by Lara Friedman
[As we have over the past few months, LobeLog is posting (long) excerpts from the Legislative Round-up published weekly when Congress is in session by Lara Friedman of Americans for Peace Now. In addition to her summary and commentary on pending Iran legislation, particularly the Corker bill, Lara this week devotes considerable attention to bills moving through Congress that are designed above all to protect Jewish settlements in the West Bank from any form of external economic pressure, such as boycotts or labeling requirements. She notes, entirely correctly, that these efforts, which essentially undermine decades of U.S. policy regarding the negative impact of settlements (if not their illegality), has gotten almost no mainstream media coverage.]
Bills, Resolutions & Letters
(UPDATE ON CORKER IRAN DEAL VETO BILL) S. 615 (now HR 1191): On 4/23, S. 615 was formally brought to the Senate floor, as amended last week by bipartisan agreement in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (see last week’s Round-Up for full details). In a move intended to fend off House objections that the Senate is improperly originating sanctions legislation (the House views sanctions as revenue-related legislation, which under the Origination Clause of the Constitution can only come from the House), immediately upon bringing S. 615 to the floor Senate leadership moved to take a previously referred House bill that deals with revenue (HR 1191) and turn it into the vehicle for S. 615 (involving the substitution of the entire text after the enacting clause, and replacing it with S. 615). Thus, the new bill number for the Corker legislation is HR 1191, and this Corker legislation’s new title is, confusingly, the “Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act” (and will be referred to as such wherever it appears in the Record).
The debate over S. 615/HR 1191 is expected to gain steam next week, when Corker will offer the first amendment and, no doubt, seek to use his control of the floor to prevent his more hot-headed colleagues from wrecking the bipartisan consensus text he negotiated with Cardin (D-MD) in the SFRC. The multi-million dollar question is: will he and GOP leaders succeed? Some GOP members appear determined to amend the bill in ways that would make it likely (but by no means guaranteed) that Democrats would vote against it (and that Obama would veto the measure, and that the Senate would be less likely to be able to override that veto). Other GOP Senators appear determined not to allow this to happen, including Sen. Graham (R-SC), who this week put his colleagues on notice, stating that “Anybody who monkeys with this bill is going to run into a buzzsaw.” Menendez (D-NJ) took to the Senate floor 4/23 to make the case for passing the bill without any changes, and AIPAC is reportedly opposing amendment plans by GOP Senators. Since the bill was adopted in committee with the bipartisan amendment, an additional 40 additional Senators have come on board as cosponsors (9 Democrats and 39 Republicans), bringing the total number of cosponsors to 61, plus Corker (R-TN).
As of this writing, 23 amendments (text here and here) have already been submitted to S. 615/HR 1191. These include clear poison pill amendments, like: amendments requiring that Iran release all Americans held prisoner as a condition for any sanctions relief under a deal; amendments re-inserting the condition for a deal that Iran cease terror activity that in any way impacts Americans; amendments requiring Iran to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state as a condition for any sanctions relief; amendments tweaking the timelines and other details of the existing bill; amendments laying out in minute detail technical requirements of a deal as a condition for sanctions relief; an amendment requiring formal congressional approval of any agreement; and an amendment to define any agreement as a treaty and therefore subject to the same Congressional oversight as a treaty (requiring affirmative 2/3 majority of Senate to approval).
(PROTECT SETTLEMENTS AS U.S. TRADE PRIORITY) S. 995/HR 1890: On 4/22, the Senate Finance Committee marked up and passed S. 995, the White House-backed Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill. On 4/23, the House Ways and Means Committee marked up and passed HR 1890, its version of S. 995. In both committees, language was added to the bill that is nearly identical to S. 619, an AIPAC-backed Cardin (D-MD)-Portman (R-OH) bill that is ostensibly about defending Israel from boycotts and other discriminatory policies and actions, but in reality is about shielding settlements from pressure. The TPA bill is strongly backed by the White House and set to move quickly to the floor. As of this writing, the Obama Administration has not commented on the pro-settlements amendment. For more details, see Section 2, below.
(SHIELD SETTLEMENTS FROM ALL PRESSURE) HR 1907/S. XXX: On 4/22, the Senate Finance Committee marked up and passed, in addition to the TPA bill, another trade bill, this one “to reauthorize trade facilitation and trade enforcement functions and activities” or more commonly referred to as the “customs bill” (not previously introduced, so the bill won’t have a number until it is reported out of committee). On 4/23, the House Ways and Means Committee marked up and passed HR 1907, its version of this same trade bill. Both versions of the bill, as passed in their respective committees, include the text of another AIPAC-backed measure designed to protect settlements from pressure, HR 825. As of this writing, the Obama Administration has not commented on the pro-settlements amendment. For more details, see Section 2, below.
