Congress: No Money for Palestinians, More Sanctions for Iranians

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by Lara Friedman

[As we have over the past two years, LobeLog is posting excerpts from the Legislative Round-up published weekly when Congress is in session by the inimitable Lara Friedman of Americans for Peace Now about what Congress is up to and what individual members are saying, particularly about Israel-Palestine and Iran.]

NOTE: On 2/1, the House Homeland Security Committee GOP members released a new report entitled, “Securing Israel: Lessons Learned From A Nation Under Constant Threat Of Attack.” Press release is here. It notes that, “There is much the United States can learn from Israel as Secretary Kelly and the Trump Administration take important steps forward in securing our homeland.”

Bills & Resolutions – Israel/Palestine

(NO $$ FOR PALESTINIANS) H. Res. 789: Introduced by Budd (R-NC) and 3 GOP cosponsors “To amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to limit assistance to the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization, and for other purposes.” Budd’s press release is here. It explains: “Although our current law allows [No – it requires] reductions in aid to the Palestinian Authority based on the amount of payments they make to terrorists and their families, they’ve found a way around this by giving to third party organizations – like the Palestinian Liberation Organization. This bill is simple. It would direct the Secretary of State to certify to Congress that the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian Liberation Organization have ceased all financial rewards to terrorists or their families. If the Secretary of State cannot certify this, our bill would redirect that money to Israel’s Iron Dome system.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

(NO $$ FOR COUNTRIES THAT SUPPORTED SETTLEMENTS UNSCR) HR 802: Introduced 2/1 by Meadows (R-NC) and no cosponsors, “To prohibit Senegal from receiving certain forms of development assistance for a two-year period and make available such assistance to Rwanda and Uganda, and for other purposes.” The purpose of this bill is to punish Senegal for voting for UNSCR 2334 (text not online yet, but the measure was referenced during the HFAC hearing on 2/2). Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

(SLAMMING THE PALESTINIANS) H. Res. 68: Formally introduced 1/27 by Hastings (D-FL) and Woodall (R-GA), “Condemning Palestinian incitement and reaffirming the special bond between Israel and the United States.” NOTE: Hastings and Woodall put out their press releases announcing introduction of the resolution during a period when the House was not in session;  presumably that means they filed it but that it won’t show up as introduced until the House comes back next week. But not to worry: the published a pdf of the resolution with the press release.  This 28-page resolution lists 266 attacks by Palestinians against Israelis (including Israeli security forces) and in effect blames the Palestinian Authority for all of them.  Hastings press release is here; Woodall’s is here.

Bills, Resolutions & Letters – Iran

(NEW IRAN SANCTIONS) HR 808: Introduced 2/1 by Roskam (R-IL) and 3 GOP cosponsors, To impose nonnuclear sanctions with respect to Iran, and for other purposes,” aka, the “Iran Nonnuclear Sanctions Act of 2017.”  Referred to the House Oversight and Government Reform. Roskam press release is here.  Zeldin (R-NY)  press release is here. This is companion legislation to S.227, which was covered in last week’s Round-Up.

(HOLD IRAN ACCOUNTABLE) Corker-Cardin letter: On 2/2, SFRC Chair Corker (R-TN) and Ranking Member Cardin (D-MD), along with 20 colleagues (bipartisan) sent a letter to President Trump urging him to hold Iran accountable for the recently-reported ballistic missile test. Full text copied of the letter is copied below. Also see press releases from: Cardin-Corker;  Portman (R-OH).

“We are concerned by reports that Iran conducted a ballistic missile test on January 29, 2017.  If it is confirmed that Iran tested a ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear weapon, Iran will have again violated both the letter and spirit of its obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 2231 (2015) not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.

“Iranian leaders must feel sufficient pressure to cease deeply destabilizing activities, from sponsoring terrorist groups to continued testing of ballistic missiles.  Full enforcement of existing sanctions and the imposition of additional sanctions on Iran for its ballistic missile program are necessary.  Moreover, we are hopeful that the international community can unite around the common cause of countering Iran’s troubling actions.

“We look forward to supporting your Administration’s efforts to hold Iran accountable, and note the positive step taken by the United States calling for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.  It is imperative that the United States lead the international community in enforcing UN Security Council resolution 2231.

