APN Legislative Round-Up: November 20, 2015

1. Bills & Resolutions
2. Settlements= Israel, Round 3 (cont.)
3. Hearings
4. On the Record

1. Bills, Resolutions, & Letters

(SOLIDARITY WITH ISRAEL, SLAM PALESTINIANS FOR VIOLENCE, INCITEMENT) S. Res. 302: Introduced 11/3 by Blumenthal (D-CT) and having 68 cosponsors, “A resolution expressing the sense of the Senate in support of Israel and in condemnation of Palestinian terror attacks.” On 11/10, passed by the Senate by Unanimous Consent. Blumenthal press release is here.

(SOLIDARITY WITH ISRAEL, SLAM PALESTINIANS FOR VIOLENCE, INCITEMENT) H. Con. Res.96:  Introduced 11/19 by Woodall (R-GA) and 11 cosponsors, “Condemning Palestinian incitement of violence and reaffirming the special bond between Israel and the United States.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. This appears to be a 100% grandstanding resolution, given that on 11/2, just over 2 weeks ago, the House passed H. Res. 293 (communicating similar sentiments) and, as noted above, on 11/10 the Senate passed S. Res. 302 (communicating similar sentiments).

(TARGETING HIZBALLAH $$$) HR 2297: Introduced 5/13 by Royce (R-CA) and having 9 cosponsors, the “Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015” (the companion Senate version is S. 1617). This legislation has long been an AIPAC lobbying priority.  On 11/17, HR 2297 passed by the Senate (with an amendment) by Unanimous Consent. Shaheen (D-NH) press release on passage of the bill is here.

(NO $$ FOR SYRIAN OPPOSITION) HR 4108: Introduced 11/19 by Gabbard (D-HI) and 1 cosponsor, “To prohibit the use of funds for the provision of assistance to Syrian opposition groups and individuals.”
Referred to the Committee on Armed Services, the Committees on Intelligence (Permanent Select), and the Committee on Foreign Affairs.

(CONDEMNING ISIS TARGETING OF MINORITIES) S Res. 310: Introduced 11/9 by Johnson (R-TX) and 5 cosponsors, “condemning the ongoing sexual violence against women and children from Yezidi, Christian, Shabak, Turkmen, and other religious communities by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria militants and urging the prosecution of the perpetrators and those complicit in these crimes.” Placed on Senate Legislative Calendar 11/17. House version is H. Res. 447.

(INVOKE COLLECTIVE DEFENSE IN RESPONSE TO PARIS ATTACKS) H. Res. 525: Introduced 11/16 by Poe (R-TX) and no cosponsors, “Urging the Administration to work with North Atlantic Treaty Organization member states to invoke Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty in response to the Paris attacks.”[This is the article laying out the principle of collective defense, stating that an attack on one ally shall be considered an attack on all allies.] Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. It is worth noting that France has not sought for Article 5 to be invoked – for more on this, see here.

(DECLARE WAR ON ISIS) H. J. Res. 73: Introduced 11/18 by Emmer (R-MN), “Declaring that a state of war exists between the Islamic State and the Government and the people of the United States and making provision to prosecute the same.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

SYRIAN REFUGEES NOT WELCOME (various approaches, all communicating the same message)

HR 4017: Rohrabacher (R-CA) – calling for expediting entry to the U.S. of non-Muslim Mideast refugees only.

HR 2284: Vitter (R-LA) and 5 cosponsors, “to suspend the admission and resettlement of aliens seeking refugee status because of the conflict in Syria until adequate protocols are established to protect the national security of the United States and for other purposes.”

HR 3999: Hudson (R-NC) and 35 cosponsors, “to require that the Secretary of Homeland Security certify that refugees admitted to the United States from Iraq or Syria are not security threats to the United States prior to admission.”

HR 4025: Ross (R-FL) and 3 cosponsors, “To prohibit obligation of Federal funds for admission of refugees from Syria, and for other purposes.

HR 4030: Palazzo (R-MS), “To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide that refugees may not be resettled in any State where the governor of that State has taken any action formally disapproving of the resettlement of refugees in that State, and for other purposes.”
HR 4031: Byrne (R-AL), “To prohibit obligation of Federal funds for admission of refugees from Syria, and for other purposes.”

HR 4032: Poe (R-TX) and 14 cosponsors, “To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide for a limitation on the resettlement of refugees.”

HR 4033: Crawford (R-AR), “To temporarily suspend the admission of refugees from Syria and Iraq into the United States and to give States the authority to reject admission of refugees into its territory or tribal land.”