(CONDEMNING IRAN’S TREATMENT OF BAHA’I) H. Res. 220: Introduced 4/23 by Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and 5 cosponsors, “Condemning the Government of Iran’s state-sponsored persecution of its Baha’i minority and its continued violation of the International Covenants on Human Rights.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
(CONDEMNING IRAN’S TREATMENT OF BAHA’I) S. Res. 148: Introduced 4/23 by Kirk (R-IL) and 3 cosponsors, “A resolution condemning the Government of Iran’s state-sponsored persecution of its Baha’i minority and its continued violation of the International Covenants on Human Rights.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.
“Settlements = Israel” Legislation Gains Traction
The Trade Promotion Authority Bill (TPA), S. 995 & HR 1890
On 4/22, the Senate Finance Committee held a markup of a number of trade bills, including S. 995, the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill – major trade legislation strongly backed by the White House. During the markup, Senators Cardin (D-MD) and Portman (R-OH), joined by a merry band of eager cosponsors, offered an amendment to S. 995 the text of a bill Cardin had previously introduced, S. 619 (amended so that its operative applies only to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement). That amendment was adopted unanimously. AIPAC, which already featured S. 619 on its website’s “legislative agenda” page, sent a letter to Cardin and Portmanendorsing the amendment (read out during the hearing by Portman and reportedly circulated to every committee member).
Subsequently, on 4/23, the House Ways and Means Committee held a markup of its own version of a number of trade bills, including HR 1890, its version of the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill. At the end of the markup, the committee adopted language offered by Chairman Ryan (R-WI) identical to the Cardin text, as discussed later in Committee (video here, starting at 18:00– with Crowley (D-NY) and others expressing preference for the more sweeping version of the pro-settlements language – without, of course, mentioning the settlements aspect – incorporated into a different trade bill, discussed below).
As reportedly in the 3/6/15 edition of the Round-Up, S. 619 was introduced by Cardin in the context of this year’s AIPAC policy conference (Cardin actually announced onstage stage during a plenary session of the conference that he would be introducing the bill). The purpose of S. 619 – and the version of S. 619 added to these trade bills – is, ostensibly, to make it a principal negotiating objective of the U.S. to discourage economic boycotts and other politically-motivated commercial actions against Israel. In reality, this language is about discouraging economic boycotts and other politically-motivated commercial actions against settlements and the occupation. This conclusion is self-evident, deriving from some key facts that members of Congress seem to be ignoring.
- S. trading partners are not, in fact, pursuing the warned-of actions with respect to Israel, but only with respect to settlements and the occupation; and
- 619 (like the amendments) specifically expands the scope of its objectives to apply not only to Israel but to “territories controlled by Israel” – that is, the West Bank and the settlements in it.
- As a result, to the extent that any U.S. actions actually result from this legislation, they will be targeting trading partners for their policies vis-à-vis settlements and the occupied territories, not their policies vis-à-vis Israel.
The fact that this AIPAC-promoted legislative effort is not really about Israel but, in actual impact, is only about settlements, is mysteriously – and shamefully – glossed over in all summaries of S. 619 and the S. 619-derived amendments to the TPA bill. Cardin’s statement applauding passage of the amendment makes it sound like this is only about Israel. The press release from Roskam (R-IL) crowing over the amendment makes no mention at all of “territories controlled by Israel.” The AIPAC letter supporting the amendment in the Senate makes no mention of anything but Israel (on its website, AIPAC makes oblique mention of opposing actions against “Israel or her territories” – an entirely new euphemism for the West Bank). The AIPAC press release applauding action taken on the measure likewise presents the measure as dealing exclusively with actions targeting Israel.
Likewise, during the Senate Committee consideration of the amendment (video here, Cardin amendment discussion starts at 09:01 – well worth watching), there is not a single mention of settlements or the fact that the amendment explicitly extends protection to settlements; indeed, in an display of grandstanding that crossed into the surreal and absurd, senator after senator raises concerns over “economic warfare” (Portman’s term) against Israel, over and over conflating BDS by individuals targeting Israel, and actions and policies by governments linked to the settlements and the occupation.
The TPA bill is expected to be brought to the floor in both the House and Senate in the coming weeks.
The Customs Bill (TPA), HR 1907 & S. XXX
On 4/21, Rep. Tiberi (R-OH) introduced HR 1907, “to reauthorize trade facilitation and trade enforcement functions and activities.” The introduced text included the text of HR 825, the AIPAC-backed bill introduced by Roskam (R-IL) [discussed at length in the 2/13/15 edition of the Round-Up].
