1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters
2. Israel, Syria and Egypt, Egypt, Egypt in the Continuing Resolution
4. Members on the Record
5. From the Press
APN 3/14: The New Israeli Coalition: Promise and Peril
Lara Friedman in Open Zion 3/14: Paved with Good Intentions, Lined with Settlements (on new Yossi Beilin proposal)
1. Bills, Resolutions, & Letters
(ISRAEL, SYRIA & EGYPT IN THE FULL-YEAR CR) HR 933: On 3/6 the House passed HR 933, the "Department of Defense, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013." This bill is must-pass legislation (since failure to pass the bill will lead the government to shut down). That bill is now under consideration in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) stated on 3/14 that the bill will be done next week. For details of Israel, Syria, and Egypt elements in the bill, see Section 2, below.
(CUT FUNDS FOR EGYPT) HR 1039: Introduced 3/11 by Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and currently having 13 cosponsors, "To rescind unobligated amounts for foreign assistance to Egypt." Referred to the House Committee on Appropriations. Press release on HR 1039 from Coffman (R-CO) is available here.
(IRON DOME) HR 1130: Introduced 3/13 by Rep. Davis (D-CA), "To authorize further assistance to Israel for the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system." Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. As noted in the 2/1 edition of the Round-Up, on 1/24 Rep. Davis circulated a Dear Colleague seeking cosponsors on this bill, which is a re-introduction of a bill introduced last year by the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Berman (D-CA), HR 4229. That bill died in committee. Since 1/24, Davis managed to rally 63 cosponsors for the measure. A press release on the measure released by Roskam (R-IL) is available here.
(IRAN HOSTAGE) S. 559: Introduced 3/13 by Isakson (R-GA) and Blumenthal (D-CT), "to establish a fund to make payments to the Americans held hostage in Iran, and to members of their families, who are identified as members of the proposed class in case number 1:08-CV-00487 (EGS) of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, and for other purposes." Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.
(US & UN ARMS TRADE TREATY - ISRAEL ANGLE) S. Con. Res. 7: Introduced 3/13 by Moran (R-KS) and 28 cosponsors, "A concurrent resolution expressing the sense of Congress regarding conditions for the United States becoming a signatory to the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, or to any similar agreement on the arms trade." Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. One of the "whereas" clauses of this resolution reads: "Whereas the Arms Trade Treaty could hinder the United States from fulfilling its strategic, legal, and moral commitments to provide arms to allies such as the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the State of Israel..."
(US & UN ARMS TRADE TREATY - ISRAEL ANGLE) H. Con. Res. 23: Introduced 3/13 by Kelly (R-PA) and having 122 cosponsors, "Expressing the sense of Congress regarding the conditions for the United States becoming a signatory to the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, or to any similar agreement on the arms trade." Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Like S. Con. Res. 7, one of the "whereas" clauses of the resolution reads: "Whereas the Arms Trade Treaty could hinder the United States from fulfilling its strategic, legal, and moral commitments to provide arms to allies such as the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the State of Israel..."
(IRAN/BAHA'I) S. Res. 75: Introduced 3/13 by Kirk (R-IL) and 4 cosponsors, "A resolution condemning the Government of Iran for its 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. This is the Senate version of H. Res. 109.
(IRAN/BAHA'I) H. Res. 109: Introduced 3/12 by Grimm (R-NY) and Schakowsky (D-IL), "Condemning the Government of Iran for its 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. This is the House version of S. Res. 75.
(RELIGIOUS MINORITES IN THE ARAB WORLD) H. Res. 106: Introduced 3/12 by Bridenstone (R-OK) and no cosponsors, "Calling for the protection of religious minority rights and freedoms in the Arab world." Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
(OBAMA'S ISRAEL TRIP) Excellent Feinstein letter and Not-so-excellent Cardin-Collins letter: This week Senator Feinstein (D-CA) is seeking cosigners on a strongly pro-peace letter to President Obama. The letter urges Obama on his upcoming trip to the region to "take this opportunity to reiterate your commitment to the security of Israel and the negotiation of a two-state peace agreement to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during your presidency." The letter notes that "Just as the United States is unwavering in its support for Israel during these difficult times, we should also be clear about our commitment to a permanent, two-state peace agreement to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For 20 years, American Presidents and Israeli Prime Ministers as well as majorities of both Israelis and Palestinians have supported this goal because ending the conflict is vital to the interests of all parties and peace and stability in the region. In particular, we agree with you that a peace agreement establishing two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security is necessary to ensure that Israel remains a Jewish, democratic state. That is why it is essential for you to reaffirm on your upcoming trip that finding a pathway to peace remains a priority for your administration. You will find strong support in the Senate for a sustained, U.S. diplomatic initiative to help both parties conclude an agreement. Ultimately, it is up to the Israelis and the Palestinians to make the difficult choices to achieve peace, yet the United States remains indispensable to any viable effort to achieve that goal." At the same time, Senators Collins (R-ME) and Cardin (D-MD) are circulating their own letter to Obama. This letter focuses not on peace but on the importance of President Obama using his upcoming visit to "reaffirm the unshakeable bond" between the U.S. and Israel. It calls on Obama to read the Palestinians the riot act with respect to going to the UN or other actions that try to "circumvent direct negotiations" and to "stress the importance of the Palestinian Authority's close security cooperation with Israel...the Palestinian Authority also needs to confront the recent surge in violence on the West Bank, cease all anti-Israel incitement and renounce Hamas until it unequivocally meets the three Quartet requirements." It also states emphatically that while a lot of other things are happening in the region, there is absolutely no linkage between any of it and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is expected that some Senators will choose one approach but not the other, and that some will try to cover all bases by signing both.