****HR 4038: McCaul (R-TX) – “American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act of 2015”, aka SAFE Act, passed in the House 11/19 289-137 (47 Dems voted in favor); White House Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) opposing the measure is here; Obama has promised to veto. HFAC press release: Veto-Proof House Majority Votes to Strengthen Syria Refugee Program****

HR 4044: Clawson (R-FL), “To prohibit obligation of Federal funds for admission of refugees from certain countries.”

HR 4048: Graves (R-LA) and 3 cosponsors, “To suspend the admission and resettlement of aliens seeking refugee status because of the conflict in Syria until adequate protocols are established to protect the national security of the United States and for other purposes.”.

HR 4074: Scott (R-GA) “To require the Secretary of Homeland Security to collect data regarding foreign travel, or repatriation, to the country of nationality or last habitual residence by an alien admitted to the United States as a refugee, and for other purposes.

HR 4078: Yoho (R-FL) and 2 cosponsors, “To authorize the Governor of any State in which it is proposed to place or resettle a Syrian refugee to refuse such placement or resettlement if the Governor makes certain certifications, and for other purposes.

HR 4079: Thompson (D-MS) and 8 cosponsors, “To require that supplemental certifications and identity verifications be completed prior to the admission of refugees, and for other purposes.” [Thompson voted in favor of HR 4038]

HR 4086: Hill (R-AR), “To require that supplemental certifications and background investigations be completed prior to the admission of certain aliens as refugees, and for other purposes.”

HR 4089: Bilirakis (R-FL), “To require the Secretary of Homeland Security to strengthen student visa background checks and improve the monitoring of foreign students in the United States, and for other purposes.”[Not specifically Syria focused but same issue and specifically mentioned by Bilirakis in his statement in support of HR 4038]  

HR 4122: Sinema (D-AZ), “To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide that aliens who were present in certain countries may not be admitted under the visa waiver program, and for other purposes.” [Sinema voted in favor of HR 4038]

H. Res. 533: Williams (R-TX), “Expressing disapproval of the President's plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees.

H. Con. Res. 94: Meadows (R-NC), “Expressing the sense of the Congress regarding the treatment of State Governors who have made a determination with respect to Syrian refugees.”

S. 2300: Johnson (R-WI), “to require that supplemental certifications and background investigations be completed prior to the admission of certain aliens as refugees, and for other purposes.

S. 2302: Cruz (R-TX), “to temporarily restrict the admission to the United States of refugees from countries containing terrorist-controlled territory.” 

S. 2329:  Paul (R-KY), “to prevent the entry of extremists into the United States under the refugee program, and for other purposes.”

S. Amdt. 2843 to HR 2577: Paul (R-KY), “To prohibit the use of funds appropriated by this Act to assist refugees or asylees from certain designated countries.” The list of designated countries is composed of every Arab country plus others that have large Muslim populations (including Russia and number of central Asian countries). Text of amdt is here.

 

Letters:

(CONFLATING ISRAEL & THE SETTLEMENTS) Cruz-Gillibrand letter: On 11/9, Senators Cruz (R-TX) and Gillibrand (D-NY), along with 34 of their Senate colleagues, sent a letter to Frederica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, objecting to the EU’s policy of requiring that products made in Israeli settlements be labeled accurately [i.e., they cannot be labeled “Made in Israel” because, simply, they are not made in Israel]. The letter is worded carefully to avoid any mention of what the letter is actually about: attacking the EU – not for any EU policy related to Israel, but for distinguishing between the sovereign state of Israel and the settlements Israel has built in the occupied territories. The letter was reportedly lobbied by the American Jewish Committee.  Notably, the letter specifically mentions the TPA legislation adopted earlier this year in making a case against the EU’s policy of differentiating between Israel and settlements. For more, see Section 2, below.

(CONFLATING ISRAEL & THE SETTLEMENTS) Lamborn-Weber letter:  On 11/10, Reps. Lamborn (R-CO) and Weber (R-TX), along with 34 of their House colleagues, sent a letter to Frederica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, objecting to the EU’s policy of labeling products made in Israeli settlements. On a positive note, the House letter actually does make reference to Israeli settlements, and makes clear its intent to protect settlements from pressure (making it far more honest than the Senate version). And like the Senate letter, the House letter specifically mentions the TPA legislation adopted earlier this year in making a case against the EU’s policy of differentiating between Israel and settlements. For more, see Section 2, below.

