February 26, 2003


New head of House panel says she’ll go to mat on Israel issues (Matthew E. Berger, JTA News)
When Rep. Benjamin Gilman announced he was retiring from Congress last summer, many on Capitol Hill speculated that the House of Representative’s Middle East panel would go with him.

After all, the subcommittee was created in 2001 to give Gilman a forum for his Middle East advocacy when tenure rules forced the New York Republican to turn over the gavel of the House International Relations Committee.

But the subcommittee has been saved, thanks in part to Republican efforts to court the American Jewish community. The panel’s new chair, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), says she is ready to come to the Jewish state’s defense.

“I feel great solidarity with the Israeli people,” Ros-Lehtinen told JTA last week, after leading a congressional delegation to Israel. “I treasure heading this subcommittee and will take it on with a great deal of seriousness.”

Officially entitled the House International Relations Committee’s subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia, in just two years the Mideast panel has become one of the largest forums for lawmakers to express their pro-Israel leanings.

Contrary to most House subcommittees, attendance at hearings by members of the Mideast subcommittee was impressive, with many touting their ties to Israel.

That’s the reason the subcommittee was maintained, one Democratic congressional staffer said.

“I don’t think there’s any question that the Republicans are working very hard on outreach to the Jewish community,” he said. “And this is a forum to highlight a principle objective of the Republican Party to the Jewish community.”

It seems hardly surprising that Ms Ros-Lehtinen, herself part of the Cuban Diaspora, should identify with the plight of Israel. Posted by Orrin Judd at February 26, 2003 4:31 PM
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