Legislative Round-Up: March 23, 2018

Produced by the Foundation for Middle East Peace in cooperation with Americans for Peace Now, where the Legislative Round-Up was conceived

  1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters
  2. FY18 Consolidated Appros – Mideast Elements in ForOps & DoD Approps
  3. FY18 Consolidated Approps – Taylor Force Act
  4. Hearings
  5. On the Record

Shameless plug:

Lara Friedman op-ed on Medium, 3/19: U.S. Politicians Are Backing a Free Speech Exception for Israel — & Creating a Template for Broader Assault on the First Amendment.

Lara Friedman op-ed in EURACTIV, 3/20: Europe must prepare to stand up to Trump on Israeli-Palestinian ‘peace’ plan

Lara Friedman op-ed I Frankfurter Rundschau 3/19: Trumps Weg nach Groß-Israel

1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters

(U.S.-KSA NUCLEAR COOPERATION) HR 5357: Introduced 3/21 by Ros-Lehtinen and 3 cosponsors, “To amend the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 to require congressional approval of agreements for peaceful nuclear cooperation with foreign countries, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Rules. Ros-Lehtinen press release is here, entitled “U.S. Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Brad Sherman Launch Bipartisan Effort to Reform Atomic Energy Act; Urge Administration to Pursue “Gold Standard” In Saudi Nuclear Negotiations.” PDF of text is here.

(3 CHEERS FOR PEACEFUL NUCLEAR COOPERATION WITH THE GULF!) H. Res. 795: Introduced 3/21 by Wilson (R-SC) and Norcross (D-NJ),  “Recognizing the United States role in the evolving energy landscape of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Press release is here.

(CRACK DOWN ON IRAN) HR 5394: Introduced 3/22 by Boyle (D-PA), “To amend the reporting requirements under the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012, and for other purposes.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Boyle’s press release: Boyle Introduces Bill to Crack Down on Iranian Corruption states that the bill, “would amend existing law to require reporting on efforts by other countries to sanction Iran for human rights and ballistic missile violations. It would also authorize a summit among major trading partners of Iran to address the issue of IRGC front companies.”

(WE LOVE EGYPT!) S. Res. 450: Introduced 3/22 by Rubio (R-FL) and Menendez (D-NJ), “A resolution reaffirming the United States-Egypt partnership and the Egyptian people's right to free, fair, credible, and peaceful elections on March 26, 2018.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.

(YEMEN AUMF) S. J. Res. 54: Introduced 2/28 by Sanders (I-VT) and having 14 cosponsors, “A joint resolution to direct the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress.” On 3/20, defeated on the Senate floor by a vote of 55-44. Floor actions and statements are here, here, here, and here.

Letters

(CONCERNS ABOUT US-KSA NUCLEAR COOPERATION) Markey letter: On 3/21, Sen. Markey (D-MA) sent a letter to Energy Secretary Rick Perry calling on him to “immediately” brief Congress on his trip to London with an interagency team last month to discuss a 123 agreement with Saudi Arabia and provide answers to repeated requests for information on these discussions. Press release is here.

(TOUGH TALK FOR MBS) Lieu letter: On 3/20, Rep. Lieu (D-CA) sent a letter to Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan outlining key issues that must be addressed when the Trump Administration meets with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. In his letter, Rep. Lieu urges Deputy Secretary Sullivan to prioritize addressing specific challenges in the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia including: the war in Yemen, the GCC dispute with Qatar, and the state of human rights in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

(TOUGH TALK FOR MBS) Kaine-Murphy-Booker letter: On 3/20, Senators Kaine (D-VA), Booker (D-NJ) and Murphy (D-CT) sent a letter to President Trump, asking him to urge Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman to end the Saudi-led war in Yemen and address other critical human rights issues. Murphy press release is here.

(TRANSPARENCY RE: DOD ASSISTANCE IN YEMEN): Udall-Blumenthal et al letter: On 3/20, Senators Udall (D-NM) and Blumenthal (D-CT) led a group of eight senators in a letter to Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis regarding congressional oversight of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition’s ongoing military operations in Yemen, and raising specific concerns over the fact that Congress was never notified of agreements to provide both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates with logistics, supplies, and services, as is required under current law.

(MORE $$ FOR ISRAELI ANTI-TUNNEL PROGRAMS) Schneider-Lamborn letter: On 3/19, Reps. Schneider (D-IL) and Lamborn (R-CO) let a letter, co-signed by 54 House colleagues, urging the Chair and Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee’s ForOps Subcommittee, Reps. Granger (R-TX) and Lowey (D-NY) to include $47.5 million for joint U.S.-Israel anti-tunnel programs in the FY18 Consolidated Appropriations bill (which they were). Schneider press release is here.

 

2. FY18 Consolidated Approps – Mideast Elements in ForOps & DoD Approps

On 3/21, House and Senate negotiators released the compromise version of HR 1625, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which included both the FY18 Department of Defense Appropriations Act and the FY18 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Act. Text of the consolidated bill is here; House Appropriations Committee’s announcement/highlights; Senate Appropriations Committee’s announcement/highlights.  The explanatory statement that accompanies the DoD approps Act is here; the explanatory statement that accompanies the ForOps Act is here.

Below are all Middle East-related provisions. And as a special bonus for those people who are fascinated or obsessed with the details, I’ve compiled this nifty table comparing ForOps provisions governing assistance to the Palestinians, 2009-present.

DIVISION C—DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE APPROPRIATIONS ACT

 

Title VIII – GENERAL PROVISIONS

Israeli Tunneling programs: NOTE: Explanatory text accompanying the bill notes that the bill - includes $47.5 million for “Israeli tunneling,” under the program “COMBATING TERRORISM TECHNOLOGY SUPPORT.”