Bills & Resolutions – the UN

(DE-FUND UN UNLESS SETTLEMENTS UNSCR REPEALED) HR 769: Introduced 1/31 by Granger (R-TX) and Zeldin (R-NY), “To prohibit voluntary or assessed contributions to the United Nations until the President certifies to Congress that United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 has been repealed.” Referred to House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Press release here.

(BUILDING CASE AGAINST UN) HR 733: Introduced 1/30 by Brooks(R-AL), “To provide for an accounting [a detailed, program-by-program accounting] of total United States contributions to the United Nations.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.  NOTE: This bill does not specifically mention Israel or the Palestinians, but it is part and parcel of the growing effort to go after the UN, an effort that consistently uses Israel/Palestine as a weapon.

Bills & Resolutions – Other Matters

(HONORING ANWAR SADAT) HR 754 and S. 266: Introduced 1/31 in the House by Stewart (R-UT) and Meng (D-NY), and 2/1 in the Senate by Hatch (R-UT) and Cardin (D-MD), “To award the Congressional Gold Medal to Anwar Sadat in recognition of his heroic achievements and courageous contributions to peace in the Middle East.” Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services and the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, respectively.  Rare joint/bicameral press release is here and here.

(YES MR. TRUMP, THE HOLOCAUST DID TARGET THE JEWS) H. Res. 78: Introduced 2/1 by Crowley (D-NY) and 91 cosponsors (all Democrats), “Reiterating the indisputable fact that the Nazi regime targeted the Jewish people in its perpetration of the Holocaust and calling on every entity in the executive branch to affirm that fact.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs [not at all clear why this would come under HFAC’s jurisdiction, which covers, according to the HFAC website, “legislation that impacts the diplomatic community, which includes the Department of State, the Agency for International Development (USAID), the Peace Corps, the United Nations, and the enforcement of the Arms Export Control Act.”]

(US-ISRAEL CYBERSECURITY COOPERATION) HR 612: Introduced 1/23 by Langevin (R-RI) and Ratcliffe (R-TX), “To establish a grant program at the Department of Homeland Security to promote cooperative research and development between the United States and Israel on cybersecurity.” Referred to the House Committee on Homeland Security. Passed in House 1/31 by voice vote under suspension the rules. Ratcliffe press release here. Gallagher (R-WI) press release here. Hoyer (D-MD) press release is here.

(STOP ARMING SYRIAN OPPOSITION) HR 608: Introduced 1/23 by Gabbard (D-HI) and 6 bipartisan colleagues, to “prohibit the use of United States Government funds to provide assistance to Al Qaeda, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and to countries supporting those organizations, and for other purposes,” aka, the “Stop Arming Terrorists Act.”  Gabbard press release is here. She introduced the bill after returning from a (controversial) trip to Syria where she met with, among other people, President Assad.

Hearings/Briefings

2/2: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Middle East and North Africa & Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations, held a joint hearing entitled, “Israel, the Palestinians, and the United Nations: Challenges for the New Administration.” Witnesses were: Hillel Neuer, UN Watch (testimony); Brian Hook, Latitude, LLC (testimony); Jonathan Schanzer, Foundation for Defense of Democracies (testimony); and Robert Wexler, the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace (testimony). [To get a sense of HFAC priorities, this will be the second hearing of the new Congress, preceded only by a hearing 2/1 on US-UK trade relations]. This hearing went exactly as one would have expected – attacks on the settlements UNSCR, on the Obama Admin for failing to veto the UNSCR, in the UN in general, on UNRWA, on the Palestinians, etc… Watch full video (3 jam-packed hours of pandering and grandstanding) here. NOTE: Chairman Smith (R-NJ) announced at the close of the hearing that there will soon be another hearing focused solely on UNRWA. Also see: Smith (R-NJ): UN Anti-Semitism Unconscionable (full statement here);  Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL):  Ros-Lehtinen Urges Action to End Anti-Israel Agenda at the UN; Says Security Council Resolution 2334 Makes Peace Even More Remote

2/1: The Israel Project hosted a briefing with the House Foreign Affairs Committee entitled, “The Iran Deal: What’s at Stake One Year Since the Implementation of the JCPOA?” Video of the event, which featured HFAC Chairman Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Engel (D-NY), is here. The video and excerpts from the event were posted on the HFAC website (here), introduced with the following summary: “At an Israel Project forum yesterday, Chairman Ed Royce responded to Iran’s latest ballistic missile launch – a violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231 – and urged the administration to put the regime on notice that these types of dangerous and provocative acts will not be ignored, a step the White House took later that afternoon.”

