Congressional Update on Palestine/Israel

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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, previously of Americans for Peace Now and now the president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace. These weekly round-ups cover what Congress is up to and what individual members are saying, particularly about Israel-Palestine and Iran. For previous versions (going back many many years), see the Round-Up archive at Americans for Peace Now.

Bills, Resolutions & Letter

(FY18 NDAA – MIDEAST PROVISIONS) HR 2810: On 11/8, House and Senate conferees adopted a consensus version of HR 2810, the FY18 National Defense Authorization Act. That version – spelled out in H. Rpt. 115-404 – was adopted by the House 11/14 by a vote of 356-70and sent to the Senate 11/16 for final action. Middle East provisions of the bill are detailed in Section II, below.

(PROTECTING PALESTINIAN CHILDREN) HR 4391: Introduced 11/14 by McCollum (D-MN) and 9 Democratic cosponsors, “To require the Secretary of State to certify that United States funds do not support military detention, interrogation, abuse, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children, and for other purposes.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. McCollum press release is here.

(SANCTIONS ON PALESTINIANS) HR 1164: Introduced 2/16 by Lamborn (R-CO) and having 152 cosponsors, the “Taylor Force Act.” On 11/15, HR 1164 was marked up, adopted, and reported out by the House Foreign Affairs Committee, by unanimous consent and with an amendment in the nature of a substitute offered Royce (R-CA), as amended by secondary amendments offered by Cicilline (D-RI) and Connolly (D-VA). Video of the markup is here. Press releases: Chairman Royce (R-CA), ranking member Engel (D-NY), LambornDeutch (D-FL), Zeldin (R-NY), Donovan (R-NY). For a great behind-the-scenes view of efforts around the Taylor Force Act, see reporting from the Jewish Insider.

(SANCTIONS – LINKED TO PALESTINIANS – TARGETING IRAN & QATAR) HR 2712: Introduced 5/25 by Mast (R-FL) and having 26 cosponsors, the “Palestinian International Terrorism Support Prevention Act of 2017.” On 11/15, HR 2712 was marked up, adopted, and reported out by the House Foreign Affairs Committee, by unanimous consent and with an amendments offered by DeSantis (R-FL), Schneider (D-IL) and Donovan (R-NY). Video of the markup is here. Analysis of the bill, from the Arab Center Washington DC, is here (note: this analysis, written at the time of the bill’s introduction, has likely been overtaken by eventswith respect to attitudes regarding Qatar…). Chairman Royce (R-CA) press release is here; ranking member Engel (D-NY) statement is here.

(SANCTIONS – LINKED TO HAMAS) HR 3542Introduced 7/28 by Wilson (R-SC) and having 6 cosponsors, “Hamas Human Shields Prevention Act.” On 11/15, HR 3542 was marked up and adopted by the House Foreign Affairs Committee, by unanimous consent and with an amendment offered by Schneider (D-IL). Video of the markup is here. Chairman Royce (R-CA) press release is here; ranking member Engel (D-NY) statement is here.

(US-ISRAEL FRIENDSHIP) H. Con. Res. 92: Introduced 11/13 by Graves (R-GA) and 3 cosponsors, “Recognizing the deep and abiding friendship between the United States and Israel.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. As introduced, the resolved clauses note (among other things) that the House, “recognizes the importance of the establishment of the modern State of Israel as a secure and democratic homeland for the Jewish people, without prejudice to the rights of all people to live within or alongside Israel in peace…” Interestingly, that clause was amended on the House floor by Royce (R-CA) to read, “recognizes the importance of the establishment of the modern State of Israel as a secure and democratic homeland for the Jewish people, that upholds full and equal rights for all of its citizens.” With this amendment, the resolution erases any acknowledgement of the rights of Palestinians living in East Jerusalem (who are defined by Israel as “permanent residents,” rather than citizens) or Palestinians living alongside Israel in the West Bank and Gaza (who are legally stateless – without Israeli or any other recognized citizenship – and live under Israeli occupation). Passed by the House 11/15 by voice vote. Graves’ statement on passage of the resolution is hereUPDATE: While the actual impact of the change in text can be read to be what is described in the previous sentences, according to a Hill source the intent of the amendment was, in fact, the opposite. That is, it was intended to address concerns that, as originally drafted, the resolution might be seen as hinting at acceptance of a one-state outcome (the language of the amendment mirrors similar language used in the past by the US to describe the kind of state Israel would be in the context of a two-state solution).