Sec. 8071: Israeli Cooperative Programs. This provision earmarks $705,800,000 for “the Israeli Cooperative Programs,” from amounts appropriated under the headings “Procurement, Defense-Wide’’ and  ‘‘Research, Development, Test and Evaluation, Defense- Wide.” That funding is sub-earmarked as follows:

- $92,000,000 “for the Secretary of Defense to provide to the Government of Israel for the procurement of the Iron Dome defense system to counter short-range rocket threats, subject to the U.S.-Israel Iron Dome Procurement Agreement, as amended

- $221,500,000 “for the Short Range Ballistic Missile Defense (SRBMD) program, including cruise missile defense research and development under the SRBMD program, of which $120,000,000 shall be for co-production activities of SRBMD systems in the United States and in Israel to meet Israel’s defense requirements consistent with each nation’s laws, regulations, and procedures, subject to the U.S.-Israeli co-production agreement for SRBMD, as amended

- $310,000,000 “for an upper-tier component to the Israeli Missile Defense Architecture, of which $120,000,000 shall be for co- production activities of Arrow 3 Upper Tier systems in the United States and in Israel to meet Israel’s defense requirements consistent with each nation’s laws, regulations, and procedures, subject to the U.S.-Israeli co-production agreement for Arrow 3 Upper Tier, as amended, of which $105,000,000 shall be for testing of the upper- tier component to the Israeli Missile Defense Architecture in the United States”; and

- $82,300,000 “for the Arrow System Improvement Program including development of a long range, ground and airborne, detection suite

Sec. 8130: Iran. This provision stipulates that “None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to purchase heavy water from Iran.”

 

Title IX – OVERSEAS CONTINGENCY OPERATIONS

Funding for Jordan: Under the heading “OPERATION AND MAINTENANCE, DEFENSE-WIDE,” the bill stipulates that, “these funds may be used to support the Government of Jordan, in such amounts as the Secretary of Defense may determine, to enhance the ability of the armed forces of Jordan to in-crease or sustain security along its borders, upon 15 days prior written notification to the congressional defense committees outlining the amounts intended to be provided and the nature of the expenses incurred

Countries Bordering ISIS-areas: Under the heading, “COUNTER-ISIS TRAIN AND EQUIP FUND,” the bill stipulates that “these funds may be used in such amounts as the Secretary of Defense may determine to enhance the border security of nations adjacent to conflict areas including Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, and Tunisia resulting from actions of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria

General Provisions – Jordan: Sec. 9011 earmarks “Up to $500,000,000 of funds appropriated by this Act for the Defense Security Cooperation Agency in ‘Operation and Maintenance, Defense-Wide” to be used “to provide assistance to the Government of Jordan to support the armed forces of Jordan and to enhance security along its borders.”

DIVISION K—DEPARTMENT OF STATE, FOREIGN OPERATIONS, AND RELATED PROGRAMS APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2018

 

TITLE I -- DEPARTMENT OF STATE AND RELATED AGENCY

Broadcasting Board of Governors, international broadcasting operations: Perennial language providing $797,986,000 “to carry out international communication activities, and to make and supervise grants for radio, Internet, and television broadcasting to the Middle East.” Provided that (among other things), “the BBG shall notify the Committees on Appropriations within 15 days of any determination by the BBG that any of its broadcast entities, including its grantee organizations, provides an open platform for international terrorists or those who support international terrorism, or is in violation of the principles and standards set forth in subsections (a) and (b) of section 303 of the United States International Broadcasting Act of 1994 (22 U.S.C. 6202) or the entity’s journalistic code of ethics.”

Center for Middle Eastern-Western Dialogue Trust Fund: Perennial provision stating: “For necessary expenses of the Center for Middle Eastern-Western Dialogue Trust Fund, as authorized by section 633 of the Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2004 (22 U.S.C. 2078), the total amount of the interest and earnings accruing to such Fund on or before September 30, 2018, to remain available until expended.”

Israeli Arab Scholarship Program: Perennial provision stating: “For necessary expenses of the Israeli Arab Scholarship Program, as authorized by section 214 of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1992 and 1993 (22 U.S.C. 2452), all interest and earnings accruing to the Israeli Arab Scholarship Fund on or before September 30, 2018, to remain available until expended.”

 

TITLE III -- BILATERAL ECONOMIC ASSISTANCE

ECONOMIC SUPPORT FUNDS – ESF (Total: $ 1,816,731,000)

Details for ESF for Middle East countries are laid out in section 7041 of the bill, discussed below.

MIGRATION AND REFUGEE ASSISTANCE – MRA (Total: $ 927,802,000]

The bill stipulates that, “$7,500,000 shall be made available for refugees resettling in Israel.” This is a perennial earmark that has been getting smaller in over the years (as refugees resettling in Israel – that is, refugees welcomed/accepted by Israel – has been dwindling).

 

TITLE IV - INTERNATIONAL SECURITY ASSISTANCE

NONPROLIFERATION, ANTI-TERRORISM, DEMINING AND RELATED PROGRAMS – NADR

The bill includes language (added last year) conditioning U.S. voluntary contributions to the IAEA on the Secretary of State informing Congress, “of information regarding any separate arrangements relating to the ‘Road-map for the Clarification of Past and Present Outstanding Issues Regarding Iran’s Nuclear Program’ between the IAEA and the Islamic Republic of Iran, in classified form if necessary, if such information becomes known to the Department of State.” This section also includes a perennial stipulation that “…funds appropriated under this heading may be made available for the IAEA unless the Secretary of State determines that Israel is being denied its right to participate in the activities of that Agency.”

PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS – PKO

The bill stipulates that, “…not less than $31,000,000 shall be made available for a United States contribution to the Multinational Force and Observers mission in the Sinai.”

FOREIGN MILITARY FINANCING – FMF (TOTAL: $ 5,671,613,000]

See Section 7041, below, for details of FMF provisions for all Near East countries except Israel. Israel alone is dealt with in this section, with the text stipulating that, “not less than $3,100,000,000 shall be available for grants only for Israel” [note: this means that 55% of total FMF is earmarked for Israel].  The text includes perennial stipulations that “…funds appropriated under this heading for assistance for Israel shall be disbursed within 30 days of enactment of this Act” and “…to the extent that the Government of Israel requests that funds be used for such purposes, grants made available for Israel under this heading shall, as agreed by the United States and Israel, be available for advanced weapons systems, of which not less than $815,300,000 shall be available for the procurement in Israel of defense articles and defense services, including research and development.”