On 4/22, the Senate Finance Committee marked up and passed (in addition to the TPA bill discussed above), its version of HR 1907, “to reauthorize trade facilitation and trade enforcement functions and activities” (not previously introduced, so the bill won’t have a number until it is reported out of committee. Prior to the markup, Chairman Hatch (R-UT), the author of the bill, posted a document entitled “Modifications to the Chairman’s Mark,” consisting of amendments that he had incorporated into the base text (his bill, his prerogative to change it before the markup, apparently). Included in these modifications is the text of HR 825.
On 4/23, the House Ways and Means Committee marked up and passed (in addition to the TPA bill discussed above), HR 1907, with the Roskam text included.
Like the Cardin amendment to the TPA bill, HR 825 (and the trade bill versions of it) purports to be about defending Israel from boycotts and other discriminatory or punitive practices. In reality, it, too, is about defending settlements. This conclusion is, again, self-evident, for the same reasons as those cited above.
And once again, the fact that this AIPAC-promoted legislative effort is not really about Israel, but is instead about making it U.S. policy to defend settlements from pressure, is ignored in all summaries of HR 825 and the versions of it that were incorporated into this trade bill. The AIPAC press release applauding action taken on the measure likewise presents the measure as dealing exclusively with actions targeting Israel. And on itswebsite, AIPAC makes oblique mention of opposing actions against “Israel or her territories” – an entirely new euphemism for the West Bank).
It is not yet clear how quickly this bill will move and what its chances are of passing into law.
What This All Means
On 4/22, APN released the following statement explaining the problems with this Congressional embrace of pro-settlements legislation:
“As a pro-Israel, pro-peace organization and the sister organization to Shalom Achshav (Peace Now), Israel’s veteran grassroots, Zionist peace movement, Americans for Peace Now (APN) rejects and condemns efforts in Congress, backed by AIPAC, to legislate U.S. support for Israeli settlements. We urge Congress to recognize the danger and folly of this approach and to hold firm in its well-established support for Israel and its equally well-established refusal to endorse Israeli settlements – and to reject HR 825 and efforts to pass similar language in the Senate.
“We commend Congress for its longstanding support and defense of Israel’s security, Israel’s economy, Israel’s position in international organizations and the international community, Israel’s right to self-defense, and Israel’s reputation as a nation that seeks peace. We likewise commend Congress for standing firm for decades and refusing to affirmatively support and defend Israel’s policy of building settlements in the occupied territories – a policy that undermines Israel’s security, erodes Israel’s position in the international community and belies Israel’s rhetorical commitment to peace and the two-state solution. And without the two-state solution, Israel’s future as a democracy and a Jewish state is in very real jeopardy.
“Today, Congress appears—disastrously – to be shifting course. This shift comes in the form of AIPAC-backed legislation in the House (HR 825) a version of which is now also in play in the Senate, in the form of an amendment to a key trade bill (S. 995), being marked up in the Senate Finance Committee today. Backers of this legislation characterize it as simply being about pressing U.S. trade partners to refrain from supporting or engaging in anti-Israel boycotts-divestment-sanctions (BDS) activities.
“In reality, this legislation is equally, if not more, about shielding Israeli settlements from pressure, seeking to codify in U.S. law the view that there is no distinction between Israel and the settlements. AIPAC and members of Congress who support this legislation are, in effect, adopting a view that is the mirror image to the one held by BDS activists and advocates, who insist that there is, in fact, no difference between the settlements and Israel.
“APN unequivocally opposes the efforts of the Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement to promote activism targeting Israel. At the same time, APN and Shalom Achshav strongly support and encourage activism and policies that draw a clear line at the 1967 border (aka “the Green Line”), targeting settlements and the occupation. Such activism and policies are the only real challenge to the global BDS movement, demonstrating that supporting Israel need not be synonymous with supporting settlements. Such activism and policies are unequivocally pro-Israel and pro-peace.
“These efforts by AIPAC and some in Congress will not insulate Israel from pressure over settlements. Rather, they will only put the U.S., along with Israel, further out of step with virtually the entire international community, including close allies of both the U.S. and Israel who are out of patience with Israeli governments who give lip-service to the two-state solution while forging ahead with actions on the ground that disclose a Greater Israel agenda. Likewise, this legislation will only fuel BDS targeting Israel, energizing activists – including those with a genuinely anti-Israel agenda – by bolstering their argument that settlements and Israel are one and the same.”
APN message to Members of Congress
On 4/23, APN sent the following message to every House and Senate office (addressed to the foreign policy staffer in that office).