(CONFLATING ISRAEL & THE SETTLEMENTS) Portman-Cardin-Roskam-Vargas letter to USTR: On 11/12, Reps. Roskam (R-IL) and Vargas (D-CA), and Sens. Portman (R-OH) and Cardin (D-MD), sent a joint letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman opposing the EU decision to bar products made in Israeli settlements from being labeled – deceptively and inaccurately – as made in Israel. The letter goes a step beyond anything that has previously been attempted in Congress with respect to conflating Israel and the settlements, introducing a brand-new, Orwellian term: “post-1967 Israel” (referring to Israel and the settlements). AIPAC’s press release applauding the letter is here. For more, see Section 2, below.

(CONSIDER LETTING POLLARD MOVE TO ISRAEL) Nadler-Engel letter: On 11/13, Reps. Nadler (D-NY) and Engel (D-NY) set a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, urging the Department of Justice to give “fair consideration” to Jonathan Pollard's expressed desire to reunite with his family in Israel following his 30 year prison sentence in the U.S. for spying against the U.S. on Israel’s behalf.  Pollard has asked the DOJ to allow him to join his wife (whom he met and married after he was incarcerated) in Israel, based on the DOJ’s acknowledgement that there is “no reasonable probability” that Pollard would commit future crimes after his release. Ironically, to make the case for Pollard, the letter draws a parallel to a Cuban-American who spied for the Castro regime, who while on probation was allowed to renounce his citizenship and move to Cuba.

(OBAMA: PRIORITIZE STRENGTHENED MOU WITH ISRAEL) Bennet-Blumenthal-Cardin letter: On 11/9, Senators Bennet (R-CO), Blumenthal (D-CT) and Cardin (D-MD) – along with 13 Senate colleagues- sent a letter to President Obama calling on him to “prioritize a new, robust Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to help Israel prepare for, respond to, and defend against threats in an uncertain regional environment and to enhance its Qualitative Military Edge (QME). Assuring Israel's QME lies at the heart of our bilateral security cooperation relationship. We support making the next MOU a truly transformational investment to deepen the U.S.-Israel strategic partnership based on a shared understanding of the threats Israel faces in the region.”

(FUND THE IAEA!) Foster letter: This week Rep. Foster (D-IL) began circulating a Dear Colleague seeking cosigners on a letter to House Appropriations Committee leaders, calling for robust funding for the IAEA to be included in any continuing resolution or omnibus appropriations bill for fiscal year 2016. The letter notes that “the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which was formally adopted on October 18, 2015, tasked the IAEA with the critical mission of monitoring Iranian compliance with the provisions concerning its enrichment and heavy water reactor programs. A critical part of the inspection regimen, IAEA inspectors will have enhanced access to all Iranian nuclear sites, including uranium mines and mills, and continuous surveillance of centrifuge manufacturing and storage locations. As a result, the implementation of verification and monitoring by the IAEA will require supplementary funding from all member states. In a recent address to the IAEA’s board of governors in Vienna, Director-General Yukiya Amano stated that the agency would require an additional $10.6 million annually to conduct verification of Iran’s nuclear activities. While we agree that all member states should pay their fair share of the additional costs, we want to ensure that the IAEA has the necessary funding to successfully carry out its duties.” 

 

2. Settlements= Israel, Round 3 (cont.)

[For a summary of what has happened previously in the Congressional effort to conflate Israel and the settlements, see the 11/6/15 edition of the Round-Up.]

Along with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and his pro-settlement fellow politicians and supporters, some Members of Congress and outside groups (AIPAC, AJC) are extremely unhappy with the EU’s recently formalized policy of differentiating between Israel and the settlements. That unhappiness has made itself known in House and Senate letters to Frederica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, slamming the EU for the policy and asserting that the policy is anti-Israel and a form of BDS. It has also made itself know in the letter sent by Reps. Roskam (R-IL) and Vargas (D-CA) and Sens. Portman (R-OH) and Cardin (D-MD) to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, opposing the EU policy and urging U.S. intervention. These same four legislators are the lead sponsors of pending AIPAC-backed free-standing legislation (HR 825 and S. 619) that seek to make it U.S. policy to erase the Green Line and define Israel, for the purposes of trade-related policies, as including the settlements.