NOTE: As highlighted previously in the Round-Up, these little-remarked stipulations – early disbursal and permission for almost $1 billion of FMF to be spent inside Israel – are unique to Israel’s aid program. Both significantly increase the value of the assistance to Israel – and the cost of the assistance to the U.S. In all other cases, FMF is obligated and disbursed by the U.S. on an as-used basis, meaning that the U.S. either keeps the money in the U.S. Treasury until it is needed (where it earns interest) or if the money is not in the U.S. Treasury, the U.S. does not have to borrow it until it is needed (meaning less interest paid). In the case of Israel, the entire $3.1 billion is handed over in a lump sum within 30 days of the law passing, meaning that Israel can bank the money and earn interest on it (which it can spend however it likes). In addition, in all other cases, FMF must be spent inside the U.S. (unless a specific exemption is granted). The logic behind this is that FMF is not just a “gift” to a foreign country but is actually a form of investment in the U.S. economy. In Israel’s case, however, almost $1 billion of FMF may be used in Israel or other countries, rather than for the benefit of U.S. industry.  And all of this is in addition to the $705,800,000 for Israel allocated in the DoD portion of the bill, discussed above.

 

TITLE VII - GENERAL PROVISIONS

Sec. 7007: Prohibition against direct funding for certain countries

This is perennial bill language banning aid to Cuba, North Korea, Iran, and Syria, extending to loans, credits, insurance, and guarantees of the Export-Import Bank or its agents.

Sec. 7008: Coups d’état

This provision (which not too long ago caused Congress and the Obama Administration a headache over Egypt funding) states: “None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available pursuant to titles III through VI of this Act shall be obligated or expended to finance directly any assistance to the government of any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup d'état or decree or, after the date of enactment of this Act, a coup d'état or decree in which the military plays a decisive role.” It also states that “assistance may be resumed to such government if the Secretary of State certifies and reports to the appropriate congressional committees that subsequent to the termination of assistance a democratically elected government has taken office” and that the prohibition in this section “shall not apply to assistance to promote democratic elections or public participation in democratic processes.”

Sec. 7013: Prohibition on taxation of assistance

This is a perennial provision barring taxation of U.S. assistance. While this provision appears generic, the only recipient explicitly identified is the West Bank and Gaza. This reflects the genesis of the provision: the allegation (many years ago) that the Palestinian Authority (PA) was taxing U.S. assistance provided to NGOs, thereby benefiting from US assistance designed specifically to bypass the PA.

Sec. 7015: Notification Requirements

Part (f) of this provision is a perennial stipulation that no funds appropriated under titles III through VI of this Act (pretty much all funds in the bill) may be obligated or expended for assistance to a laundry list of countries, “except as provided through regular notification procedures of the Committees on Appropriations.” From the Middle East the list includes (this year): Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, and Yemen [the only mention of Yemen in the entire bill].

Sec. 7021: Prohibition on assistance to governments supporting international terrorism

This provision prohibits funding to any country “which provides lethal military equipment to a country the government of which the Secretary of State has determined supports international terrorism…” and prohibits bilateral assistance to any country that supports international terrorism, gives sanctuary to terrorist, or is controlled by a terrorist organization. The section includes national security waivers for both restrictions.

Sec. 7032: Democracy Programs

Part (a) of this section earmarks not less than $2,308,517,000 for democracy programs, (as defined later in this provision). Part (e) states that funding and programs under this section “shall not be subject to the prior approval by the government of any foreign country” [in the past this was an issue with Egypt].

Sec. 7033: International Religious Freedom

Part (a) provides funding for the “Office of International Religious Freedom, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Department of State, the Office of the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, and the Special Envoy to Promote Religious Freedom of Religious Minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia...”

Sec. 7034: Special Provisions

Part (b)(2) of this section bards funding from this Act going to “tear gas, small arms, light weapons, ammunition, or other items for crowd control purposes for foreign security forces that use excessive force to repress peaceful expression, association, or assembly in countries undergoing democratic transition.”

Part (o)(1) of this section permits ESF funding to “be made available for the costs…of loan guarantees for Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Tunisia, and Ukraine, which are authorized to be provided…”

Part (o)(2) of this section permits ESF funding to “be made available to establish and operate one or more enterprise funds for Egypt, Jordan, and Tunisia.”

Sec. 7035: Arab League boycott of Israel

Perennial Sense of Congress opposing the Arab League boycott of Israel, and the secondary boycott of American firms that have commercial ties with Israel. It is worth noting that this longstanding feature of U.S. law focuses squarely on the Arab Boycott of ISRAEL. Nowhere does it define “Israel” to mean “Israel and territories controlled by Israel,” as is happening today in the context of various pieces of legislation adopted or under consideration both in state legislatures and by Congress. [It should be noted, however, that the House report that accompanied its version of the FY18 ForOps bill directed State to expand the report required under this section of law to include “information about the BDS campaign, covering companies, international organizations, countries, and other organizations, including state investment vehicles, that are involved in promoting the movement, as well as specific steps the Department of State has taken and expects to take to discourage or end politically-motivated efforts to boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel or Israeli entities.” Such a reporting directive, even though not technically not legally required, will likely be treated by the State Department as mandatory].

Sec. 7036: Palestinian statehood

Perennial provision barring assistance to a Palestinian state that does not meet a series of conditions (includes perennial Presidential waiver authority). NOTE: This section dates back to an era where it appeared that a Palestinian state was imminent, and Congress wasn’t altogether happy about that. For years now, this provision has been completely disconnected from current realities. But as we know, nobody will ever spend political capital appearing to remove a condition on Palestinian aid – so even if it is wholly redundant/irrelevant, it lives on.

Sec. 7037: Restrictions concerning the Palestinian Authority

Perennial bill language barring U.S. funds for establishing any diplomatic mission to the Palestinians in Jerusalem. NOTE: This section dates back to an era where Congress feared an energetically pro-peace president might, in the context of a fruitful peace process, want to establish formal diplomatic relations with the Palestinians in East Jerusalem. For years now, this provision has been completely disconnected from current realities. But as we know, nobody will ever spend political capital appearing to remove a condition on Palestinian aid – so even if it is wholly redundant/irrelevant, it lives on.

Sec. 7038: Prohibition on assistance to the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation

Perennial bill language barring any U.S. assistance to the PBC.  [Because 20 years ago, the PBC was believed to be broadcasting material that was anti-Israel. And of course, the provision will live on, forever].

