1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters
2. Members on the Record
3. Hagel on the Record on the Middle East
APN statement 12/18: APN Rejects Attacks on Sen. Hagel
At the Daily Beast's Open Zion 12/17: Disingenuous Defenses of Netanyahu's Settlement Plans
At the Daily Beast's Open Zion 12/17: Top Ten Issues the ADL Ignored
1. Bills, Resolutions, & Letters
(EGYPT) HR 6657: Introduced 12/13/12 by Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), the "Egypt Accountability and Democracy Promotion Act." Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. This legislation would cut all aid to Egypt (ESF and FMF) unless a far-reaching certification could be made to Congress. It is worth noting that back in 2005 (when Egypt was still under the rule of Hosni Mubarak), Ros-Lehtinen cosponsored H. Res. 413, described in a Ros-Lehtinen Dear Colleague as the "Egypt Accountability Resolution." For details, see the 7/29/05 edition of the Round-Up.
(EGYPT) S. 3670: Introduced 12/12/12 by Sen. Toomey (R-PA), "Conditioning United States-Egypt Military Exercises Act of 2012." Referred to the Committee on Armed Services.
(IRAN) HR 3783: Introduced 1/18/12 by Duncan (R-SC) and having 87 cosponsors, the "Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act of 2012." On 12/12 the Senate passed HR 3783 by a voice vote (with a minor amendment, SA 3334, adopted by unanimous consent). On 12/18, the House took up HR 3783, as amended (12/18 floor statements are available here) and passed it by a vote of 386-6. On 12/21 it was presented to the President.
(IRAN) Menendez-Lieberman-Ayotte letter: This week a letter regarding Iran, sponsored by Senators Menendez (D-NJ), Lieberman (R-, I mean I-CT), and Ayotte (R-NH), and signed by a total of 73 senators, was sent to President Obama (full list of signers, plus statements by the sponsors, here). The letter, which is part of AIPAC's current Legislative Agenda, states that the signers believe "there should be absolutely no diminution of pressure on the Iranians until the totality of the nuclear problem is addressed" (i.e., there is nothing to negotiate - until Iran gives in, pressure will only increase). The letter also lays out red lines for future negotiations, including expressing skepticism about Iran being permitted to retain any enrichment capability and listing a number of demands that the signers believe are non-negotiable. Until the totality of the nuclear problem is addressed, the letter calls for "aggressive implementation of existing sanctions and the adoption of new, even stronger ones" - for example, a U.S. campaign to convince countries to expel Iranian diplomats and close Iranian diplomatic missions around the world. The letter urges the President to reiterate his readiness to go to war against Iran "if it continues (sic) its efforts to acquire a nuclear weapon" and, finally, urges the President to do more to demonstrate that the United States is on the side of the Iranian people (so that they will understand that U.S.-driven sanctions that make their lives miserable and threats of war are for their own good).
It seems likely that this AIPAC-backed letter will be the precursor to an effort to transform the recommendations into law. Senators not signing the letter (in addition to Sen. Inouye, D-HI, who passed away this week) were: Akaka (HI), Alexander (R-TN), Bingaman (D-NM), Boxer (D-CA), Cantwell (D-WA), DeMint (R-SC), Durbin (D-IL), Feinstein (D-CA), Harkin (D-IA), Kerry (D-MA), Kirk (R-IL), Kohl (D-WI), Leahy (D-VT), Lugar (R-IN), Murkowski (R-AK), Paul (R-KY), Reed (D-RI), Reid (D-NV), Rockefeller (D-WV), Sanders (I-VT), Sessions (R-AL), Shelby (R-AL), Tester (D-MT), Udall (D-NM), Webb (D-VA), and Whitehouse (D-RI). JTA reports on the letter here.
(PUNISH THE PALESTINIANS) Ros-Lehtinen et al Dear Colleague: As reported on last week's Round-Up, on 12/10/12, Reps. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Berman (D-CA), Royce (R-CA) and Engel (D-NY) began circulating a letter to be sent to President Obama, calling on the president to adopt suggestions actions to punish the Palestinians for going to the UN. The letter, which is listed on AIPAC's Legislative Agenda, was reportedly originally supposed to circulate only until the 12/14; this week it was learned that the letter was being held open for signatures for at least another week (until mid-day 12/21), a decision that could mean that sponsors aren't getting the huge number of co-signers they want as easily as expected. APN strongly opposes this letter and this week re-issued an Action Alert calling on activists nationwide to write their Representatives and urge them not to sign. As noted last week, based on experience, it seems likely that this letter is the precursor to AIPAC-backed legislation seeking to make mandatory the actions that for now the letter merely urges the President to take.
