WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman, the New York Democrat who has been less critical of Israel than other members of the progressive “Squad,” is dropping his support for a bill that would help Israel expand normalization agreements with Arab countries.
In a letter to constituents, Bowman said he has been persuaded that the normalization agreements, launched in 2020 as the Abraham Accords, serve to isolate the Palestinians, and do not advance a just outcome. The letter was first reported Tuesday by Jewish Currents.
He also expressed concern that some of the incentives for the accords are at odds with his values. The United Arab Emirates has scored the sale of advanced fighter jets and Morocco earned U.S. recognition of its claim to the disputed Western Sahara.
Critics of the accords say they remove from the Palestinians one of the few leverages they have over Israel: full acceptance in the Middle East.
The bill has overwhelming bipartisan support and Bowman’s change of mind won’t stop it from passing. Under accords, brokered by the Trump administration, Israel has normalized relations with Bahrain, Sudan, Morocco and the UAE. The bill would facilitate normalization with other countries.
Bowman is a member of the “Squad,” a grouping of six progressives that includes Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), who says Israel should not exist as a Jewish state, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who has called Israel an apartheid state. Bowman, however — representing a district that encompasses substantive Jewish communities in the Bronx and Westchester — has not been as adamant in his Israel criticism. Alone in the Squad, he backed additional funding last year for the Iron Dome anti-missile systems for Israel. So did the vast majority of the party’s Progressive Caucus.
Bowman in the letter said a recent visit to Israel and the West Bank helped bring about his change of mind. He did not note that J Street, the liberal Jewish Middle East policy group, organized the visit, nor that the group backs the bill that would expand the Abraham Accords.
Some progressives criticized Bowman for going on a trip with J Street, which describes itself as pro-Israel.