Sec. 7039: Assistance for the West Bank and Gaza

Perennial section laying out far-reaching restrictions and conditions, as well as vetting, oversight and audit requirements, for U.S. assistance programs (carried out through non-governmental organizations) in the West Bank and Gaza.  Key difference this year is increase of amount of funds authorized to be spent on audit went from $500,000 (the level dating back at least to 2000) to $1,000,000.

Sec. 7040: Limitation on Assistance for the Palestinian Authority

Perennial bill language that in provision (a) bans U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority, and in provision (b) grants the President authority to waive that ban if doing so is “important to the national security interest of the United States.” NOTE: This is about $$ provided directly to the PA, as opposed to aid not directly for the PA but that “benefits” the PA (which is what the Taylor Force Act targets).

The section also includes a perennial subsection (f) entitled “Prohibition to Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organization” (lumping together a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization with the internationally recognized representative of the Palestinian people that is NOT on the list of U.S.-designated FTO since that list was first published in 1997). This subsection bars funding to the PLO and for salaries of PA personnel in Gaza or for Hamas or any entity “effectively controlled by Hamas, any power-sharing government of which Hamas is a member, or that results from an agreement with Hamas and over which Hamas exercises undue influence.”

The formulation in this legislation is designed to make it difficult for the U.S. engage any kind of Palestinian power-sharing government that results from a Fatah-Hamas reconciliation, or some other arrangements that leads to a national unity government or a mutually-agreed technocratic government (indeed, the text of the subsection evolved in recent years in response to Palestinian efforts to achieve such governments). The section does includes language of past bills stipulating that the prohibition does not apply if the President “certifies and reports to the Committees on Appropriations that such government, including all of its ministers or such equivalent, has publicly accepted and is complying with the principles contained in section 620K(b)(1) (A) and (B) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended.” It also includes the proviso that, “the President may exercise the authority in section 620K(e) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as added by the Palestine Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006 (Public Law 109-446) with respect to this subsection.” The latter prohibition does not apply if the President “certifies and reports to the Committees on Appropriations that such government, including all of its ministers or such equivalent, has publicly accepted and is complying with the principles contained in section 620K(b)(1) (A) and (B) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended.” Also, “the President may exercise the authority in section 620K(e) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as added by the Palestine Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006 (Public Law 109-446) with respect to this subsection.”

As a reminder: Section 620K(b)(1)(A) and (B) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended, reads as follows:

(b) Certification.--A certification described in subsection (a) is a certification transmitted by the President to Congress that contains a determination of the President that--

(1) no ministry, agency, or instrumentality of the Palestinian Authority is effectively controlled by Hamas, unless the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority has--

(A) publicly acknowledged the Jewish state of Israel's right to exist; and

(B) committed itself and is adhering to all previous agreements and understandings with the United States Government, with the Government of Israel, and with the international community, including agreements and understandings pursuant to the Performance-Based Roadmap to a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (commonly referred to as the `Roadmap').

And 620K(e) reads as follows:

(e) National Security Waiver.--

(1) In general.--Subject to paragraph (2), the President may waive subsection (a) with respect to-

(A) the administrative and personal security costs of the Office of the President of the Palestinian Authority;

(B) the activities of the President of the Palestinian Authority to fulfill his or her duties as President, including to maintain control of the management and security of border crossings, to foster the Middle East peace process, and to promote democracy and the rule of law; and

(C) assistance for the judiciary branch of the Palestinian Authority and other entities.

(2) Certification.--The President may only exercise the waiver authority under paragraph (1) after--

(A) consulting with, and submitting a written policy justification to, the appropriate congressional committees; and

(B) certifying to the appropriate congressional committees that--

(i) it is in the national security interest of the United States to provide assistance otherwise prohibited under subsection (a); and

(ii) the individual or entity for which assistance is proposed to be provided is not a member of, or effectively controlled by (as the case may be), Hamas or any other foreign terrorist organization.

(3) Report.—Not later than 10 days after exercising the waiver authority under paragraph (1), the President shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report describing how the funds provided pursuant to such waiver will be spent and detailing the accounting procedures that are in place to ensure proper oversight and accountability.

(4) Treatment of certification as notification of program change.--For purposes of this subsection, the certification required under paragraph (2)(B) shall be deemed to be a notification under section 634A and shall be considered in accordance with the procedures applicable to notifications submitted pursuant to that section.

Sec. 7041: Middle East and North Africa

This section consolidates aid provisions for the entire Middle East, except for Israel.

Sec. 7041 (a). Egypt

Overall conditions on aid: This section states funds appropriated by this Act that are available for assistance for Egypt “may be made available notwithstanding any other provision of law restricting assistance for Egypt, except for section 620M of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, and may only be made available for assistance for the Government of Egypt if the Secretary of State certifies and reports to the Committees on Appropriations that such government is—(A) sustaining the strategic relationship with the United States; and (B) meeting its obligations under the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty.”

Note: Section 620M of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 states that “No assistance shall be furnished under this Act or the Arms Export Control Act to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of State has credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.” It adds that this prohibition “shall not apply if the Secretary determines and reports to the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate, the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives, and the Committees on Appropriations that the government of such country is taking effective steps to bring the responsible members of the security forces unit to justice.”

ESF: The bill stipulates that, “up to $112,500,000 may be made available for assistance for Egypt, of which not less than $35,000,000 should be made available for higher education programs including not less than $10,000,000 for scholarships for Egyptian students with high financial need to attend not-for-profit institutions of higher education: Provided, That such funds shall be made available for democracy programs, and for development programs in the Sinai: Provided further, That such funds may not be made available for cash transfer assistance or budget support unless the Secretary of State certifies and reports to the appropriate congressional committees that the Government of Egypt is taking consistent and effective steps to stabilize the economy and implement market-based economic reforms.”

The bill also requires the Secretary of State to withhold an amount “that the Secretary determines to be equivalent to that expended by the United States Government for bail, and by nongovernmental organizations for legal and court fees, associated with democracy-related trials in Egypt until the Secretary certifies and reports to the Committees on Appropriations that the Government of Egypt has dismissed the convictions issued by the Cairo Criminal Court on June 4, 2013, in “Public Prosecution Case No. 1110 for the Year 2012.” It also stipulates that no funding may be made for a contribution, “voluntary or otherwise, to the ‘Civil Associations and Foundations Support Fund’, or any similar fund, established pursuant to Law 70 on Associations and Other Foundations Working in the Field of Civil Work published in the Officials Gazette of  Egypt on May 29, 2017.”

