WASHINGTON (JTA) – Gary Ackerman, one of the veteran Jewish members of the U.S. House of Representatives, announced he would not run again.
Ackerman, a New York Democrat who has represented a district in Queens and Long Island for 29 years, said he was stepping down at a time that his re-election was reassured.
"During my years in Congress, it has been my pleasure to address the needs of thousands of individual constituents and to influence domestic and global policy while serving on the Financial and Foreign Affairs Committees in the House," Ackerman said in a statement March 15. "I am most thankful for the opportunity I’ve had to serve my country and my community.”
Ackerman, 69, leaves as the ranking Democrat on the Middle East subcommittee. Known for a white carnation he has sported since his days as a schoolteacher, Ackerman was close to the pro-Israel lobby but willing to speak out when he saw Israel as missing chances for peace.
He was a leader in 2007 in seeking increased funding for the Palestinian Authority, but also inveighed against anti-Semitism in the Arab world and among Palestinians.
Ackerman was the most prominent stalwart of allies of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to accept the endorsement of its dovish rival, J Street, in the 2010 election, but later broke with J Street when it petitioned the Obama administration not to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements.
Recently he made headlines when he helped free Ilan Grapel, a constituent who was arrested in the chaos following the Egyptian revolution a year ago.