Some observations about these latest developments:

  • If anyone still had any lingering doubts as to whether the ostensibly anti-BDS provisions being pushed in Congress and backed by AIPAC (and others) – in the TPA bill, the Customs bill, and in freestanding legislation – are really about defending/promoting Israeli settlements, the three Congressional letters regarding the EU differentiation policy should banish those doubts once and for all.  All three letters specifically reference the TPA bill in making their case against the EU, and the letter to the USTR is quite clear, specifically citing the faux-anti-BDS provisions in the TPA bill as grounds for their demand that the U.S. challenge the EU over its differentiation policy.   From the press release on the letter:

Today, a bipartisan, bicameral coalition of lawmakers sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman expressing concern over yesterday’s announcement by the European Commission for new labeling requirements of Israeli goods produced over the green line. The letter, sent by Congressman Peter Roskam (R-IL), Congressman Juan Vargas (D-CA), Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), and Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, requests an update on USTR’s efforts to raise this issue with the European Commission consistent with anti-BDS language included in Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation enacted earlier this year.

  • If anyone still had any doubts that the underlying goal of all of these efforts is to erase the 1967 lines (aka, the Green Line, aka, the 1949 Armistice Line) and redefine “Israel” to mean “Israel-plus-the-settlements,” the Roskam-Vargas-Portman-Cardin letter should banish those doubts once and for all.  Astoundingly, after 48 years of occupation, the letter introduces a brand-new, Orwellian term of art for the occupied territories: post-1967 Israel” – a term that not only betrays a clear political agenda intended to legitimize Israeli settlements, but one that ignores basic facts, like the fact that in 48+ years, Israel has never annexed the West Bank (and under Israeli law does not consider the West Bank – including the settlements – part of Israel). Indeed, with this term these members of the Congress are staking out a position that is more extreme than that of Prime Minister Netanyahu and many in his government.
  • There is no question that AIPAC – which is the main force lobbying behind these efforts to hijack concerns about BDS to defend/promote settlements – knows that the term “post-1967 Israel” has zero meaning under Israeli, U.S., or international law. The fact that AIPAC is supporting this new formulation underscores the deep shift that has taken place in AIPAC policy with respect to settlements – a shift that observers would do well to note. It is especially notable given that during the battle of the TPA bill, when AIPAC was caught referring to the Israel and the West Bank as “Israel and her territories,” this apparently caused enough embarrassment that the phrase was deleted from AIPAC’s website (making the page supporting the faux-anti-BDS language less controversial but also less accurate).  AIPAC’s press release applauding the Roskam-Vargas-Portman-Cardin letter is here (a statement that, unsurprisingly, does not anywhere mention the word “settlements”).

  • The effort to have Congress legitimize, defend, and promote Israeli settlements – by conflating Israel and the settlements – appears to be here to stay. For some members, support for this agenda appears to be reflect their own political/religious affinity for Netanyahu and the settlers. Indeed, not all Congressional supporters of settlements even feel the need to cover up this support by conflating Israel and the settlements. For example, on 11/11, Curbelo (R-FL) issued a statement objecting to the EU’s differentiation policy for what it actually is – a policy differentiating between Israel and the occupied territories.  Curbelo’s language made clear where his sympathies lie in this matter, referring to “goods produced in Judea and Samaria” – the Biblical term for the West Bank preferred by settlers and religiously-motivated devotees of the Greater Israel agenda. For others, support for this pro-settlements agenda may derive from an “Israel-right-or-wrong” approach to the issue or a desire to score points with AIPAC and others. And for some members, support for this agenda appears to reflect a genuine failure to understand what the faux-BDS provisions are really about, or a preference to not understand, lest understanding lead them to having to make politically painful choices.  In all cases, it seems reasonable to expect that efforts to legislate U.S. support for settlements will continue.

Other member comments on the record:

Engel (D-NY) 11/18: “Today, we’re seeing the spread of BDS campaign—the boycott, divestment, sanctions—seeking to undermine Israel’s legitimacy.  And we’re seeing Holocaust denial and distortion in places around the world.  My colleague Ed Royce, the Chairman of our Committee, and  I am the Ranking Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, he and I work tirelessly together to introduce legislation that protects Israel and its people, from BDS to missiles from Gaza and Lebanon.”

Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 11/12: New EU Labeling Guidelines Only Give Credibility to Anti-Semitic BDS Movement

 

3.  Hearings

11/19: The House Committee on the Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security held a hearing entitled, “The Syrian Refugee Crisis and Its Impact on the Security of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.“ Witnesses were: Anne Richard, Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration [statement]; Seth Jones, RAND [statement not available]; Mark Krikorian, Center for Immigration Studies [statement not available]; Mark Hetfield, HIAS [statement not available]; Leon Rodriguez, Director, US Citizenship and Immigration Services [statement].