(MORE $$$ FOR IRON DOME) Lamborn letter: This week Rep. Lamborn (R-CO) is circulating a Dear Colleague seeking cosigners on a letter to President Obama urging the President to increase funding for Iron Dome in the FY14 budget and to include additional funds in that budget to compensate for any decrease in funding to Iron Dome in 2013 due to sequestration (i.e., to make Israel whole with respect to Iron Dome funding).
(TURKEY) Israel-Kirk letter: On 3/12 Representative Israel (D-NY) and Senator Kirk (R-IL) led a joint House-Senate letter (with 89 signers total) to Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan urging him to retract his statements equating Zionism with fascism and anti-Semitism and labeling it a "crime against humanity." Reporting on it: Hurriyet Daily News (Turkey) 3/14: Ankara reacts to call from US Congress on zionism; Hurriyet Daily News (Turkey) 3/14: US senators, Congress members call on Turkish PM to retract Zionism comment; JTA 3/13: Retract Zionism slur, U.S. lawmakers urge Turkey's Erdogan. Rep. Israel's press release about the letter is available here.
2. Israel, Syria and Egypt, Egypt, Egypt in the Continuing Resolution
As noted above, on 3/6 the House passed HR 933, the "Department of Defense, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013." This bill is must-pass legislation (since failure to pass the bill will lead the government to shut down). This week the Senate took up the bill, and quickly got bogged down in amendments, including a number related to Egypt, discussed below. Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) stated on 3/14 that the bill will be done next week.
Israel $$$ in the CR: HR 933, which when passed will be the baseline to which sequester cuts would be applied, earmarks $479,736,000 for Israeli Cooperative Program, a program funded annually as part of the Defense Budget (Section 8071 of the bill). Notably, the relevant language (as passed by the House and now being considered in the Senate) is identical to language reported out of the Senate Armed Services Committee in August 2012 as part of the Senate version of HR 5856, the 2013 Department of Defense Appropriations Act (never voted on in the Senate). Of the earmarked funding, $211 million is sub-earmarked for the procurement of the Iron Dome defense system. Another $146,679,000 is sub-earmarked for the Short Range Ballistic Missile Defense (SRBMD) program, of which $39.2 million is slated for "production activities of SRBMD missiles in the United States and in Israel to meet Israel's defense requirements consistent with each nation's laws, regulations, and procedures" and $74,692,000 "shall be available for an upper-tier component to the Israeli Missile Defense Architecture," while $44,365,000 "shall be for the Arrow System Improvement Program including development of a long range, ground and airborne, detection suite." The section includes a provision a portion of the funds available in this section to be used as FMF. The Israel-related provision is left unchanged in S. Amdt. 26, offered by Mikulski (D-MD) in the nature of a substitute.
SYRIA: Syria is not addressed in HR 933, but S. Amdt. 26 adds language stating, "prior to obligating funds made available by this Act for assistance for Syria, the Secretary of State shall consult with the Committees on Appropriations and Foreign Relations of the Senate and the Committees on Appropriations and Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives."
EGYPT: HR 933 has attracted a slew of Egypt-related amendments in the Senate. The various amendments, introduced over a period of a few days, show a clear evolution and crystallization in approach on Egypt, from relatively blunt instruments to more sophisticated efforts that include legally-necessary exemptions for existing contracts, exceptions for counter-terrorism and similar programs (of direct and immediate interest to the U.S. and Israel), and national security waivers. The extent to which the Senate's approach on Egypt is coalescing around this kind of language is evidenced by the fact that one of the latest Egypt amendments was introduced by Leahy (D-VT), the highly respected chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee's Foreign Operations Subcommittee. By giving his imprimatur to this formulation on Egypt aid, it seems inevitable that this is the direction the current or future legislation will take.