(US POLICY TOWARDS YEMEN) H. Res. 599: Introduced 11/1 by Khanna (D-CA) and McGovern (D-MA), “Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives with respect to United States policy towards Yemen, and for other purposes.” Brought to the floor under suspension of the rules 11/13 and passed by a vote of 366-30 (with 1 voting present). Floor consideration is here. Royce (R-CA) statement is here.

(CELEBRATING THE BALFOUR DECLARATION) S. Con. Res. 29: Introduced 11/2 by Lankford (R-OK) and Manchin (D-WV), “A concurrent resolution recognizing the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Lankford-Manchin press release is here.

(KILLING BOEING DEAL WITH IRAN) HR 4324: Introduced 11/9 by Williams (R-TX) and 5 GOP cosponsors, “Strengthening Oversight of Iran’s Access to Finance Act,” aka, “A bill to require the Secretary of the Treasury to make certifications with respect to United States and foreign financial institutions’ aircraft-related transactions involving Iran, and for other purposes.” Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. Moving remarkably quickly, on 11/14, HR 4324 was marked up in the Committee on Financial Services and passed by a vote of 38-21. This bill is opposed by J Street, based on the fact it is a transparent effort to compel the U.S. to violate the JCPOA. Williams’ statement touting the Committee’s passage of the bill is here.

(NEW IRAN SANCTIONS) HR 1698: Introduced 3/23 by Royce (R-CA), the “Iran Ballistic Missiles and International Sanctions Enforcement Act.” Passed by the House 10/26 under suspension of the rules by a vote of 423–2. Received in the Senate 10/30 and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations

(PUTTING FURTHER FINANCIAL SQUEEZE ON IRAN) HR 1638: Introduced 3/20 by Poliquin (R-ME) and having no cosponsors, “Iranian Leadership Asset Transparency Act.” On 11/14, HR 1638 was marked up in the Committee on Financial Services and passed by a vote of 43-16. This bill (which is HR 5461 by another bill number) is opposed by J Street.

(NEW IRAN SANCTIONS) HR 4238: Introduced 11/3 by Poe (R-TX) and 3 cosponsors (Franks, R-AZ; McCaul, R-TX; and the Democrat who can be most counted on to join forces with this GOP crew, Sherman, D-CA), the “Iranian Proxies Terrorist Sanctions Act of 2017.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

(IRAN – LET OUR PEOPLE GO) S. Res. 245: Introduced 8/3 by Cruz (R-TX) and having 9 bipartisan cosponsors, “A resolution calling on the Government of Iran to release unjustly detained United States citizens and legal permanent resident aliens, and for other purposes.” On 10/31, adopted by the Senate by Unanimous Consent. Cruz and Leahy (D-VT) press release is here.

(PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS – ESPECIALLY IN MIDEAST) H. Res. 407Introduced 6/26 by Grothman (R-WI) and having 33 cosponsors (31 GOP, 2 Democrats), “Condemning the persecution of Christians around the world.” Marked up, adopted (with an Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute) by Voice Vote 11/15.

Letters

(INCREASING CONGRESSIONAL OVERSIGHT OF SAUDI ARABIA) Lieu letter to Royce: On 11/13, Rep. Lieu (D-CA) sent a letter to HFAC chair Royce (R-CA), asking for oversight on Saudi Arabia’s increasingly aggressive approach towards its neighbors in the Middle East. Press release is here.

(MORE IRAN SANCTIONS) Perdue et al letter to Amb Haley: On 10/27, Senator Perdue (R-GA) and 12 Senate colleagues (all GOP) sent a letter to US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, urging her to take a list of actions to “bolster the inspection and verification regime of the JCPOA to ensure that the deal is fully and verifiably enforced.” Press release is here.

(DON’T LET ISRAEL DEMOLISH PALESTINIAN VILLAGES: Eshoo et al letter to Tillerson: On 10/12 (not previously reported in the Round-Up), Rep. Eshoo (D-CA) and 10 House colleagues (all Democrats) sent a letter to Secretary of State Tillerson expressing “concern about recent statements made by the Israeli government regarding the threat of demolition and forced relocation of the Palestinian villages of Susiya and Khan al-Ahmar in the West Bank.” The signers urge Tillerson to “work with your counterparts in the Israeli government to prevent the demolition of these villages and the expulsion of Palestinian families from their homes, and the expropriation of their land.” For more on the letter, see this call to action from the Rebuilding Alliance. Also see this report in the Jewish Insider.

