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Congress’ Middle East panels brace for new partisan era

The newest members of the key foreign policy committees disagree on everything from Israel to Saudi Arabia.
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 24:   U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) (R) speak to members of the media after a news conference January 24, 2019 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The Democratic Congresswomen held a news conference on legislation providing childcare for workers affected by the ongoing government shutdown. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Congress recently finalized the membership rosters for the major Middle East policymaking committees. Emboldened by their midterm election victory, House Democrats are eager to capitalize on the bipartisan heat against Saudi Arabia over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen. Meanwhile, the politics surrounding Israel and Palestine have become increasingly acrimonious as Republicans seek to spotlight freshmen House members who support the pro-Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions movement while advancing anti-BDS legislation — a divisive issue within the Democratic caucus.

House Foreign Affairs Committee:  Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., has said he plans to focus on the Arabian Peninsula for the committee’s first hearing. Rep. Mike McCaul, R-Texas, the committee’s top Republican, has also said that “changes still need to be made” in the US-Saudi relationship, even as he has praised some of Riyadh’s domestic reforms.

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