11/18: The Committee on Armed Services held a hearing entitled, “Outside Views on the Strategy for Iraq and Syria.” Witnesses were: John McLaughlin, Former Acting Director of Central Intelligence; and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, Former Ambassador to Syria and Iraq.

11/17: The House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade held a hearing entitled, “Terrorist Financing: Kidnapping Antiquities Trafficking and Private Donations.” Witnesses were: John Cassara, Former Special Agent, U.S. Department of the Treasury [testimony]; David Andrew Weinberg, Foundation for Defense of Democracies [testimony]; Diane Foley, James W. Foley Legacy Foundation Inc. [testimony]; and Michael D. Danti, American Schools of Oriental Research [testimony].

 

4.  On the Record

Engel (D-NY) 11/18: Engel Remarks on Jewish History in Israel

Pompeo (R-KS) 11/15: Pompeo Meets with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Israeli National Police

Costello, Kelly (Mississippi), Hardy, Babin, 11/16: On fighting terrorism around the world, and equating ISIS attacks in Paris to violence in Israel

Rubio (R-FL) 11/13: “MEDIA ADVISORY: Rubio To Address Pro-Israel Rally In Miami Beach” on 11/15

Messer (R-IN) 11/12: Messer Honored at U.S. Israeli Security Alliance Congressional Tribute

Bennet (R-CO) 11/10: Bennet Statement on Meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu

Cardin (D-MD) 11/10: Cardin Statement following Meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Senate Leaders

Reid (D-NV) 11/10: “…later today the Republican leader and I will host Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, as we have done on many other occasions. It is always a pleasure to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu and reaffirm America's longstanding commitment to the security of Israel . Israel knows it has an ally in the United States--in fact, no greater ally in the world than our great country. While some Republicans in Congress are trying to drive a false narrative of acrimony between the United States and Israel , I choose to see the full picture, and the full picture is one of strengthened cooperation and shared interests.   Israel has always and will always depend on the United States to be by its side. That is why the United States and Israel are negotiating right now a new 10-year memorandum of understanding on security assistance. Much of yesterday's meeting between the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Israel centered on the continued assistance we would provide Israel. Israel's interests have always been protected by the United States in matters that come before the United Nations, as Israel has always protected the interests of the United States before the United Nations. In recent years we have seen how resolutions before the United Nations General Assembly and the U.N. Human Rights Council have unfairly targeted the people of Israel. The administration has denounced such efforts, but we also stand against Palestinian attempts to use the United Nations to go around a negotiated peace process. Wherever, whenever, and however, the United States will always stand by Israel.”

McConnell (R-KY) 9/9: “I would like to welcome Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Washington. Today's visit between President Obama and the Prime Minister was the first time the leaders of our two countries have met in over a year. It was also their first time meeting since President Obama concluded his deal with Iran. We know that deal is likely to entrench Iran's nuclear threshold capabilities while helping subsidize terrorist groups, such as Hezbollah and Hamas, that are dedicated to Israel's destruction. We know that the President's deal does not even require Iran to recognize Israel's right to exist. So I am sure these leaders had much to discuss. I am sure they engaged in a frank discussion. But a relationship based on frank exchanges of views--a relationship centered on substance rather than just personalities--is important for both of our countries. It is, in fact, healthy. That is certainly true when we hear Iran's Supreme Leader reiterating calls for Israel's destruction. That is certainly true when we hear him saying that change will never happen as he continues to rail against our own country. So it is good that Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama had a chance to meet today. It is good that the Prime Minister will have an opportunity to visit the Capitol again tomorrow as well. We appreciated his last visit very much. It was important to hear the perspective of a leader for whom threats from countries like Iran and terrorist groups like ISIL and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad are hardly theoretical. That was made clear when I led a congressional delegation to the Middle East last month that included Congressman Barr and Senators from Arkansas, South Dakota, and Iowa. We met with leaders in Jordan, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and in Israel we had a chance to visit with the Prime Minister. It was productive, it was eye-opening, and it underlined a key point. Israel's Prime Minister is a great friend of the United States. The bonds between our nations are strong. And I hope we can all find ways to strengthen them further because the threats facing both our countries are real, and they are certainly worrying.”   

Blumenthal (D-CT) and Durbin (D-IL) 11/9: Condemning Palestinian attacks against Israel

Barletta (R-PA) 11/9: Press release: “As Netanyahu Meets with Obama, Barletta Backs Israel in House”

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