On the Record

Corker (R-TN) 2/2: Corker Anticipates “Coordinated, Multi-Faceted Effort to Push Back” on Iran

Zeldin (R-NY) 2/2: Rep. Zeldin Meets with Member of Israeli Knesset “to discuss possible future paths towards peace in and around Israel” (this would be MK Yoav Kisch, author of his own “autonomy” that wouldrevoke the Oslo Accords, dissolve the Palestinian Authority and impose Israeli sovereignty over all settlements and the Jordan Valley, granting Palestinians an autonomous administrative region without full sovereignty.” Because this kind of one-stater is very much welcome on the Hill.)

Gottheimer (D-NJ) 2/2: Josh Gottheimer Speaks Out Against Iran’s Vow to Continue Missile Activity

Feinstein (D-CA) 2/1: Feinstein Opposes Rex Tillerson Confirmation (“Mr. Tillerson’s indifference to the two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians is unacceptable. Specifically, Mr. Tillerson said that a two-state solution is a “dream” and openly questioned whether or not it could ever become a reality. The reality is that without a two-state solution, Israel cannot be both a democracy and a majority-Jewish state. Today, Israel is constructing settlements throughout the West Bank. Palestinian terror and incitement continue. Mr. Tillerson’s almost casual dismissal of the two-state solution is disqualifying for a Secretary of State.”)

Feinstein (D-CA) 2/1: Also on Tillerson, “I am troubled by Mr. Tillerson’s response to questions about Exxon’s dealings with Iran, Syria, and Sudan. According to public documents, Exxon established a joint venture with Shell to conduct business with state sponsors of terror. That joint venture–Infineum– sold petroleum products to Iran, Sudan, and Syria, when those nations were being sanctioned by the United States.  During that time, Mr. Tillerson rose from senior vice president to president and director and eventually to chairman and CEO of Exxon; yet, during his testimony, Mr. Tillerson claimed to be unaware of Infineum’s purposeful evasion of sanctions. Instead of recognizing the larger national interest, Mr. Tillerson suggested that American companies could legally avoid sanctions by setting up shell companies outside of the United States.

Merkley (D-OR) 1/31: On Tillerson, “One of the questions I asked about was Exxon’s effort to set up a subsidiary to evade American sanctions on Iran and what did he feel about that as a leader of Exxon. He responded by saying: I don’t have any memory of this. Really? The top management of Exxon decides to set up a subsidiary to circumvent American sanctions on Iran with a great deal of national security at stake, and he has no memory? Well, that was certainly a disappointing comment and an unbelievable statement.”

Murphy (D-CT) 1/31: “Yesterday, Iran reportedly conducted another ballistic missile test. President Trump criticized President Obama on Iran for being too soft. Now it is his turn to get China and Russia to agree to a Security Council resolution condemning this test and taking punitive action.”

Hoyer (D-MD) 1/31: Hoyer Statement on Reports of an Iranian Ballistic Missile Test

Blumenthal (D-CT) 1/31: On Tillerson, “I have little confidence that Mr. Tillerson will vigorously enforce these sanctions and even less confidence that he will guide President Trump to provide the crucial advice our demonstrably rash and ill-advised President needs.  I want to point particularly to some of the tactics ExxonMobil used in its litigation against legal challenges that were brought based on climate change information that allegedly was concealed by ExxonMobil. These tactics are deeply troubling, and I hope that maybe the toughness of ExxonMobil in those tactics will be replicated in the toughness that

is brought to bear in enforcing the sanctions against Iran and Russia because he has shown a troublesome trend of opposing sanctions that have held Iran accountable–sanctions that pushed Iran to the table in negotiating the Iran nuclear agreement, which has made our world a safer place.”