FMF: The bill allocates up to $1,300,000,000 in FMF for Egypt, to remain available until September 30, 2019 (and stipulates that these funds may be transferred to the interest bearing account). It stipulates that of this amount, the Secretary of State shall withhold $300,000,000 until he certifies that the government of Egypt is taking sustained and effective steps to: “(i) advance democracy and human rights in Egypt, including to govern democratically and protect the rights of religious minorities and women, which are in addition to steps taken during the previous calendar year for such purposes; (ii) implement reforms that protect freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, including the ability of civil society organizations and the media to function without interference; (iii) release political prisoners and provide detainees with due process of law; (iv) hold Egyptian security forces accountable, including officers credibly alleged to have violated human rights; (v) investigate and prosecute cases of extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances; and (vi) provide regular access for United States officials to monitor assistance in areas where the assistance is used.” The bill notes that this certification “shall not apply to funds appropriated…for counterterrorism, border security and non-proliferation programs for Egypt. It also states that the certification requirement can be waived if the Secretary of State certifies that doing so is important to the national security interest of the United States.

Sec. 7041 (b) Iran

This section states that funding in the bill (under Diplomatic and Consular Programs, ESF, and NADR) shall be used by the Secretary of State to: “(A) to support the United States policy to prevent Iran from achieving the capability to produce or otherwise obtain a nuclear weapon; (B) to support an expeditious response to any violation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231; (C) to support the implementation and enforcement of sanctions against Iran for support of terrorism, human rights abuses, and ballistic missile and weapons proliferation; and (D) for democracy programs for Iran, to be administered by the Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, Department of State, in consultation with the Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Department of State.” It also states that the terms and conditions of paragraph (2) of section 7041(c) in division I of PL 112-74 shall remain in effect. These are:

(2) None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available in this Act under the heading ``Export-Import Bank of the United States'' may be used by the Export-Import Bank of the United States to provide any new financing (including loans, guarantees, other credits, insurance, and reinsurance) to any person that is subject to sanctions under paragraph (2) or (3) of section 5(a) of the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-172).

Finally, this section requires the Secretary of State to submit two reports to Congress:

(A) the semi-annual report required by section 2 of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 (42 U.S.C. 2160e(d)(4)).

(B) Not later than 180 days after the enactment of this Act, a report “on the status of the implementation and enforcement of bilateral United States and multilateral sanctions against Iran and actions taken by the United States and the international community to enforce such sanctions against Iran: Provided That the report shall also include any entities involved in providing significant support for the development of a ballistic missile by the Government of Iran after October 1, 2015, and note whether such entities are currently under United States sanctions…

The report also notes that, “For the purposes of the report required by subsection (b)(3)(B), the term ‘international community' shall mean the UN, the PRC, France, Germany, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the European Union.”

Sec. 7041 (d) Jordan

The bill states: “Of the funds appropriated by this Act under titles III and IV, not less than $1,525,000,000 shall be made available for assistance for Jordan, of which: not less than $1,082,400,000 shall be made available under the heading ‘Economic Support Fund”, of which not less than $745,100,000 shall be made available for budget support for the Government of Jordan; and not less than $425,000,000 shall be made available under the heading ‘Foreign Military Financing Program’.

Sec. 7041 (e) Lebanon

This bill continues the prohibition on funding “for the Lebanese Internal Security Forces (ISF) or the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) if the ISF or the LAF is controlled by a foreign terrorist organization, as designated pursuant to section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1189).” It stipulates that INCLE and FMF funding “are available for assistance for Lebanon may be made available for pro-grams and equipment for the ISF and the LAF to address security and stability requirements in areas affected by the conflict in Syria, following consultation with the appropriate congressional committees” And it provides that FMF for Lebanon “may be made available only to professionalize the LAF and to strengthen border security and combat terrorism, including training and equipping the LAF to secure Lebanon’s borders, interdicting arms shipments, preventing the use of Lebanon as a safe haven for terrorist groups, and to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701…”

Sec. 7041 (f) Libya

The bill stipulates that funding under titles III and IV “shall be made available for assistance for Libya for programs to strengthen governing institutions and civil society, improve border security, and promote stability in Libya, and for activities to address the humanitarian needs of the people of Libya…” The bill states, however, that none of the funding in the Act may be used for the Government of Libya “unless the Secretary of State certifies and re-ports to the Committees on Appropriations that such government is cooperating with United States Government efforts to investigate and bring to justice those responsible for the attack on United States personnel and facilities in Benghazi, Libya in September 2012,” adding that this limitation “shall not apply to funds made available for the purpose of protecting United States Government personnel or facilities.” It also states that, with respect to infrastructure projects, “the limitation on the uses of funds in section 7041(f)(2) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2014 (division K of Public Law 113– 376) shall apply to funds appropriated by this Act that are made available for assistance for Libya.”

Sec. 7041 (g) Morocco

This section stipulates that “Funds appropriated under title III of this Act shall be made available for assistance for the Western Sahara: Provided, That not later than 90 days after enactment of this Act and prior to the obligation of such funds, the Secretary of State, in consultation with the USAID Administrator, shall consult with the Committees on Appropriations on the proposed uses of such funds…”  It further stipulates that: “Funds appropriated by this Act under the heading ‘Foreign Military Financing Program’ that are available for assistance for Morocco may only be used for the purposes requested in the Congressional Budget Justification, Foreign Operations, Fiscal Year 2017.”

Sec. 7041 (h) Refugee Assistance in North Africa [new category]

This new subsection stipulates that, “Not later than 45 days after enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State, after consultation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Executive Director of the World Food Programme, shall submit a report to the Committees on Appropriations describing steps taken to strengthen monitoring of the delivery of humanitarian assistance provided for refugees in North Africa, including any steps taken to ensure that all vulnerable refugees are receiving such assistance.”