- S. Amdt. 27: Offered 3/12 by Rubio (R-FL). Rubio's floor statement on the amendment is available here. The amendment would, among other things, block the government of Egypt from receiving any funding unless a far-reaching certification is made by the Secretary of State that the Government of Egypt for taken a range of actions with respect to democracy, human rights, and religious freedoms; is abiding by the Israel-Egypt peace treaty, destroying tunnels from Gaza, and fighting terror in the Sinai; and has signed and submitted to the IMF a Letter of Intent and Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies related to far-reaching economic and fiscal reforms. In the case where this certification cannot be made, the amendment would transfer ESF funding intended for the government of Egypt "for democracy and governance programs for Egypt, including direct support for secular, democratic nongovernmental organizations, as well as programming and support for rule of law and human rights, good governance, political competition and consensus-building, and civil society." In addition, the amendment would take away Egypt's interest-bearing account (established to create some measure of parity with Israel's aid program, which is disbursed in cash within 30 days of the relevant appropriations bill become law), re-allocating the funds for "democracy and governance programs for Egypt, including direct support for secular, democratic nongovernmental organizations." In addition, the amendment requires two reports from the President to Congress related to "rebalancing" U.S. aid to Egypt and to past and future FMF contracts.
- S. Amdt. 28: Offered 3/12 by Paul (R-KY), seeking to bar any assistance to the government of Egypt "until the President certifies that the President of Egypt has publicly declared, in English and Arabic, his intent to abide by the Camp David Accords." Inhofe's (R-OK) floor statement in support of the amendment is available here.
- S. Amdt. 44: Offered 3/13 by Sen. Rubio (R-FL). This amendment is identical to S. Amdt. 27, discussed above, except that this time grants the Secretary of State short-term (180 day) authority to waive the requirements of the section for reasons of national security.
- S. Amdt. 52: Offered 3/13 by Inhofe (R-OK) as a second degree amendment to S. Amdt 26. The Inhofe amendment would bar the "sale, lease, transfer, retransfer, or delivery of F-16 aircraft, M1 tanks, or certain other defense articles or services to the Government of Egypt" until the President certifies that said government has agreed to: "(1) to continue to uphold its commitments under the Camp David Peace Accords; (2) to provide proper security at United States embassies and consulates pursuant to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, done at Vienna April 24, 1963; and (3) to bring stability to Egypt by ending its systematic exclusion and silencing of all official minority political opposition and taking concrete steps to engage in dialogue with such opposition parties and consider a coalition, power-sharing government with such opposition parties."
- S. Amdt. 61: Offered 3/13 by McCain (R-AZ) as a second degree amendment to S. Amdt 26. The amendment would block all FMF for any new defense-related contracts with Egypt, until 30 days after the President submits a far-reaching report to Congress detailing a "comprehensive strategy for modernizing and improving United States security cooperation with, and assistance to, Egypt" in order to improve Egyptian efforts to combat terrorism, human trafficking, and arms trafficking, especially into Gaza, and to improve Egypt's counterinsurgency/counterterrorism capabilities in the Sinai, all as part of an effort to enforce the rule of law, enhance security "while protecting basic human rights," advancing economic development in the Sinai, denying safe haven to bad guys, and maintaining the Camp David Accords. But that's not all. This strategy shall also be about enhancing Egypt's intelligence capacity "especially with regard to the threat posed by terrorism and other illicit criminal activity, while ensuring a proper respect and protection for the human rights and civil liberties of Egypt's citizens" and seeking to "encourage, reinforce, and strengthen efforts by the Government of Egypt to reform its internal security services, including police forces, and justice sector with the purpose of maintaining public order and security while ensuring protections for internationally-recognized human rights, the rule of law, and equal access to justice for all citizens and persons in Egypt." Plus anything else the President deems important. The amendment specifically exempts existing contracts from the ban.
- S. Amdt. 110: Offered 3/14 by Leahy (D-VT), as a second degree amendment to S. Amdt 26. This amendment would ban any new FMF contracts with the Government of Egypt "for the sale or transfer of major defense equipment, such as F-16 attack aircraft and M1 tanks" until 15 days after the Secretary of State submits to Congress a required "comprehensive strategy for modernizing and improving United States security cooperation with, and assistance to, Egypt," as detailed in the amendment (along lines very similar to those laid out in S. Amdt. 61.) The language stipulates that this ban does not apply to "defense articles related to counterterrorism, border security, or special operations capabilities, and nothing in this section shall be construed to require the violation of an existing defense agreement or contract with the Government or Armed Forces of Egypt or to prevent or disrupt the production, transfer, or delivery of any defense article or service to the Government or Armed Services of Egypt, as required by a contract concluded by the United States Government or a United States person prior to the date of the enactment of this Act." The amendment also stipulates that of the ESF funding provided for Egypt, not less than $25 million "should be made available for democracy and education programs, including support for civil society organizations, and for programs to promote the rule of law and human rights."
