Hill Update: Israel, Iran, Saudi Arabia

by Lara Friedman

As we have over the last year, 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.]

On June 5, 2016, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an Executive Order (EO) entitled: “Directing State Agencies and Authorities to Divest Public Funds Supporting BDS Campaign Against Israel.”  Americans for Peace Now (APN) opposes boycotts ofIsrael. APN also opposes legislation (and the equivalent, like this executive order) that seeks to outlaw boycotts or other forms of legal, non-violent activism against Israel. We believe such initiatives are the wrong way to combat BDS. Our full policy is here.  Our explainer, laying out our objections to the new EO in New York (and which apply equally to similar legislation being considered/adopted elsewhere in the country) – including an explanation of the constitutional issues involved, can be found here.

Bills & Resolutions

(ISRAEL SHOULD KEEP THE GOLAN) H. Res. 768: Introduced 6/7 by Lamborn (R-CO), “Recognizing the sense of the House of Representatives that it is in the United States national security interest for Israel to maintain control of the Golan Heights.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. This resolution follows Lamborn’s effort to have the same language adopted as an amendment to the House version of the NDAA (as previously reported, that amendment was not made in order so it was not considered on the floor.

FY17 NDAA – In the Senate

As noted in the last edition of the Round-Up (published earlier this week), the Senate spent much of this week debating its own version of the FY17 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) – S. 2943. For Middle East provisions of the base bill, see the May 20 edition of the Round-Up. Senate Armed Service Committee Chair McCain’s (R-AZ) statement framing the bill at the start of the debate on 6/8 is here. The White House “Statement of Administration Policy” on the Senate version of the bill is here and notably states that “If the President were presented with S. 2943, his senior advisors would recommend he veto the bill.” The White House “Statement of Administration Policy” on the House version of the NDAA (prior to floor amendments, which mainly made it worse) ishere, and also stated “If the President were presented with H.R. 4909, his senior advisors would recommend he veto the bill.”

Like every year (and as seen last month in the House) this must-pass legislation is the target of a large number of opportunistic amendments, including amendments related to Iran, Israel and the Middle East.  As of this writing, 603 (yes, you read that right) amendments have been submitted, of which 18 have so far been adopted (none dealing with the Middle East). A huge percentage of these amendments have nothing to do with the NDAA (making them non-germane), but that is no guarantee they won’t be added to the bill. For Middle East-related amendments filed before June 7 see the last edition of the Round-Up (except for one was overlooked and is included below); for Middle East-related amendments filed this week, see below. Debate on the bill continues as of this writing, and it is expected that many amendments will eventually move in managers’ packages being negotiated at this time (as happened in the House).

(MORE $$ FOR ISRAELI MISSILE PROGRAMS) SA 4289: Offered by Cruz (R-TX) and Graham (R-KS), to add a new section providing “Increased Funding for Certain Missile Defense Activities.” Specifically, the amendment would provide $302.3 million forIsrael missile programs. The amendment would add to the DOD budget (under “Procurement, Defense-wide”) another $290 million for Israeli cooperative programs, earmarked as follows: an additional $20 million for Iron Dome, $150 million for the David’s Sling Weapon System, and $120 million for the Arrow 3 Upper Tier. In addition, the amendment would add to DOD budget (under “RDT, Defense-wide”) another $12.3 million, earmarked as follows: another $10 million for the  David’s Sling Weapon System and another $2.3 million for the Arrow 3 Upper Tier. This would all be in addition to the funding for these programs already in the bill – Section 1662 provides up to $42 million for Iron Dome and Section 4201 earmarks $238.835 million for Israeli Cooperative Programs (the FY17 Administration request was for $103.835 million). Cruz spoke in support of his amendment here.

(COUNTERING IRAN SMUGGLING IN THE GULF) SA 4470: Offered by Peters (D-MI) and Rubio (R-FL), to add a new section entitled “Authority to provide assistance and training to increase maritime security and domain awareness of foreign countries bordering the Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea, or Mediterranean Sea.” The declared purpose of this amendment, which was previously introduced in a slightly different form as S. Amdt. 4314, is: “to authorize assistance and training to increase maritime security and domain awareness of foreign countries bordering the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, or the Mediterranean Sea in order to deter and counter illicit smuggling and related maritime activity by Iran, including illicit Iranian weapons shipments.”