(NDAA) HR 4310: On 12/12/12 the Senate undertook what is known as a "blue slip" action with respect to HR 4310, the FY13 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). In this case, the House objected to wording in the Senate version of the bill that was tantamount to the Senate originating a tax/spending measure (related to Iran sanctions) and refused to conference the bill until the Senate amended the offending passage. This was done by the Senate on 12/12/12, by adopting Senate Amendment 333, offered by Senator Menendez. With this taken care of, conferees met during the week to iron out differences in their respective versions of the bill. On 12/18/12, the House-Senate conference report on HR 4310, the FY13 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was filed. Highlights/summaries of the conference report are available here (House Armed Services Committee) and here (Senate Armed Services Committee). The conference version of the bill leaves intact provisions over which the Obama Administration has threatened to veto the bill. For further reporting, see: AP, Politico, the Hill, and Washington Times.
(HIZBALLAH) H. Res. 834: Introduced 12/17/12 by Rep. Kelly (R-PA) and 60 cosponsors, "Urging the governments of Europe and the European Union to designate Hizballah as a terrorist organization and impose sanctions, and urging the President to provide information about Hizballah to the European allies of the United States and to support the Government of Bulgaria in investigating the July 18, 2012, terrorist attack in Burgas." This is the House version of S. Res. 613, covered in last week's Round-Up. Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
(MIDDLE EAST AID) HR 6644: Introduced 12/11/12 by Reps. Berman (D-CA) and Connolly (D-VA), "To establish a framework for effective, transparent, and accountable United States foreign assistance, and for other purposes." Referred to the Committees on Foreign Affairs, Ways and Means, Oversight and Government Reform, Armed Services, and Rules.
As the short title indicates, this far-reaching legislation seeks to establish a legislative "framework" for all U.S. foreign assistance. With respect to the Middle East, this includes Chapter 4, entitled "Terrorism," under which we find the category "Subchapter b" misleadingly entitled "Middle East provisions" but in actuality an entire subchapter of the law devoted to legislating U.S. relations with the Palestinians. The fact that the Palestinians have their own subchapter underscores the fact that U.S. relations with the Palestinians are probably the most restricted/conditioned/sanctioned/vetted/overseen/audited of any U.S. bilateral relationship in the world. Moreover, this organization of the bill - categorizing the entirety of U.S. relations with the Palestinians - including aid to the PA, aid to the Palestinian people, relations in international organizations, and bilateral diplomatic relations - under the category of "Terrorism" is both telling and ironic. It should be recalled that neither the PLO nor the PA are U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations. It should be further noted that the current drive in Congress to sanction the Palestinian Authority is linked to its entirely non-violent/non-terrorist act of appealing to the United Nations for support for a negotiated two-state solution.
While this bill will almost certainly not become law, it is worth paying close attention to the Palestinian-related provisions, as they may provide a preview of the shape of anti-Palestinian legislative efforts to come. Specifically:
Subchapter b includes some longstanding (and often overlapping) legislative requirements included in annual Foreign Operations Appropriations bills (not necessarily identical to existing language):
- Sec. 10412 bans assistance to the Palestinian Authority if it is controlled by Hamas, unless a specific certification can be made. An extremely narrow Presidential national security waiver is included.
- Sec. 10414 places far-reaching conditions on assistance to a future Palestinian state. A Presidential national security waiver is included.
- Sec. 10415 reiterates the longstanding ban on any new U.S. diplomatic facilities in Jerusalem for the conduct of business with the PA (so longstanding that the language references the Gaza-Jericho agreement of the early 1990s).
- Sec. 10416 reiterates a longstanding ban on U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Broadcasting Authority.
- Sec. 10417 lays out extensive audit/vetting/oversight requirements and limitations on funds that (despite all the other limitations in law) might still go to the West Bank and Gaza, and
- Sec. 10418 prohibits all funding to the PA. It includes waiver authority and related conditions that must be met. It also includes the longstanding ban on any funding to the PLO.
Subchapter b also includes new requirements related to the Palestinians:
- Sec. 10411 would bar all U.S. contributions to UNRWA unless the Secretary of State determines/reports that UNRWA is "taking all possible measures to assure that no part of the United States contribution shall be used to provide assistance to any refugee who is receiving military training as a member of any terrorist group or guerrilla-type organization or who has engaged in any act of terrorism."
- Sec. 10413 would ban assistance to the West Bank and Gaza, with a few designated exceptions, if the certification in Sec. 10411 could not be made (this is not talking about aid to the PA, but aid for projects for the people of the West Bank and Gaza, carried out by NGOs). Presidential waiver authority is included.
