “conflicts with the Constitution in spirit if not in letter” because Congress “has a right to respond to emergency situations, and we will not give up that right.” As an example, Jeffries said that if Israel is attacked, it might require extra aid to defend itself. Congress, he said, should be able to take action in such circumstances.

More Jewish Democrats Oppose Ellison

Another topic addressed was the bid by Minnesota’s U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). A number of Jewish leaders have expressed concern that Ellison would turn the Democratic Party away from Israel. Speaking at the Agudath Israel event, two more Jewish Democratic officeholders stated their opposition to Ellison’s candidacy.
The Minnesota lawmaker has come under fire for his past association with Nation of Islam movement leader Louis Farrakhan, publicly claiming in 1995 that Farrakhan “is not an anti-Semite.” Additionally, Ellison has urged increased U.S. pressure on Israel and has voted against funding Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system.
New York’s Rep. Engel, the ranking Democratic member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, states that he opposes Ellison’s candidacy because “we need a full-time chairman for the DNC, not a member of Congress who would only be able to devote part of his time to the job.” Asked whether his opposition to Ellison is also based on Ellison’s record concerning Israel, Engel replied, “My positions on Israel are well known, my focus is on having a full-time chair for the party.”
New York State Assemblyman David Weprin said that he also opposes Ellison’s bid “because of the importance of having someone who can devote himself full-time to rebuilding the Democratic Party.” Weprin said he is “aware of the statements about Israel that have been attributed to Ellison, and if they are accurate, that would be a cause for concern.” Weprin added that he is “troubled by the positions that Sen. Bernie Sanders took on Israel, and I know that Sanders nominated Congressman Ellison to the Democratic convention resolutions committee in order to try to get those positions in the platform.”
The statements by Engel and Weprin against Ellison’s possible party chairmanship echo the sentiments of New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind who stated that “if Israel has to depend on support from the Ellison’s of the world, it would be in serious trouble.”

Originally posted at JNS.