FY18 NDAA – Middle East/Israel-Related Provisions

On 11/8, House and Senate conferees adopted a consensus version of HR 2810, the FY18 National Defense Authorization Act. That version – spelled out in H. Rpt. 115-404 – was adopted by the House 11/14 by a vote of 356-70 and sent to the Senate 11/16 for final action.

Details of the House version of the bill can be found in the 6/30 edition and the 7/21 editionof the Round-Up. Details of the Senate version can be found in the 7/21 edition and the 9/22 edition of the Round-Up.

The conference version of the bill includes the following Middle East- and Israel-related provisions:

  • 1221: Report on United States strategy in Syria
  • 1222: Extension and modification of authority to provide assistance to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria
  • 1223: Modification of authority to provide assistance to the vetted Syrian opposition
  • 1224: Extension and modification of authority to support operations and activities of the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq
  • 1225: Modification and additional elements in annual report on the military power of Iran
  • 1226: Extension of quarterly reports on confirmed ballistic missile launches from Iran and imposition of sanctions in connection with those launches
  • 1227: Limitation on use of funds for provision of man-portable air defense systems to the vetted Syrian opposition
  • 1228: Report on potential agreement with the Government of the Russian Federation on the status of Syria
  • 1263. Report on strategy to defeat Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and their associated forces and co-belligerents.
  • 1265: Report on military action of Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners in Yemen.
  • 1275. United States military and diplomatic strategy for Yemen.
  • 1278: Limitation and extension of United States-Israel anti-tunnel cooperation authority
  • 1684: Iron Dome short-range rocket defense system and Israeli Cooperative Missile Defense Program co-development and co-production [earmarking up to $92 million “to the Government of Israel to procure Tamir interceptors for the Iron Dome short-range rocket defense system…”; up to $120 million “to the Government of Israel to procure the David’s Sling Weapon System…”; and up to $120 million “to the Government of Israel for the Arrow 3 Upper Tier Interceptor Program…”

US & Israeli Lawmakers Sign Israel “Victory” Declaration

On 11/15, the “Congressional Israel Victory Caucus (CIVC)” and the “Knesset Israel Victory Caucus (KIVC)” held an event on Capitol Hill at which representatives signed a “declaration of principles” regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (declaring, in effect, that the conflict is 100% the fault of the Palestinians).

Signers from the US side were Rep. Johnson (R-OH) and DeSantis (R-FL), who together launched the CIVC in April. Signers from the Israeli side were MKs Oded Forer (Yisrael Beitenu) and Avraham Neguise (Likud).

The CIVC was formed “with the support” of Daniel Pipes’ Middle East Forum, and grounded in Pipes’ comprehensively articulated view that peace will only be achieved through total defeat and subjugation of the Palestinians (so total that they realize and accept that resistance is futile and accept their lot). MK Forer articulated the same approach in a refreshingly candid op-ed this week in the Algemeiner, entitled, “Without Victory, There Can Be No Peace.” Pipes also reprised his arguments this week in Israel Hayom, in an op-ed entitled, “Why Palestinian delusions persist.”

For further background, see the 4/21 edition of the Round-Up, which reported on the establishment of the CIVC. For media reports, see:

Tablet 11/17: Israeli MKs Ask a Loaded Question: What Would Victory Over the Palestinians Look Like?
Jerusalem Post 11/17: Joint declaration calls on US to demand Palestinians recognize Jewish state
Times of Israel 11/16: US and Israeli right-wing lawmakers scorn ‘Palestinian rejectionism’

Hearings

11/15: The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe held a hearing (in the Dirksen Senate Office Building) entitled, “Prisoners of the Purge – The Victims of Turkey’s Failing Rule of Law.” Witnesses were: Jonathan Cohen, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs; CeCe Heil, Executive Counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice; Jacqueline Furnari, Daughter of Andrew Brunson; and Nate Schenkkan, Freedom House. Video of the hearing is here.

11/8: The House Oversight’s Committee subcommittee on National Security held a hearing entitled, “Moving the American Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem: Challenges and Opportunities.” Witnesses were: John Bolton, AEI (statement);

Dore Gold, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (statement); Eugene Kontorovich, Northwestern University (statement), Mort Klein, ZOA (statement), and Michael Koplow, IPF (statement). Video of the hearing, which showcased an unsurprisingly narrow range of views on the issue (from both witnesses and members), is here.