- Sec. 10419 relates to the Palestinians at the UN. The provision - which resembles amendments offered in the Senate to the NDAA - would bar all assistance to the Palestinian Authority if the Palestinians obtain (after the date that this language would become law) "the same standing as member states, enhanced observer status, or full membership as a state in the United Nations or any specialized agency thereof outside an agreement negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians." This language seeks to lower the bar for sanctions against the Palestinians. Under existing law (dating from when the PLO was a designated terrorist organization and even mentioning the idea of the Palestinian state was considered beyond the pale), sanctions kick in only if/when the Palestinians gain full membership or its equivalent. Under this language, ANY enhancement in status would mean sanctions. The provision includes a national security waiver. In addition, this section would require the closure of the PLO office in Washington unless the president could certify that the Palestinians have not obtained any enhanced status at the UN or any UN agency, unless the President could certify that the Palestinians "have entered into direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel relating to Palestinian statehood."
Other Middle East-related provisions
- Sec. 4242 notes that the value of defense articles to be set aside, reserved, or earmarked or intended for future use by any foreign country that is a strategic United States ally may not exceed $300 million for a fiscal year, of which up to $200 million (2/3) may be made available for stockpiles Israel.
- Sec. 4254 states that the Secretary may approve cash flow financing for Israel and Egypt for the procurement of defense articles, defense services, or design and construction services in excess of $100 million.
-Sec. 4251 states that the President is authorized to finance the procurement of defense articles, defense services, and design and construction services by foreign countries and international organizations, on such terms and conditions as the President may determine consistent with the requirements of this chapter. Sec. 4356 provides that this authority be used to provide financing to Israel and Egypt for the procurement by leasing (including leasing with an option to purchase) of defense articles from United States commercial suppliers, other than major defense equipment (other than helicopters and other types of aircraft having possible civilian application), if the President determines that there are compelling foreign policy or national security reasons for the articles to be provided by commercial lease rather than by government-to-government sale under this subtitle.
- Sec. 4387 requires that any certification relating to a proposed sale or export of defense articles or defense services under this chapter to any country in the Middle East other than Israel shall include an unclassified determination that the sale or export of the defense articles or defense services will not adversely affect Israel's qualitative military edge over military threats to Israel, but may also include a classified determination as well. It defines "Qualitative Military Edge" as meaning "the ability to counter and defeat any credible conventional military threat from any individual state or possible coalition of states or from non-state actors, while sustaining minimal damages and casualties, through the use of superior military means, possessed in sufficient quantity, including weapons, command, control, communication, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities that in their technical characteristics are superior in capability to those of such other individual or possible coalition of states or non-state actors."
- Sec. 11401 provides that notwithstanding other provisions of law, the existing loan guarantees program for Israel shall not be repealed.
2. Members on the Record
Poe (R-TX) 12/19/12: Defending Israel's right to build settlements in East Jerusalem (and that's just the way it is...)
Gohmert (R-TX) 12/13/12: Suggesting that the Obama Administration is undermining Israel by continuing to provide aid to Egypt, that Egypt should be treated as an "enemy," and accusing the White House of showing allegiance to NATO, the OIC, and the UN, rather than to the United States.
Dold (R-IL) 12/12/12: Listing his accomplishments in the 112th Congress, including "finding ways to strength the United States-Israel relationship" and looking for ways "provide true leadership in support of our ally Israel's long-term security."
3. Hagel on the Record on the Middle East
This week saw ugly and deeply dishonest attacks launched against former Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE), in the context of his name being floated as the possible nominee for the next Secretary of Defense. APN's position on Hagel and rejecting these attacks is available here.
For the sake of those who are not familiar with Hagel's real record on the issues (and are so far relying on reports that, when examined, prove inaccurate if not duplicitous), below is a compendium of major statements made by Hagel expressing his views on Israel and the Middle East and spanning his time in office.
Note: The full text of all the statements has been posted as a free-standing document, here.
Hagel on the Senate floor, 7/31/06: MIDDLE EAST--A REGION IN CRISIS
Hagel at the Council on Foreign Relations, 11/15/05: A Conversation with Senator Chuck Hagel on The Middle East and U.S. Foreign Policy
Hagel at the World Affairs Council speech, 5/20/03: "Next Steps in the Middle East"
Hagel in the Washington Post, 7/19/02: We Shouldn't Make Arafat the Issue
Hagel on the Senate floor, 6/14/02: PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST
Hagel on the Senate floor, 4/12/2002: THE MIDDLE EAST