Washington — Steve Israel, the Long Island Democrat who is one of the most senior Jewish lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives, is retiring.
Israel said in a statement Tuesday he will not run in 2016 in order to work on his second novel. His first, “The Global War on Morris,” a satire about a Jewish pharmaceutical salesman who gets caught up in the government’s surveillance machine, was released in 2014 to critical acclaim.
Israel, who was elected in 2000, rose to become one of the most senior members of the Democratic caucus, heading the Democratic reelection campaign the last two election cycles.
His district, covering Nassau and Suffolk counties in New York, is relatively conservative and for a time he was one of only two Jewish members of the “Blue Dog” Democrats, the party’s mostly rural conservative caucus.
In his statement, he pledged to help keep his district in the party’s control.
“I hope to continue to be involved in public service, but it is time for me to pursue new passions and develop new interests, mainly spend more time writing my second novel,” he said.
Israel is one of a handful of Jewish Democratic lawmakers who have in his background stints working for the Jewish community, including a position with the American Jewish Congress. He was arrested at least once in the 1980s protesting the treatment of Jews by the Soviet Union.
He has been a hawk on Israel issues, and was one of a minority of Democrats who voted this summer against the nuclear deal with Iran.