April 20, 2024
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Eliot Engel’s Next Chapter

When the 116th Congress adjourns on Jan. 3, Eliot Engel (NY-16), will leave after 32 years in the House of Representatives. First elected in 1988, Engel will be stepping down as chairman of the prestigious House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Discussing his next steps with The Jewish Link, Engel explained, “I haven’t decided; I’m considering a bunch of things and I’m going to use the next weeks to decide what direction I want to go. We have a new administration. As chairman of Foreign Affairs, I know there’s a lot I can contribute.”

While the State Department could potentially utilize his international affairs experience, Engel is also toying with private sector opportunities. “I have spent 32 years in the public sector. It might be fun to branch out into the private sector and see what that is like. I will probably take a couple of weeks off, see what’s available, what people think I should be doing and discuss it with my family. This is a really exciting time for me. The only thing I know is, I’m not going to retire, but keep active.”

Reminiscing about his Congressional career, Engel shared that his greatest accomplishment was preventing genocide and helping the people of Kosovo. “Back in 1999, when several Balkan wars were occurring, I helped convince President Clinton to have NATO bomb the Serbian military. In Kosovo, they were practicing ethnic cleansing, killing ethnic Albanians and doing horrific things. They would have gotten away with it, except after our bombing they could not continue their program. I am very proud we saved countless number of lives.”

When the wars ended, mass graves were found in Kosovo. Engel became involved after his sizable Albanian constituency explained what was happening. Other than Israel, Engel visited Kosovo more than any other country. “I worked with Madeline Albright. Whenever we get together, we talk about what we did in Kosovo. There are streets named after me. I was even on a 2-Euro postage stamp. When I go to Kosovo, people chase after me, surround me, take pictures with me, and just want to shake my hand. It is like nothing I’ve ever experienced, People there know me, they love me, and I love them.”

Freshmen House members are allowed three committee assignment requests. When he was in that position, Engel’s requests were “foreign affairs, foreign affairs and foreign affairs. I figured they’d get the hint that I want to be on Foreign Affairs. I have always been interested in foreign affairs and America’s position in the world.”

Engel is well-known for being a strong supporter of the U.S.-Israel relationship, fighting for the right of Israel to exist in peace and stability. He’s ecstatic about the new peace accords between Israel and several Arab countries. “I have always tried to help the people of Israel. There is no reason why Israel and the Arab states can’t recognize each other and have diplomatic relations. I ultimately believe that a two-state solution is the way to go but both sides have to want peace.”

He continued, “Unfortunately, the Palestinian side has not taken any steps to help bring peace. In fact, they have always tried to block it. You can’t move to step two or three if they block step one.”

Engel added, “With all the recognitions from the accords, it bypasses the Palestinian Authority blockages. I hope more responsible Palestinian leaders emerge. They, too, have their right to self-determination. As you see things take shape, there’s a very good possibility that Israel will be recognized by most Sunni Arab countries. I think other nations there understand their real adversary isn’t Israel. It’s Iran, who wants to install radical Shiite governments not only in Iran, but other places in the Middle East. I regard Iran as the worst actor in the area; they’re the trouble makers. I think the countries should be uniting to make it more difficult for the Iranians to continue to support terrorism. ”

After decades of public service, Engel revealed, “I think people don’t know that I’m really a shy person. When I was in junior high, I was nervous to speak in front of groups. I’d worry if I said the wrong thing. I now love speaking with people, I love getting up in front of groups.”

As the longest-serving Congressman from the Bronx, his district also included parts of Westchester. He confided, “I love baseball. When you think of the Bronx, you think Yankees. I don’t spread around the fact that I’m really a Mets fan. I like the Yankees, but love the Mets!”

Reflecting over his career, Engel concluded, “I’m proud of the role this country plays in doing good all over the world, I’m proud to have been part of it and I hope to continue to do it.“

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