Sec. 7041 (i) North Africa Strategy [new category]

This new subsection stipulates that, “Not later than 60 days after enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a strategy for United States engagement in North Africa, which shall include detailed information on how diplomatic engagement and assistance will be prioritized for such region, including to address economic and security needs

Sec. 7041 (j) Relief and Recovery Fund [new category]

This new subsection stipulates that funds appropriated under ESF, INCLE, NADR, PKO, and FMP, “not less than $500,000,000 shall be made available for the Relief and Recovery Fund for assistance for areas liberated from, at risk from, or under the control of, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, other terrorist organizations, or violent extremist organizations in the Middle East and Africa, including for stabilization assistance for vulnerable ethnic and religious minority communities affected by conflict.” This amount is in addition to specific earmarks in the bill or the bill’s explanatory statement. The new subsection also earmarks $5 million in INCLE funding for “programs to promote accountability in Iraq and Syria for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, which shall be in addition to any other funds made available by this Act for such purposes…”

Sec. 7041 (k) Syria

This bill states that non-lethal assistance may be made available to Syria from ESF, INCLE, and PKO funding, to address a long laundry list of goals (related to governance, empowerment of women, democracy and the rule of law, helping the Syrian opposition, helping Syrian civil society, promoting stability, fighting human rights abuses, helping refugees, assisting vulnerable populations, preserving the cultural identity and heritage sites of the people of Syria, and countering extremism in Syria). It states that NADR funds may be used for demining and UXO clearance programs. It also lays out requirements with respect to U.S. strategy in Syria, monitoring/oversight, and consultation/notification of Congress.

Sec. 7041 (l) Tunisia

This subsection states: “Of the funds appropriated under titles III and IV of this Act, not less than $165,400,000 shall be made available for assistance for Tunisia.”

Sec. 7041 (l) West Bank and Gaza

General: Part 1 of this section is a perennial requirement that prior to the obligation of any funds for the West Bank and Gaza, the Secretary of State shall report to Congress that the purpose of such assistance is to: “(A) advance Middle East peace; (B) improve security in the region; (C) continue support for transparent and accountable government institutions; (D) promote a private sector economy; or (E) address urgent humanitarian needs.”

Palestinians at the UN & ICC: Part 2 lays out further limitations on U.S. funding for the Palestinian Authority. Part 2(A) bars any funding for the PA if “the Palestinians obtain the same standing as member states or full membership as a state in the United Nations or any specialized agency thereof outside an agreement negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians” or if “the Palestinians initiate an International Criminal Court (ICC) judicially authorized investigation, or actively support such an investigation, that subjects Israeli nationals to an investigation for alleged crimes against Palestinians.” This section provides the Secretary of State the authority to waive the ban on assistance to the PA in the case where the Palestinians gain status at the UN if he “certifies to the Committees on Appropriations that to do so is in the national security interest of the United States, and submits a report to such Committees detailing how the waiver and the continuation of assistance would assist in furthering Middle East peace.” No waiver is provided if the Palestinians go to the ICC.

Kicking the PLO Office Out of the U.S.: Part 2(B) limits the President’s ability to waive longstanding (and entirely anachronistic) legislation barring the PLO from having any representation in the United States. Where for decades Congress granted the President a “clean” national security or national interests waiver of that prohibition (contained in section 1003 of Public Law 100-204), in recent years Congress moved to make such waiver contingent on the President certifying that the Palestinians have not, after the date of enactment of this Act, “obtained in the United Nations or any specialized agency thereof the same standing as member states or full membership as a state outside an agreement negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians” or “initiated or actively supported an ICC investigation against Israeli nationals for alleged crimes against Palestinians.” [NOTE: This formula regarding the ICC is softer than the previous iteration of this law, in fact returning the law to how it looked prior to 2016.]

If the president cannot make that two-part certification, he must wait at least 90 days (during which, presumably, the PLO office has to be shut down), and then he may waive the law requiring him to kick the PLO out of the U.S. – but only for a limited period of time, and only if he can certify that “the Palestinians have entered into direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel” [a requirement whose fulfillment is not wholly under the Palestinians’ control]. NOTE: All of this language regarding waiving Sec. 1003 of PL 100-204, in order to allow the PLO office to keep operating in Washington, is now basically moot, given that the Trump Administration refrained from making said certification in November 2017. Since then, the PLO Mission is operating in a kind of legal limbo, permitted to stay open so long as the Trump Administration lets it, and with the Trump Administration apparently concluding that the it no longer is requirement to wait no less than 90 days can be stretched out indefinitely, meaning no further certifications are required of it. Remarkably, Congress seems perfectly OK with this.

No Funding for Families of Prisoners: Part 3 of this section requires the Secretary of State to “reduce the amount of assistance made available by this Act under the heading `Economic Support Fund' for the Palestinian Authority by an amount the Secretary determines is equivalent to the amount expended by the expended by the Palestinian Authority, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and any successor or affiliated organizations with such entities as payments for acts of terrorism by individuals who are imprisoned after being fairly tried and convicted for acts of terrorism and by individuals who died committing acts of terrorism during the previous calendar year.” It also requires the Secretary to report to Congress “on the amount reduced for fiscal year 2018 prior to the obligation of funds for the Palestinian Authority.” It further stipulates that the “the report required by the previous proviso shall also include steps taken to prevent any such payments.” NOTE: This section is now wholly redundant, with the addition of the Taylor Force Act to the bill (discussed below). But as we know, nobody will ever spend political capital appearing to remove a condition on Palestinian aid – so even if it is wholly redundant/irrelevant, it lives on.

Security report: Part 4 states that “The reporting requirements contained in section 1404 of the Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2008 (Public Law 110-252) shall apply to funds made available by this Act, including a description of modifications, if any, to the security strategy of the Palestinian Authority.”  This is a new requirement.

As a reminder, Section 1404 of PL 110-252 states: “Not later than 90 days after the date of enactment of this Act and 180 days thereafter, the Secretary of State shall submit to the Committees on Appropriations a report on assistance provided by the United States for the training of Palestinian security forces, including detailed descriptions of the training, curriculum, and equipment provided; an assessment of the training and the performance of forces after training has been completed; and a description of the assistance that has been pledged and provided to Palestinian security forces by other donors: Provided, That not later than 90 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State shall report to the Committees on Appropriations, in classified form if necessary, on the security strategy of the Palestinian Authority.”

