Congress Considers Nomination for Israeli Ambassador

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.]

Bills, Resolutions & Letters

(EVEN MORE CONDITIONS ON PALESTINIAN AID) HR 1164: Introduced 2/16 by Lamborn (R-CO) and Zeldin (R-NY), “To condition assistance to the West Bank and Gaza on steps by the Palestinian Authority to end violence and terrorism against Israeli citizens.” As has been noted in past Round-Ups, the U.S. aid program for the Palestinians is already probably the most scrutinized, vetted, conditioned, and restricted aid program the U.S. has anywhere in the world – but that has never been an obstacle to adding more conditions. Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

(STOPPING AIRCRAFT EXPORTS TO IRAN) S. 420 (pdf is here): Introduced 2/16 by Rubio (R-FL) and 3 GOP cosponsors, “A bill to require the President to report on the use by the Government of Iran of commercial aircraft and related services for illicit military or other activities, and for other purposes,” aka, the “the Iran Terror-Free Skies Act.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Rubio press release is here. This the companion bill to HR 566, introduced 1/13 by Roskam (R-IL), Sherman (D-CA) and Zeldin (R-NY).

(NO US FUNDS TO IRAN TO PAY LEGAL JUDGMENTS) S. 386 (pdf is here): Introduced 2/15 by Lankford (R-OK) and 3 GOP cosponsors, “A bill to amend title 31, United States Code, to provide for transparency of payments made from the Judgment Fund,” aka, the “Judgment Fund Transparency and Terrorism Financing Prevention Act.” Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. Lankford’s press release touting introduction of the bill makes clear that it is a reaction to payment made by the Obama Administration to Iran and intended to make sure nothing like that happens again. Fischer’s (R-NE) press release is here. Versions of this bill were introduced in the Senate in 20162015, and 2013; and in the House in 20152013, and 2011.

(HONORING SHIMON PERES) H. Res. 137: Introduced 2/16 by Cicilline (D-NH) and 44 cosponsors (36 Democrats, 8 Republicans), “Honoring the life of Shimon Peres.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

(NASA-ISRAEL COOPERATION) HR 1159Introduced 2/16 by Kilmer (D-WA) and 3 cosponsors, “To provide for continuing cooperation between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Israel Space Agency, and for other purposes.” Referred to the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

(ISRAEL QME) Schneider letterOn 2/15, Rep. Schneider (D-IL) sent a letter to President Trump urging him to commit to maintaining Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge (specifically in the context of arms sales to the Gulf currently under consideration). Press release is here.

Hearings & Briefings 

2/16: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing to examine the nomination of David Friedman, of New York, to be Ambassador to Israel. Friedman’s statement submitted for the record is here. Video of the hearing is here (C-Span video, with real-time transcript, is here). Chairman Corker’s (R-TN) opening statement is here; Ranking Member Cardin’s (D-MD) is here.  Also see Udall (D-NM), “VIDEO (and transcript): Udall Urges Senate to Reject Nomination of Friedman for Ambassador to Israel”; Markey (D-MD), “Senator Markey Questions President Trump’s Nominee for Ambassador to Israel”; and Portman (R-OH), “Portman Questions Ambassador to Israel Nominee, Secures Commitment on Countering BDS Movement.” Also see RJC (action alert) and CUFI (full-page ads in DC-area papers & action alert).  With respect to media coverage, this hearing received more coverage than any ambassadorial nominee in memory – a quick internet search can find it for you. If you are going to read one peace, see: Jane Eisner in the Forward: Will The Real David Friedman Please Stand Up? APN was one of many groups strongly opposing Friedman’s nomination and urging Americans to call and urge their Senators to vote against his confirmation. Prior to the confirmation hearing, APN also circulated to Senators new analysis, “Top 5 Questionable Claims Senators Are Likely to Hear From U.S. Ambassador to Israel-nominee David Friedman.”

2/16: The House Foreign Affairs Committee (full committee) held a hearing entitled, “Iran on Notice.” Witnesses were: Scott Modell, The Rapidan Group (testimony); Katherine Bauer, WINEP (testimony);  David Albright, ISIS (testimony);  and Andrew Exum, The Atlantic (testimony). Video of the hearing is here. Chairman Royce’s (R-CA) opening statement is here.

2/14: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade will hold a hearing entitled, “Defeating Terrorism in Syria: A New Way Forward.” Scheduled witnesses are: Hassan Hassan, The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (testimony); Frederic C. Hof, the Atlantic Council (testimony); and Melissa Dalton, CSIS (testimony).