I am writing to make sure your boss is aware of an effort – which has slipped under the radar of many members of Congress – to pass legislation that would for the first time give Congress’ affirmative support, in law, to Israeli settlements. This effort first appeared as freestanding legislation (HR 825 and S. 619); it is now gaining steam as part of pending trade legislation (HR 1907 and S. 995).
Backers of this effort mischaracterize the legislation, in its various forms, as being solely about shielding Israel from anti-Israel boycotts-divestment-sanctions (BDS) activities. In reality, this legislation is about shielding Israeli settlements from pressure, seeking to codify in U.S. law the view that there is no distinction between Israel and Israeli settlements in the occupied territories (referred to euphemistically in these bills as “Israeli-controlled territories” or “territories controlled by Israel”).
I urge your boss to take the time to understand the danger and folly these legislative efforts hold for both the United States and Israel – and to refuse to support any measures containing such language, unless and until the pro-settlement elements are removed.
As a pro-Israel, pro-peace organization – and the sister organization to Shalom Achshav (Peace Now) – Americans for Peace Now (APN) unequivocally opposes the efforts of the Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement to promote activism targeting Israel. At the same time, APN and Shalom Achshav strongly support activism and policies that draw a clear line at the 1967 border (aka “the Green Line”), targeting settlements and the occupation. Such an approach is indisputably pro-Israel and pro-peace. It is also only real challenge to the global BDS movement, demonstrating that supporting Israel need not be synonymous with supporting settlements.
This legislation, dangerously, sends the opposite message. AIPAC and members of Congress who support this legislation are, in effect, promoting a view that is the mirror image of the one held by many BDS activists and advocates: that settlements = Israel, and Israel = settlements..
This legislation, should it pass, will not shield Israel from pressure over settlements. Rather, it will only put the U.S. further out of step with even our closest allies in the international community – those who are deeply supportive of Israel but out of patience with Israeli governments which claim to support the two-state solution while pursuing policies on the ground, with settlements, that tell a different story. Likewise, this legislation will only fuel BDS targeting Israel, energizing activists – including those with a genuinely anti-Israel agenda – by bolstering their argument that settlements and Israel are one and the same.
APN strongly rejects and condemns this dangerous, misguided effort to legislate U.S. support for Israeli settlements. We urge your boss to do the same.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about this legislation or about any other issue related to Israel and Middle East peace and security.
The Issue in the Media
These recent, unprecedented actions by the Hill to support settlements have received uneven coverage in the media. Much of the coverage has faithfully parroted the press release versions of the story, describing the actions are solely about defending Israel, making no mention of the explicit expansion in both measures of the definition of “Israel” to include West Bank settlements (for example, here and here). Others have taken note of what is actually going on here, for example:
The Forward 4/24: Why GOP Effort To Forget About the Green Line Is So Dangerous — to Israel [note: This article is mistaken in two respects – (1) this is not exclusively a GOP effort, and (2) the article erroneously reports that the Roskam language, HR 825, was not also passed as part of trade bills this week, when in fact it is, just not the same trade bill as the Cardin language).
HuffPo 4/23: Congress Votes Against European Boycotts of Israeli Settlements
Members on the Record
Issa (R-CA) 4/22: Not clear if for or against Iran nuclear negotiations, but calling out Iran as a “a terrorist state that will, I guarantee it, continue going forward to destabilize the region and cause American lives to continue to be lost.”
Gohmert (R-TX) 4/22: Another rant about Obama, Iran, and the Middle East (final sentence, in the “you just can’t make this stuff up” category): “this President is putting the world in jeopardy. He is putting Israel in jeopardy. He is putting us in jeopardy. He is putting all of Israel’s neighbors in jeopardy. It is time he woke up and smelled the baklava.”
Stutzman (R-IN) 4/22: Expressing concern over Iran negotiations
Van Hollen (D-MD) 4/21: In support of Obama Administration’s Iran diplomacy
Poe (R-TX) 4/21: Calling for a lifting of the U.S. ban on oil exports (“…Ironically, with the so-called deal with Iran it is now U.S. government policy to allow Iran to export crude oil and inject billions of dollars into their own economy. At the same time it is still U.S. government policy to prohibit U.S. producers from doing the same.”)
Kirk (R-IL) 4/20: Kirk Delivers Weekly Republican Address on Iran (video)
Kirk (R-IL) 4/20: Kirk, Rubio Condemn Iranian Espionage Charges against Washington Post Reporter (suggest that his release and that of other Americans held by Iran should be pre-condition for any nuclear agreement)
Photo: Betar Illit, one of the four biggest settlements in the West Bank