Incitement report (NEW): Part 5 of this section is new (this section just gets longer and longer every year), requiring, “Not later than 90 days after enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State shall submit a report to the appropriate congressional committees detailing steps taken by the Palestinian Authority to counter incitement of violence against Israelis and to promote peace and coexistence with Israel.”

Sec. 7048: United Nations

No $$ for agencies headed by bad guys: Part (b) of this section prohibits funding for anything having to do with any agency, body, or commission associated with the UN presided over by a country that the Secretary of State has determined, according to U.S. law, has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism. The section also permits the Secretary of State to waive this ban if it is in the national interest of the United States.

Pressure on UN Human Rights Council (over Israel): Part (c) bars funding for the United Nations Human Rights Council “unless the Secretary of State determines and re-ports to the Committees on Appropriations that participation in the Council is important to the national interest of the United States and that such Council is taking significant steps to remove Israel as a permanent agenda item and ensure integrity in the election of members to such Council: Provided, That such report shall include a description of the national interest served and the steps taken to remove Israel as a permanent agenda item and ensure integrity in the election of members to such Council: Provided further, That the Secretary of State shall report to the Committees on Appropriations not later than September 30, 2018, on the resolutions considered in the United Nations Human Rights Council during the previous 12 months, and on steps taken to remove Israel as a permanent agenda item and ensure integrity in the election of members to such Council.”

Pressure on UNRWA: Part (d) bars funding to UNRWA until the Secretary of State certifies and reports to the Committees on Appropriations, in writing, that UNRWA is meeting a list of conditions:

“(1) utilizing Operations Support Officers in the West Bank, Gaza, and other fields of operation to inspect UNRWA installations and reporting any inappropriate use;

“(2) acting promptly to address any staff or beneficiary violation of its own policies (including the policies on neutrality and impartiality of employees) and the legal requirements under section 301(c) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961;

“(3) implementing procedures to maintain the neutrality of its facilities, including implementing a no-weapons policy, and conducting regular inspections of its installations, to ensure they are only used for humanitarian or other appropriate purposes;

“(4) taking necessary and appropriate measures to ensure it is operating in compliance with the conditions of section 301(c) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and continuing regular reporting to the Department of State on actions it has taken to ensure conformance with such conditions;

“(5) taking steps to ensure the content of all educational materials currently taught in UNRWA-administered schools and summer camps is consistent with the values of human rights, dignity, and tolerance and does not induce incitement;

“(6) not engaging in operations with financial institutions or related entities in violation of relevant United States law, and is taking steps to improve the financial transparency of the organization; and

“(7) in compliance with the United Nations Board of Auditors' biennial audit requirements and is implementing in a timely fashion the Board's recommendations.

**NEW PROVISION** Punishing Countries that vote against the US or Israel: Part (g) requires the Secretary of State to withhold 5% of funding “for a specialized agency or other entity of the United Nations if the Secretary, in consultation with the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, determines and re-ports to the Committees on Appropriations that such agency or entity has taken an official action that is against the national security interest of the United States or an ally of the United States, including Israel.” Those funds can be released when it has been determined that the agencies in question have ceased their evil ways. Also, the withholding can be waived if the Secretary of State determines that to do so is in the national interest.

Sec. 7054: Landmines and Cluster Munitions

Perennial language governing military assistance, export licenses, and sale of cluster munitions and cluster munitions technology.

Sec. 7060(g): Reconciliation Programs

This subsection earmarks not less than $30 million from ESF and DA, “to support people-to-people reconciliation programs which bring together individuals of different ethnic, religious, and political backgrounds from areas of civil strife and war…

Sec. 7068: Commercial Leasing of Defense Articles

Perennial provision: “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, and subject to the regular notification procedures of the Committees on Appropriations, the authority of section 23(a) of the Arms Export Control Act may be used to provide financing to Israel, Egypt, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and major non-NATO allies for the procurement by leasing (including leasing with an option to purchase) of defense articles from United States commercial suppliers, not including 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 those defense articles being provided by commercial lease rather than by government-to-government sale under such Act.

Sec. 7076 (b): Spend Plans

This paragraph notes that: “Prior to the initial obligation of funds, the Secretary of State shall submit to the Committees on Appropriations a detailed spend plan for funds made available by this Act, for— (A) assistance for Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, and the West Bank and Gaza …”

Sec. 7078: Global Internet Freedom – p 1536

Part (b)(1)(B) of this subsection stipulates that funds made available under this section shall be “for programs to implement the May 2011, International Strategy for Cyberspace; the Department of State International Cyberspace Policy Strategy required by section 402 of the Cybersecurity Act of 2015 (division N of Public Law 114–113); and the comprehensive strategy to promote Internet freedom and access to information in Iran, as required by section 414 of the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 (22 U.S.C. 8754).”

 

3. FY18 Consolidated Appropriations bill – Taylor Force Act

It is a truism of U.S. politics that going after the Palestinians is always a great way to score political points. And if you can hang a rhyming slogan on your effort (pay-to-slay!) you have a political slam-dunk. In this context, nobody should be surprised that the Taylor Force Act will imminently be law of the land. This is the bill that deems Palestinian funding for families of those killed or imprisoned by Israel as an incentive to terror (never mind that this logic is deeply flawed), and which makes stopping such payments, in effect, the #1 consideration when it comes to financial assistance for the Palestinians (this of course does not apply to security assistance for the Palestinians, because the actual purpose of that funding is to make Israel more security – something that Congress would not want to undermine). Folks can read the full TFA, as added to the FY18 Consolidated Approps bill, for themselves. Key points:

This is not appropriations law, it is regular law of the land. TFA was added to the Consolidated Approps bill as a freestanding title (Title X of Division S – Other Matter) – in effect, a hitchhiker, rider, or what-have-you, that in legal effect is the equivalent of a solo piece of legislation (rather than an opportunistic new provision in a single year’s appropriations law). This means – at least in theory – that:

  • TFA immediately applies to all relevant U.S. funding for the Palestinians (not just FY18 funds). So funds in the pipeline from previous appropriations are impacted.
  • TFA will remain the law of the land until it is repealed (it does not need to be passed annually in the ForOps bill), akin to the 1987 anti-PLO law that constantly threatens to shut down the PLO mission. And as we know, anti-Palestinian legislation is NEVER repealed, only amended to pile on more conditions etc.
  • Given that TFA – as a matter of U.S. law – defines the PA as a body that incites terrorism (stating this explicitly in the first finding), it remains to be seen whether this will be used as the basis for further attacks on the status of the PA going forward.