On the Record

Brown (D-OH) 2/16: Brown Statement on Trump’s Nominee to Serve as Ambassador to Israel (“I’ve heard from many Ohioans with deep concerns about David Friedman, President Trump’s nominee to be ambassador to Israel… Our ambassador to Israel must represent the broad American support for a two-state solution and be a passionate advocate for peace. Mr. Friedman’s past comments, temperament, and lack of experience give me serious doubts that he can fulfill America’s commitment to Israel’s security and values.”)

Hill (R-AR) 2/16: Friday night in Cairo (“last Friday night, I was in Cairo, Egypt, and what I saw was that same joyous, happy experience of families sharing their successes of the week..tonight I wanted to come to the House Chamber and pay tribute to the Egyptian people for being on those front lines in the fight against radical Islamic terrorism, pay tribute to the Christian and Muslim people of Egypt working together to defeat this ideology. I want to commend President el-Sisi for his courageous leadership in the Muslim world… Mr. Speaker, there are no bystanders in this fight, and there is no substitute for victory. Mr. Speaker, all across the world tonight, we Egyptians, we Americans, we want our Fridays back. TGIF, Mr. Speaker, TGIF.”) [No joke: that last part is copied directly from the Record].

Schakowsky (D-IL) 2/16: Schakowsky: President Trump is completely out of touch with the American Jewish community (“His ambivalent and uninformed response about whether he would support the long-standing U.S. policy of a two-state solution was unacceptable. 77 percent of Jewish voters, myself very much included, support a two-state solution as the only way for Israel to remain both a Jewish and democratic nation.”)

Lowenthal (D-CA) 2/16: On Trump “one state” comment (“A two-state solution has been the foundational bipartisan foreign policy stance of the U.S. for decades and it is my sincere belief it is the only rational path toward peace. The one-state alternative the President so glibly hinted he may adopt would do nothing to ensure Israel’s long-term security or enable Palestinian aspirations for their own state. Foreign policy by trial balloon is a dangerous gamble and does nothing to resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict. A lasting peace can only come through direct, two-party talks between Israelis and Palestinians. Not through off-handed and ill-advised comments by President Trump.”)

Ryan (R-WI) 2/15: On meeting with Bibi (“Today, Prime Minister Netanyahu and I redoubled our commitment to strengthening the historic alliance between the United States and Israel. We discussed the need to hold Iran accountable for its actions, bolster Israel’s qualitative military edge, and push back against international efforts to delegitimize the Jewish state. The special relationship between our nations has been an anchor of stability during uncertain and dangerous times. It must remain a cornerstone of American leadership today. I want to thank Prime Minister Netanyahu for his unwavering friendship and support.”)

McCollum (D-MN) 2/15: McCollum Statement on Trump Support for Dangerous One-State “Solution”

Lowey (D-NY) 2/15: Lowey Reaffirms Commitment to Two-State Solution (“Last year, I led a letter to President Obama reiterating that Members of the House remain fully committed to a negotiated resolution that secures two states for two peoples…Today President Trump refused to lend his voice toward this goal. Not only were his remarks shameful, they were short-sighted.  A two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians is the only means to ensure Israel’s long-term security and enable Palestinian aspirations for their own state.  That is why Presidents from both parties, the vast majorities of the House and Senate, and the American people have consistently supported this objective, and why President Trump must as well.”)

Nadler (D-NY) 2/15: Congressman Nadler Statement on President Trump’s Two-State Solution Comments and Failure to Condemn Rising Antisemitism in U.S. (“…Republican and Democratic administrations alike have long embraced the notion of a safe Jewish state living alongside a Palestine state as the only means for achieving a just and viable solution to this conflict.  The abandonment of such a framework would be disastrous, with a one-state solution either violating Israel’s democratic principles, or—as embraced by the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement—eliminating Israel’s status as a Jewish state…”)

Schneider (D-IL) 2/15: Statement on two-state solution (“By casually and flippantly suggesting the United States may pursue a two-state, one-state, or some other path to ending this conflict, President Trump makes the pursuit of a solution more difficult, and ultimately puts the long-term security of Israel at risk…”)

Sherman (D-CA) 2/15: Statement on two-state solution (“Today’s comments by Donald Trump regarding Israel show that he is dangerously uninformed and professedly undecided. There is no viable solution to the conflict other than a two-state solution. I don’t know what formulation President Trump believes he can get the Israelis as well as the Palestinians to agree to short of an independent Palestinian state, but suffice it to say that a single state that encompasses all of the Palestinians, as well as Israel, will not be Jewish and democratic for long. One-state solutions are either delusional or dangerous…”)

Levin (D-MI) 2/15: Statement on Trump-Bibi press conference (“I fear that today’s press conference will create more confusion than clarity. The goal of a two-state solution has been a guiding principle for decades of every Administration, Republican or Democratic.  In their search to help the parties themselves move in that direction, it has been more than a label. The peril in the President’s saying he is for either a ‘two-state’ or a ‘one state’ approach is that is it not policy but could be an opening for a complete abandonment of a two state solution without any clear indication of a viable alternative. I agree with the Prime Minister that any resolution must completely assure Israel’s security.  It is difficult to see how today’s press conference will help to achieve that goal.”)