(HOW OFTEN DO YOU BEAT YOUR WIFE? I MEAN, “ASSESSING THE INADEQUACIES” OF IRAN NUCLER PROGRAM MONITORING) SA 4514: Offered by Vitter (R-LA), to add a new section entitled, “Assessment of Inadequacies in International Monitoring and Verification with Respect to Iran’s Nuclear Program.” The amendment requires a report to Congress detailing “existing inadequacies in the international monitoring and verification system, including the extent to which such inadequacies relate to the findings and recommendations pertaining to verification shortcomings identified within [followed by a list of previous reports, at least one dating back a full decade]. This report must include “recommendations to overcome inadequacies or develop an improved monitoring framework.” This amendment was overtaken by a later version also offered by Vitter, SA 4655, discussed below.

(MORE $$$ FOR ISRAEL, JORDAN, & LEBANON, AMONG OTHER THINGS) SA 4549: Offered by Reed (D-RI) and Mikulski (D-MD), a new section entitled, “Other Overseas Contingency Operations Matters.”  Among (many) other things, the provision states that “In addition to amounts already authorized to be appropriated or made available under an appropriation Act making appropriations for fiscal year 2017, there are authorized to be appropriated for fiscal year 2017…$1,900,000,000 for budget function 150 to implement the integrated campaign plan to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, for assistance under the Food for Peace Act (7 U.S.C. 1721 et seq.), for assistance for Israel, Jordan, and Lebanon, and for embassy security.” Leahy’s (D-VT) statement in support of the amendment is here.

(DE-FUND ALL INTERNATIONAL CLIMATE CHANGE PROGRAMS – BECAUSE OF THE PALESTINIANS) SA 4561:Offered by Barrasso (R-WY) and a gaggle of GOP colleagues, adding a new section with a long set of finding describing the evil behavior of the Palestinians in seeking legitimacy at the UN, reminding the world that the U.S. has a law requiring de-funding of any UN body that dares to admit the Palestinians as  state (notwithstanding the fact that many bodies of the UN cannot actually prevent the Palestinians from joining as such, based on the UN General Assembly’s recognition years back of Palestine as a non-member state), and culminating in a morally outraged Sense of Congress demanding that the U.S. defund (in effect) all international climate change programs, in the wake of the Palestinians’ reprehensible act of joining the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  Good times for these Senators, who recognize a happy moment when they see one – and this is a two-fer! A chance to go after (despised) programs dealing with (what many of them view as fictional) climate change, from the moral high ground of bashing the Palestinians and “defending” Israel and peace. This amendment follows a sign-on letter sent to Secretary Kerry back in April by Barrasso et al, making the same arguments (covered in detail in the 4/22/16 edition of the Round-Up). It is also consistent with arguments offered by Eugene Kontorovich at a House Judiciary Committee hearing last month (the same Kontorovich who has carved out a niche for himself as the primary advocate/defender of pro-settlements/anti-BDS legislation). Barrasso’s press release on the amendment, “Barrasso Offers Amendment Opposing Palestinian Efforts to Circumvent Peace Process” – is here.

(DEMANDING THE SALE OF MULTIROLE FIGHTER AIRCRAFT TO BAHRAIN) SA 4585: Offered by Cornyn (R-TX), to add a new section entitled, “Sale of Multirole Fighter Aircraft to Bahrain.” The provision’s findings accuse the Obama Administration of having “unduly delayed the export of multirole fighter aircraft to Bahrain.” The provisions operative clause directs the president to fix the situation: “The President shall carry out the sale of all pending foreign military sales of F-16 fighter aircraft and related upgrades of existing F-16 aircraft to Bahrain by not later than 30 days after the date of the enactment of this Act. “

