Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., quit the Congressional Progressive Caucus over an internal split on Israel’s siege on Gaza, according to two sources familiar with her quiet departure. Like many Democrats, Frankel has proclaimed “unwavering support for Israel,” while other caucus members are pushing a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.
Frankel, first elected to Congress in 2012 and a CPC member since at least 2016, had been considering leaving the caucus for several weeks, according to one source. She was one of at least six caucus members who voted earlier this month to censure Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich.
Frankel’s departure is a symptom of a larger split growing within the caucus over the congressional response to the war in Gaza. It comes despite the fact that the CPC rarely takes public positions on Israel–Palestine, given the deep divides within the caucus, and has not taken a position on the current crisis. But the tensions and animosities produced within the progressive coalition broadly are great enough that her decision to leave is not a surprise.
Many of the 22 Democrats who voted to censure Tlaib, including Frankel, have received major contributions from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The pro-Israel lobbying group is recruiting challengers to Tlaib and other Squad members for being out of step with a hawkish, pro-Israel line that demands unconditional support. The resolution censured Tlaib for “calling for the destruction of the state of Israel” and claimed promoting “false narratives” about the October 7 Hamas attack.
Progressive caucus leaders met earlier this month with House Democratic leadership to encourage them to keep the pro-Israel lobby from spending to oust progressive incumbents this cycle. Asked last month about news that groups including AIPAC, Democratic Majority for Israel, and Mainstream Democrats PAC were considering primarying Tlaib and Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., who led the ceasefire resolution in the House, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., said, “Outside groups are gonna do what outside groups are gonna do. I think House Democrats are going to continue to support each other.”
Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, lobbied Democratic leadership to encourage the primary challenges against critics of Israel, he told a political science class at American University, according to a student in the class. Cuellar has twice faced a primary challenger backed by Justice Democrats, which helped elect the Squad.
Frankel is the former mayor of West Palm Beach and has been an unapologetic supporter of Israel throughout her career, celebrating, for instance, former President Donald Trump’s provocative decision to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. “The President’s announcement today is consistent with current U.S. law and reaffirms what we already know: Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people and the State of Israel,” she said at the time. She fought against President Barack Obama’s signature foreign policy accomplishment, the Iran nuclear deal, which AIPAC worked hard to undermine. The hawkish posture won out, and Trump withdrew from the deal. Backers of the deal warned that tearing it up would only increase conflict and instability in the region.
Frankel and the CPC did not immediately respond to requests for comment.