11/7: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcomittee on the Middle East and North Africa held a hearing entitled, “Democracy and Governance in the Middle East and North Africa.” Witnesses were: Scott Mastic, IRI [statement]; Leslie Campbell, NDI [statement]; Zeinab Abdelkarim, IFES [statement]; and Robert Herman, Freedom House [statement]. Video of the hearing is here.

11/7: The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing entitled, “Examining Anti-Semitism on College Campuses.” Witnesses were: Rabbi Andrew Baker, AJC (statement); Pamela Nadell, Assoc for Jewish Studies at American University (statement); Abraham Cooper, Simon Wiesenthal Center (statement); Barry Trachtenberg, Wake Forest University (statement); Paul Clement, Kirkland & Ellis LLP (statement); Sandra Hagee Parker, CUFI (statement); Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL (statement); Suzanne Nossel, PEN (statement); and Ken Stern, Justus & Karin Rosenberg Foundation (statement). Video of the hearing is here. Chairman Goodlatte’s (R-VA) opening statement is here.

On the Record

Graves (R-GA) 11/16: Recognizing The Deep and Abiding Friendship Between The United States And Israel

Young (R-IN) 11/16: Young Renews Call for Immediate End to Saudi Arabia’s Humanitarian Blockade of Yemen

Toomey (R-PA) 11/16: Toomey Condemns Iranian Human Rights Violations Against Religious Minorities (cosponsors S. Res. 139)

Wilson (R-SC) 11/15: “…President Trump has also restored trust in America as a beacon for freedom with his strong friendship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, and President Emmanuel Macron of France. He has championed liberty with 50 Muslim nations in Saudi Arabia, with stunning tributes in Warsaw and with the National Assembly in Seoul this week.”

Engel (D-NY) 11/14: Engel Floor Remarks on Yemen

Cotton (R-AR) 11/14: Cotton Speech to the Zionist Organization of America’s Annual Gala

DeSantis (R-FL) 11/14: DeSantis Meets with Israeli Colleagues, Supports Moving Embassy to Jerusalem

Cardin (D-MD) 11/14: Widespread Human Suffering in Yemen Reaches Catastrophic Level

Shaheen (D-NH) 11/13: Shaheen Urges Saudi Arabia To Curb Rhetoric Amid Escalating Tensions with Lebanon

McGovern (D-MA) 11/13: McGovern Condemns U.S. Support of Saudi War in Yemen

Murphy (D-CT) 11/9: Murphy Calls On Saudi Arabia To Immediately Lift Blockade In Yemen

McCain (R-AZ) 11/7: Our Country’s Middle East Foreign Policy

Wilson (R-SC) 11/6: Celebrating the Israeli-American Council (Sheldon Adelson’s group)

Cruz (R-TX) 11/6: Sen. Cruz Issues Statement in Response to the Resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri

Zeldin (R-NY) 11/6: Celebrating the Balfour Declaration

Poe (R-TX) 11/6: Christian Persecution

King (R-IA) 11/3: “…in my six trips into Egypt, I have met with President el-Sisi each of those times. He finds himself in a position in Egypt very similar to where Washington was in his first term, Madam Speaker, and that is now with a constitution that has a limitation of two 4-year terms for the President of Egypt. He was elected under that constitution, committed to accepting civilian leadership of the military–and that has been taking place–rebuilding the Christian churches in Egypt, establishing a parliament that reflects women as well as men, and religious diversity in allowing for a lot more religious freedom in Egypt. He has followed through on all of that.”

Khanna (D-CA) 11/2: Rep. Khanna Wins Debate on U.S. Involvement on Yemen and Strikes Compromise with House Leadership [“In early October, Reps. Ro Khanna (D-CA), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Mark Pocan (D-WI), and Walter Jones (R-NC), introduced a bipartisan resolution, H.CON.RES.81, to stop U.S. military participation in Saudi Arabia’s war against the Houthis in Yemen.”]

Pelosi (D-CA) 11/1: Pelosi Calls on Egyptian Speaker of the House Ali Abdel Aal Sayyed Ahmed to Condemn Ongoing Assault on Civil Liberties in Egypt in Face-to-Face Meeting & Letter

Cruz (R-TX) 10/31: Funding for Palestinian Lawfare Efforts Is Yet Another Example of the U.N.’s Shameful Hostility Towards Israel

Reprinted, with permission, from the Foundation for Middle East Peace blog.

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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.