(NEW IRAN REPORT) SA 4600: Offered by Cornyn (R-TX), to require a report to Congress on “Potential Violations by Iran of the Right under International Law to Conduct Innocent Passage.” This amendment is an amended form of S. Amdt. 4201, offered byCornyn (R-TX) previously, which assumed, as a foregone conclusion, that Iran had violated this law, and sought to impose new sanctions.  That amendment was a version of free-standing legislation introduced earlier by Cornyn in the Senate (S. 2984) and Pompeo (R-KS) in the House (HR 5333), entitled the “No Impunity for Iranian Aggression at Sea Act of 2016.”  Cornyn’s latest statement laying out his views on this topic is here.

(US BALLISTIC MISSILE DEFENSE) SA 4612: Offered by Donnelly (D-IN), to add a new section, “United States Policy on Ballistic Missile Defense.” The section states that with respect to ballistic missile defense, “it is the policy of the United States to…defend the United States homeland against the threat of limited ballistic missile attack, particularly from nations such as North Koreaand Iran.”

(LIMITING SALE OF MUNITIONS TO SAUDI ARABIA): SA 4625: Offered by Murphy (D-CT) and Paul (R-KY), to add a language to existing law barring funding for the sale of air to ground munitions to Saudi Arabia unless the Government of Saudi Arabia unless the that government, “demonstrates an ongoing effort to combat the mutual threat our nations face from designated foreign terrorist organizations” and “takes all feasible precautions to reduce the risk of harm to civilians and civilian objects…”Murphy’s statement on the amendment is here.

(GIVING FEDERAL COVER TO UNCONSTITIONAL STATE ANTI-BDS/PRO-SETTLEMENT LAWS) SA 4649: Offered by Kirk (R-IL) and a bipartisan group of 16 cosponsors, this amendment seeks to add to the NDAA a new section – completely non-germane to the NDAA – entitled the “Combating BDS Act of 2016.” SA 4649 is a slightly amended version of an amendment offered previously by Kirk, S. Amdt. 4172 – one difference being the inclusion this time around of an entirely meaningless and disingenuous “rule of construction” claiming that “Nothing in this section shall be construed to alter the established policy of the United States concerning final status issues associated with the Arab-Israeli conflict, including border delineation, that can only be resolved through direct negotiations between the parties.” Meaningless and disingenuous because, of course, the amendment does exactly that: alter the established policy of the United States by granting legitimacy to settlements, and in fact defining them, for the purposes of U.S. law, as exactly the same as sovereign Israel. Moreover, even if Kirk et al were to agree to remove the conflation of Israel and settlements, this amendment – like the state-level anti-BDS legislation it seeks to support – is brazenly unconstitutional, for the reasons laid out in detail here. And in any case, it appears Kirk et al adamantly refuse to remove the conflation – not surprising given their reported argument that the legitimacy of the amendment is grounded in the anti-BDS/pro-settlements definition adopted in the TPA bill (which was rejected by the Obama Administration) and the Customs Bill (which earned a signing statement from President Obama calling out the provision as unconstitutional). A comprehensive look at state-level legislation is here. As noted in the last edition of the Round-Up.APN OPPOSES THIS LEGISLATIVE EFFORT IN ALL OF ITS FORMS – OUR POLICY REGARDING LEGISLATION TARGETING BDS, AS WELL AS LEGISLATION CONFLATING ISRAEL AND SETTLEMENTS, IS AVAILABLE HERE.

(HOW OFTEN DO YOU BEAT YOUR WIFE? I MEAN, “ASSESSING THE INADEQUACIES” OF IRAN NUCLER PROGRAM MONITORING) SA 4655. Offered by Vitter (R-LA), to add a new section entitled, “Assessment of Inadequacies in International Monitoring and Verification with Respect to Iran’s Nuclear Program.” The amendment requires a report to Congress detailing these inadequacies, including “recommendations to overcome inadequacies or develop an improved monitoring framework.” This is a slightly amended version of the amendment offered previously by Vitter, SA 4514 (discussed above).

