The only Jewish Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Lee Zeldin, although just a freshman congressman, has become a national figure in America speaking out against radical Islamic terrorism and on the situation in the Mideast. Zeldin, who served in Iraq as a lieutenant with a battalion of paratroopers and is a major in the Army Reserve, doesn’t mince words.
After the massacre in San Bernadino, California, Zeldin issued a statement saying: “ISIS must be destroyed overseas or we will be facing the threat more and more at home. America needs a strategy to win rather than trying to run in place at best. Throw away the obsession with prioritizing political correctness over the strongest and most effective possible pursuit of our national defense. It’s time for America to toughen up, come to reality with the threat we are up against, and eliminate it. The best way to achieve peace is to wipe ISIS off the face of the earth. It is not to live on our heels sacrificing time and security while ISIS grows in strength, numbers and resources.”
Zeldin is on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and on two of its subcommittees, its Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade and Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa.
He has repeatedly spoken on the floor of the House about radical Islamic terrorism and on the Mideast, and has become prominent on American television.
Following the ISIS attacks in Paris last month, Zeldin declared on the House floor: “This is not an isolated incident, or a final stand, far from it.” And he continued, with what turns out to be foresight: “It could be France today, and the United States tomorrow. I should point out that there is but one mandatory function, constitutionally, of the federal government—that is to provide for our national defense. This is a constitutional duty and a moral imperative that trumps, any day of the week, the charity of opening our doors to a Syrian who will blow himself or herself up on our streets in the name of Allah.”
He went on: “I’d be happy to support a strategy to win, if I actually believed the president had one. First and foremost ID the threat; you cannot defeat a threat that you cannot or will not identify. Next, execute a strategy to win, not just tread water. It’s not about getting them jobs, it’s about wiping them off the face of the earth. You annihilate the enemy; you don’t contain it, especially not this enemy. You eliminate the threat.”
And in May on the Fox News Channel, Zeldin said President Barack Obama’s strategy in the Mideast “might take out some of the bad guys, take out some of their command and control logistics, but it’s not going to eliminate ISIS. I mean, we’re relying on Iraqi military and law enforcement to finish the job on the ground. For the most part, a lot of them don’t even show up to work.”
He has been a leading critic of the Obama administration’s nuclear weapons deal with Iran. On the House floor in July, he stated: “What makes America great is what we stand for: freedom and liberty. Then there is Iran, the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, a nation overthrowing foreign governments, unjustly imprisoning United States citizens, including a United States Marine. Iran blows up mock U.S warships, develops ICBM’s, they pledge to wipe Israel off the map. And in their streets and in their halls they are chanting death to America. And none of what I just described is even part of the negotiations.”
Zeldin continued: “As elected officials who took an oath to protect and defend our constitution, we have a responsibility to protect our country. We must fight on behalf of our great nation which generations before us have fought and sacrificed so much to protect.”
On Fox in April, Zeldin said: “When the president says that there will be no Iran nuclear weapon on my watch, those words ‘on my watch’ [are] what’s most concerning…There is life after President Obama. And the next president and the president after that is going to be inheriting a tougher situation to block an Iran nuclear program because of the decisions made by this president…The president is getting played. We should not trust the Iranians. They are not negotiating in good faith…But this president trusts the Iranians. Why is it that the Iranians are dancing in the streets while here at home we have so much concern?”
On the House floor in September, he said: “For those who say that opposing this deal is somehow negative towards America, I took an oath to be an officer of the United States military, willing to fight and die in protection of our freedoms and liberties. I love this country, and I took an oath to serve here the members of my district, because I love America. So don’t tell me that somehow opposing this deal is negative towards America. I oppose this deal because I love my country.”
As for anti-Semitism and Israel, on Fox in January Zeldin said: “There is no doubt and before these attacks in Paris we had Jews in France fleeing the state. All over the country of France, Europe, all across the world there has been this rise in anti-Semitism; I think it’s important that the Israeli prime minister was there in Paris yesterday praying with Jews. But the rise of anti-Semitism is very real….It’s important that we understand, whether you’re Jewish or non-Jewish, I strongly believe our strongest ally in the entire world is Israel. And as I’ve been watching the Obama administration; there has been daylight between the U.S and Israel and we have to cut it out.”
In October on Fox, Zeldin said: “It is absolutely disgusting and shameful that the Obama administration not only refuses to stand strong with our ally in Israel, but actually has the audacity to claim that the Israelis are guilty of terrorism.”
Originally from in East Meadow on western Long Island, Zeldin, 35, was raised in Shirley, on central Long Island. He received a Bachelor’s degree, cum laude, in political science from the State University of New York at Albany and a law degree from Albany Law School. Prior to his election to the House of Representatives, he had been a member of the New York State Senate.
He represents the First Congressional District of New York which includes all five East End towns of Long Island—among them Southampton and East Hampton Towns—and all of Brookhaven Town, the largest town on Long Island, bigger than the island’s Nassau County, as well as most of Smithtown. He is married and the father of two.