Deutch (D-FL) 2/15: On Trump-Bibi press conference (“President Trump made clear today that a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians can only come through direct negotiations, and he is correct. The goal of this process must continue to be two states for two peoples living side by side in peace and security – a Jewish democratic state of Israel and a demilitarized Palestinian state.” – also dealt with Iran and anti-Semitic attacks in U.S.)

Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) 2/15: “I was extremely disappointed that President Trump did not explicitly denounce the rise in anti-Semitic attacks around the country, or the equally troubling statements that have come from his own administration. It was also disheartening to hear what appears to be a diminishing of the United States’ commitment to a two-state solution, which has been U.S. policy for decades and I believe is the most viable way to reach a lasting peace and safeguard Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people. In both cases, the President missed prime opportunities to advance the cause of Middle East peace as well as speak out against discrimination against Jews here and abroad.”

Rothfus (R-PA) 2/15: On Netanyahu visit (“I am thankful that President Trump is moving quickly to restore our relationship with Israel”)

Messer (R-IN) 2/15: On Trump-Bibi meeting – “It is great to see that Israel once again has a champion in the White House.”

Turner (R-OH) 2/15: “I remain committed to supporting Israel and I am pleased to see this relationship continue with the new administration.  It is my hope that throughout this new administration, our relationship with Israel strengthens as we work together in the fight against terror.”

Walorski (R-IN) 2/15: Walorski Resolution Would Condemn Lawfare Against Israel (H. Res. 109)

Scalise (R-LA) 2/15: Scalise Meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

McConnell (R-KY) 2/15: Welcoming the Prime Minister of Israel

Wilson (R-SC) 2/15: Welcoming Netanyahu to Washington

Rubio (R-FL) 2/15: Rubio Welcomes Prime Minister Netanyahu to Washington, Calls for America to Strengthen Alliance with Israel

Gohmert (R-TX) 2/15: A typical Gohmert rant, among other things bashing Obama on his record on Iran, Egypt (lamenting that “President Carter encouraged his [the Shah of Iran’s] forcing out of office, much as President Obama did the same thing with the President of Egypt”], and Russia (stating, with no deliberate irony it seems, that “it was as if he were afraid he might hurt Putin’s feelings or Khamenei’s feelings…”]

Zeldin (R-NY) 2/14: In advance of Bibi-Trump meeting, calling for, among other things: (a) moving US embassy to Jerusalem; (b) formally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital; (c) pledging to veto any future resolutions Israel to which Israel objects; (d) cutting off assistance to the Palestinians.

Gohmert (R-TX) 2/14: A typical Gohmert rant, among other things raising the conspiracy theory that forces behind the JCPOA brought down Flynn

Zeldin (R-NY) 2/14: Rep. Zeldin Meets with Vice President Mike Pence to discuss U.S. relationship with Israel

Mast (R-FL) 2/14: Making a plea for the UN and the Trump Admin to work to get Hamas to release the remains of slain Israeli soldier Hadar Goldin

Perlmutter (R-CO) 2/14: Honoring two constituents, noting that one “has been very involved with Christians United for Israel including leading a group of 37 pastors from the U.S. who will be visiting Israel with Pastor George Morrison in 2017.”

Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 2/13: Honoring Israel Bonds

McClintock (R-CA) 2/12: Speech at AIPAC luncheon [excerpt that gives a flavor of the whole thing: “The U.N. condemnation of Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria,severely undermined Israel’s security and diplomatic standing” emphasis added)]

Heinrich (D-NM) and Feinstein (D-CA) 2/12: Op-ed in USA Today, “Two-State Solution Vital for Middle East Peace”

Lara Friedman

Lara Friedman is the president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP). With more than 25 years working in the Middle East foreign policy arena, Lara is a leading authority on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, with particular expertise on the Israeli-Arab conflict, Israeli settlements, Jerusalem, and the role of the U.S. Congress. She is published widely in the U.S. and international press and is regularly consulted by members of Congress and their staffs, by Washington-based diplomats, by policy-makers in capitals around the world, and by journalists in the U.S. and abroad. In addition to her work at FMEP, Lara is a non-resident fellow at the U.S./Middle East Project (USMEP). Prior to joining 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. She holds a B.A. from the University of Arizona and a Master’s degree from Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service; in addition to English, Lara speaks French, Arabic, Spanish, (weak) Italian, and muddles through in Hebrew.