(CONFLICT IN YEMEN) SA 4660: Offered by Murphy (D-CT) and Paul (R-KY), to add a new Sense of Congress regarding the ongoing conflict in Yemen, including stating that all sides in the conflict should “abide by international obligations to protect civilians,” “facilitate the delivery of humanitarian relief throughout the country,” and “respect negotiated cease-fires and work toward a lasting political settlement.” The SoC also says that US-supported Saudi military operations in Yemen should “take all feasible precautions to reduce the risk of harm to civilians and civilian objects, in compliance with international humanitarian law” and “increase prioritization of targeting of designated foreign terrorist organizations, including al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and affiliates of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.” It also says that the Houthi-Saleh forces engaged in the conflict in Yemen should “cease indiscriminate shelling of areas inhabited by civilians” and “allow free access by humanitarian relief organizations seeking to deliver aid to civilian populations under siege.” Murphy’s statement laying out his concerns about the lack of oversight in the conflict in Yemen and the U.S. role in that conflict is here.


6/15: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa will hold a hearing entitled, “Egypt: Challenges and Opportunities for U.S. Policy.” Scheduled witnesses are: Mark Green, IRI; Mokhtar Awad, GWU; and Amy Hawthorne, POMED.

6/8: The House Financial Services Committee’s Task Force to Investigate Terrorism Financing held a hearing entitled “The Enemy in our Backyard: Examining Terror Funding Streams from South America.” Discussion in testimony and during the hearing included examination of the roles of Iran and Hezbollah. Witnesses were: Mariano Federici, President, Financial Intelligence Unit of Argentina (testimony);

Michael Braun, Co-Founder and Managing Partner, SGI Global, LLC (testimony); and Emanuele Ottolenghi, FDD (testimony). Video of the hearing is here.

On the Record

House GOP Task Force on National Security 6/9: A Better Way: House Republicans Unveil National Security Agenda (excerpt: “We needed a tilt toward the people in Iran… Instead, the administration made the decision to engage with the ayatollah… And in so doing, empowered, enabled that revolutionary regime in many ways.  And subsequently [the White House] has bought into this idea now that they can’t offend the Iranian regime. And we’ve seen this in a whole slew of decision making. You know, giving them access to the dollar – the attempt to do that – the heavy water subsidy and so forth.”)

Barrasso (R-WY), Boozman (R-AR) and Coats (R-IN) 6/9: All using the NDAA debate to take shots at the JCPOA

Condemning June 8 terrorist attack in Tel Aviv: Ron Johnson (R-WI); Hoyer (D-MD); Engel (D-NY) (“I urge the Administration to give the Israeli government and people everything they need to overcome this tragedy and find a more peaceful future.”); Zeldin (R-NY) (“An attack on Israel is an attack on the United States.”); Maloney (D-NY); Loretta Sanchez (D-CA); Stivers (R-OH)

Corker (R-TN) 6/7: Speaking at the American Jewish Congress conference in Washington, “Corker Stresses Importance of U.S. Leadership, Reiterates Opposition to Iran Deal”

Thune (R-SD) 6/7: Using the NDAA debate to take shots at the JCPOA

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.



  1. Back then when GA endorsed partition in 2 states , GA actually endorsed establishment of Palestine as a state . Fighting and occupation cant invalidate this development . Sudan may tomorrow attack S Sudan and gain control of the S Sudan .It doesn’t mean S Sudan has to disappear from the UN list .
    Bribed and damaged good- Truman couldn’t have said this to some of his paymasters that he was recognizing one half as Israel and other half as undefined mass inhabited by undefined people of undefined future . Or may be he exactly said that .

  2. Yes, I am sure they hate us because of our freedom.

  3. demonstrates an ongoing effort to combat the mutual threat our
    nations face from designated foreign terrorist organizations-
    Saudi Arabia is already doing that…is it not?

  4. I believe the limitations on selling weaponry to Saudi is a political
    move with Economic under-layers. The reports have been contradicting,
    I believe some nations are trying to ”seem” like it’s doing something
    about it….when they should support the Kingdom.

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