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Gregory Meeks, who said West Bank annexation spending was off-limits with US defense aid, likely to chair House Foreign Affairs panel

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Rep. Brad Sherman, a solidly pro-Israel Democrat from California, has withdrawn from the race to chair the House Foreign Affairs Committee — a move that likely will lead to Rep. Gregory Meeks of New York becoming the first Black chairman of the influential panel.

Sherman withdrew after finishing last in a preliminary vote by the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee. In the vote Tuesday, first reported by Jewish Insider, the centrist Meeks had 29 votes to 13 for Joaquin Castro, a Texas progressive, and 10 for Sherman, also a centrist.

All three lawmakers auditioned for the job in meetings with the centrist Democratic Majority for Israel and the liberal J Street Middle East policy group. They all said that U.S. money should not be used to annex West Bank territory, a move that Israel’s government considered earlier this year.

Meeks and Sherman later clarified that they meant that money allocated for defense assistance was, according to U.S. law, off-limits for spending in the West Bank. Castro did not stand down from his claim that using the money for annexation would invite reconsideration of some assistance to Israel.

Meeks, who has been endorsed by the Congressional Black Caucus, looks poised to win when the full Democratic caucus votes later this week. He would succeed Rep. Eliot Engel, the longtime New York congressman who was ousted in a primary by a progressive challenger. Engel, like Sherman, had a long pro-Israel record.

In a statement, Sherman said the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee “recognized Gregory Meeks’s capacity, eloquence, and experience, and the fact that he would make history as the first African American Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee.”

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