- S. Amdt. 117: Offered 3/14 by Rubio (R-FL), as a second degree amendment to S. Amdt 26. The amendment would impose conditions on ESF and FMF for the Middle East in general, and Egypt in particular, by re-adopting and amending Sec. 7041 of PL 112-74 (detailed in the December 2011 edition of the Round-Up). The amendment would bar FMF to Egypt unless the Secretary of State certifies that the Government of Egypt has satisfied a list of conditions related to democracy, religious freedoms, human rights, adherence to the Egypt-Israel peace treaty, counter-terrorism in the Sinai, and free operations of NGOs. The amendment would bar ESF for budget support for the Government of Egypt unless the Secretary certifies all of the above, plus that the Government of Egypt "has signed and submitted to the International Monetary Fund a Letter of Intent and Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies designed to promote critical economic reforms and has begun to implement such measures." In addition, the amendment states that of the ESF funds appropriation for Egypt, "not less than $25,000,000 should be for democracy and governance programs for Egypt, including direct support for secular, democratic nongovernmental organizations, as well as programming and support for rule of law and human rights, good governance, political competition and consensus-building, and civil society." Finally, the amendment grants the Secretary of State the authority to waive the certification requirements for national security reasons. It also stipulates that the limitation on FMF does not apply to "defense articles related to counterterrorism, border security, or special operations capabilities" and does not require the violation of pre-existing contracts.
On 3/14, Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) spoke on the Senate floor about his frustration over all of these amendments, noting "This is a CR for 6 months. We have a functioning Foreign Relations Committee. That is where this should take place...We all have concerns about Egypt, our funding of Egypt, maintaining stability in the region, supporting Israel... I would again remind Senators that this is a continuing resolution. A long-term solution to the situation in the Middle East is not a short-term CR. Whatever we do on this bill would expire in 6 months anyway. The issue should be brought up in committee and worked on there and brought to us. That is what my Republican friends have said they wanted, and that is what my Democratic friends have said they wanted. They want to get back to where we do that kind of work..."
3/14: The House Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, held a hearing for Public and Outside Witnesses. Witnesses on Israel-related issues included Rabbi Michael Cohen on behalf of ALLMEP (testimony), Irene Kaplan, representing the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (testimony), and Howard Kohr, CEO of AIPAC (testimony).
3/19: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs will hold a hearing to examine Syria's humanitarian crisis. Witnesses will be Anne Richard (Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration), Nancy Lindborg (Assistant USAID Administrator for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance) and Tom Malinowski, Washington Director of Human Rights Watch.
3/20: On 3/14, it was announced that the House Foreign Affairs Committee (notably, this will be in the full committee, not the Middle East/South Asia Subcommittee) will also hold a hearing on Syria, entitled "Hearing: Crisis in Syria: The U.S. Response." Currently scheduled witness are: Robert Ford (US Ambassador to Syria), Anne Richard (Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration), and Nancy Lindborg (Assistant USAID Administrator for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance. Chairman Royce's (R-CA) hearing announcement can be found here.
4. Members on the Record
Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 3/14: In Order to Maximize Efficacy of Iran Sanctions, Administration Must Enforce them Fully with No Exceptions, Waivers are 'irresponsible and reckless'
McCain (D-AZ) 3/14: Floor statement on Syria.
Roskam (R-IL), Deutch (D-FL) 3/13: (press release) Reps. Peter Roskam, Ted Deutch Urge Crackdown on Iranian vessel Reflagging
Wolf (R-VA) 3/13: On his recent trip to the Middle East and in particular the plight of Christians
Shaheen (D-NH) 3/12: On International Women's Day, recognizing a Syrian human rights lawyer
Nelson (D-FL) 3/11: On the plight of Bob Levinson and his family
5. From the Press
JINSA Press Release 3/14: Representative Shelley Berkley to Join JINSA Board of Advisors
Huffington Post 3/14: The Senate's 10-Year Iraq War Anniversary Gift: War With Iran (Jamal Abdi)
The Cable 3/13: U.N. officials in Washington to defend Palestinian refugee aid
The Forward 3/13: Looming Sequestration Cuts Cause Split Among Israel Aid Advocates
Minnesota Blog Cabin 3/11: Congressman Ellison speaks his mind about Israel and Palestine
JTA 3/12: Lieberman [R-, I mean I-CT] joins American Enterprise Institute foreign policy team
The Cable 3/11: AEI picks up Joe-mentum [Joe Lieberman (R-, I mean I-CT) joins AEI]
JTA 3/10: Senate bill would exempt Israel from visa waiver requirements
The Forward 3/10: AIPAC Tries to Brand Israel as Liberal Cause
New York Times 3/8: Congress Gets in the Way (on AIPAC-backed Iran initiatives)
Salem-News.com 3/8: Will Congress Fund Iron Dome Over Head Start?
JTA 3/8: Appeals court to reconsider Jerusalem passport case