Corker (R-TN) 2/1: “I just returned to the Capitol following a great meeting at the White House with General Mike Flynn…I am very encouraged by the seriousness with which President Trump is approaching the full range of threats Iran poses to American interests. It is clear that Iran will no longer be given a pass and will be held accountable for its illicit behavior.”

King (R-IA) 2/1: Challenging arguments by Rep. O’Rourke (R-TX) in opposition to building a wall on the southern border of the U.S. by, among other things, using Netanyahu as a validator: “I wonder if the gentleman studied what was going on in Israel, the fencing that they built in Israel, and if he happened to even notice the tweet that came out from Prime Minister Netanyahu just a couple days ago. He said that they built a barrier to protect them in Israel, and it is nearly 100 percent effective. Their lives depend upon it. So they built an effective barrier, Mr. Speaker. Anyone who is watching history knows this.”

Ryan (R-WI) 2/1: Statement on Meeting with Israeli Speaker Yuli Edelstein

Zeldin (R-NJ) 2/1: Rep. Zeldin Meets in Washington, D.C. with King and Queen of Jordan

Cotton (R-AR) 2/1: “I join the administration in condemning Iran’s provocative and dangerous behavior…”

Byrne (R-AL) 2/1: Trump Right to Put Iran on Notice

Garrett (R-VA) 1/31: Column calling for new US policy in Mideast

Gohmert (R-TX) 1/31: Rambling floor statement mainly in support of Muslim ban but also covering a lot of other ground, including making case for his bill de-funding the UN for its treatment of Israel

Engel (D-NY) 1/31: Engel Statement on Iran’s Reported Ballistic Missile Test

HFAC press release 1/31: House Foreign Affairs Committee Welcomes King of Jordan

Wasserman Schultz 1/31: Statement on Iran’s Reported Ballistic Missile Test

Corker (R-TN) 1/30: Corker Condemns Iran for Latest Ballistic Missile Violation; Calls for Additional U.S. Sanctions, Radical Enforcement of Nuclear Agreement

Goodlatte (R-VA) 1/30: U.S. Must Not Ignore Iran’s Actions

Leahy (D-VT) 1/24: Floor statement on UN Amb nominee Nikki Haley, including: “She condemned the U.S. abstention on U.N. Security Council Resolution2334 regarding Israeli settlements and incorrectly implied that it is inconsistent with longstanding U.S. policy and interests. In fact, she insisted that the resolution, not settlements themselves, makes peace negotiations more difficult–a view with which I disagree. She seemed to acknowledge that the U.S. does not support settlement construction, but stated that the U.S. should have vetoed the resolution anyway… She stated that the cut-off of U.S. funding for UNESCO as a result of the vote of a majority of its members to accept Palestine as a member state, which led to our loss of influence, is a “good thing” and that she would continue to support the cut-off of funding. She and I disagree about that and what it could mean for the future. I think even the Israeli Government has come to recognize that it is better for the U.S. to be at the table, using our influence to deflect attempts to unfairly target Israel, than on the sidelines.  Governor Haley suggested that the U.S. may want to reconsider participation in and funding for the U.N. Human Rights Council, despite overwhelming evidence that our role serves to protect our interests and has reduced substantially the council’s disproportionate and wasteful focus on Israel. At no time did she acknowledge the many council resolutions that are fully consistent with U.S. interests or that the influence lost by the U.S. is simply ceded to the very governments she opposes having a say in the council…”

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Lara Friedman

Lara Friedman is the President of the Foundation for Middle East Peace. Prior to coming to FMEP, Lara was the Director of Policy and Government Relations at Americans for Peace Now, and before that she was a U.S. Foreign Service Officer, serving in Jerusalem, Washington, Tunis and Beirut. Lara is a leading authority on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, with particular focus on the Israeli-Arab conflict, settlements and Jerusalem, and on the role of the U.S. Congress. She frequently briefs Members of Congress, Administration officials, and others in the foreign policy/national security community, and is regularly published in the U.S. and Israeli press. Lara works closely with Jerusalem expert Danny Seidemann and his NGO “Terrestrial Jerusalem,” participates in various Track II Israeli-Palestinian efforts, and is a non-resident fellow at the U.S./Middle East Project (USMEP). She holds a B.A. from the University of Arizona and a Master’s degree from Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, and speaks French, Spanish, Arabic and (rather poor) Italian.

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