WASHINGTON (JTA) — Steve Israel, one of the most senior Jewish lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives, is retiring.
Israel, a Democrat from New York’s Long Island suburbs, said in a statement Tuesday that he will not run in 2016 in order to work on his second novel. His first, “The Global War on Morris,” a satire about a Jewish pharmaceutical salesman who is ensnared in the government’s surveillance machine, was released in 2014 to critical acclaim.
“I hope to continue to be involved in public service, but it is time for me to pursue new passions and develop new interests, mainly spend more time writing my second novel,” he said.
Israel has been a hawk on issues concerning the State of Israel and was among the minority of Democrats who voted this summer against the nuclear deal with Iran.
First elected in 2000, Israel rose to become a senior member of the Democratic caucus, heading the party’s reelection campaign the last two cycles.
Israel is among a handful of Jewish Democratic lawmakers who has worked in the Jewish community, including a position with the American Jewish Congress. He was arrested at least once in the 1980s protesting the treatment of Jews by the Soviet Union.
His district, covering Nassau and Suffolk counties, is relatively conservative and for a time he was one of only two Jewish members of the “Blue Dog” Democrats, the party’s mostly rural conservative caucus.