The conditions are not just on $$ for prisoner & families. According to the new law, there can be no ESF funding that directly benefits the PA unless/until the Secretary of State certifies that four conditions are being met, only 1 of which is related to payments for families. These are that the PA, PLO, and any successor or affiliated organizations are:

“(A) are taking credible steps to end acts of violence against Israeli citizens and United States citizens that are perpetrated or materially assisted by individuals under their jurisdictional control, such as the March 2016 attack that killed former United States Army officer Taylor Force, a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan;

“(B) have terminated payments for acts of terrorism against Israeli citizens and United States citizens to any individual, after being fairly tried, who has been imprisoned for such acts of terrorism and to any individual who died committing such acts of terrorism, including to a family member of such individuals;

“(C) have revoked any law, decree, regulation, or document authorizing or implementing a system of compensation for imprisoned individuals that uses the sentence or period of incarceration of an individual imprisoned for an act of terrorism to determine the level of compensation paid, or have taken comparable action that has the effect of invalidating any such law, decree, regulation, or document; and

“(D) are publicly condemning such acts of violence and are taking steps to investigate or are cooperating in investigations of such acts to bring the perpetrators to justice.”

The law allows for some specific, narrow exceptions. They are:

“(A) payments made to the East Jerusalem Hospital Network;

“(B) assistance for wastewater projects not exceeding $5,000,000 in any one fiscal year; and

“(C) assistance for any other program, project, or activity that provides vaccinations to children not exceeding $500,000 in any one fiscal year.”

The law preserves a portion of frozen $$ to use for helping Palestinians. According to TFA, funds that are frozen because the required certification cannot be met are to be available for the normal authorized period, plus another 2 years (meaning, apparently, that if during that period the certification was made, the funds could be released – which is really moot, because the possibility of the PA/PLO ever being willing or politically able to cut off support for families of prisoners and those killed by Israel is zero). However, 180 days after the normal period of availability passes (normally the end of the fiscal year for which the funds were appropriated), the funds can be spent as follows:

“(A) 50 percent for purposes of assistance other than that deemed benefiting the Palestinian Authority; and [presumably for the West Bank and Gaza, given the next proviso]

“(B) 50 percent for purposes other than assistance for the West Bank and Gaza.”

We are going to learn what it means to “directly benefit” the PA. One interesting thing that will come out off this – TFA requires that “Not later than 15 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a list of the criteria that the Secretary uses to determine whether assistance for the West Bank and Gaza is assistance that directly benefits the Palestinian Authority for purposes of carrying out this section.

SHOCKER! There are going to be even more reports. TFA requires two reports. The first is an initial report laying out what programs are being de-funded due to TFA. The second is an annual report cataloguing the PA’s evil ways and US efforts to mobilize international pressure on it. The report must include:

“(1) An estimate of the amount expended by the Palestinian Authority, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and any successor or affiliated organizations during the previous calendar year as payments for acts of terrorism by individuals who are imprisoned for such acts.

“(2) An estimate of the amount expended by the Palestinian Authority, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and any successor or affiliated organizations during the previous calendar year as payments to the families of deceased individuals who committed an act of terrorism.

“(3) An overview of Palestinian laws, decrees, regulations, or documents in effect the previous calendar year that authorize or implement any payments reported under paragraphs (1) and (2). “(4) A description of United States Government policy, efforts, and engagement with the Palestinian Authority in order to confirm the revocation of any law, decree, regulation, or document in effect the previous calendar year that authorizes or implements any payments reported under paragraphs (1) and (2).

“(5) A description of United States Government policy, efforts, and engagement with other governments, and at the United Nations, to highlight the issue of Palestinian payments for acts of terrorism and to urge other nations to join the United States in calling on the Palestinian Authority to immediately cease such payments. “

Final thought: TFA appears to (unintentionally) enable an Administration to provide MORE aid to the Palestinian people than would have been the case under previous ForOps law. Senator Graham (R-SC), the chief advocate of this bill, issued a press release 3/21 calling the bill, “one of the most significant pieces of legislation I’ve been involved with.” This statement gives the impression that the law deals with a massive program, involving massive amounts of funding. In reality, Graham is talking about a law that puts restrictions on funding totaling around $215 million per year (that is the ESF portion of Palestinian aid). And of that, TFA is expected to freeze a total of between $100 million and $130 million (based on expert estimates).

On top of that, it should be recalled that ForOps law in force since 2015 already cut funds from this same aid program, in an amount equal to the amount estimated to have been spent for prisoner payments. This means, ironically, that with TFA in force – as described below – going forward the Administration, and future Administrations, will actually be able to spend more on Palestinian funding than would have otherwise been the case. This is due to (a) the exceptions in TFA described above, and (b) the fact that, as noted above, TFA permits a portion of the frozen funds to still go to help the Palestinian people, just not the way it was originally intended (under the prior ForOps law, such funds were simply cut, not reprogrammed in any part for the Palestinians).

In short, the main effect of TFA – other than grandstanding at the Palestinians’ expense and further demonizing and delegitimizing the Palestinian Authority – will be to prevent Trump Administration envoy Jason Greenblatt from being able to pursue the water and energy projects that are the centerpiece of his Israeli-Palestinian efforts thus far.

 

4. Hearings

March 21, 2018: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism held a hearing entitled, “What's Next for Lebanon? Stability and Security Challenges.” Witnesses were Elliott Abrahms, CFR (testimony) and Rob Malley, ICG (testimony). Video of the hearing is here. And congratulations, SFRC, for holding yet an other all-male, all-white panel!

March 21, 2018: The House Committee on Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa held a hearing entitled, “Implications of a U.S.-Saudi Arabia Nuclear Cooperation Agreement for the Middle East.” Witnesses were: Henry Sokolski, Nonproliferation Policy Education Center (statement); William Tobey, Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs (statement); and Sharon Squassoni, GWU’s Elliott School of International Affairs (statement). Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) statement is here.

March 20, 2018: The House Financial Services Committee held a hearing entitled, “Exploring the Financial Nexus of Terrorism, Drug Trafficking, and Organized Crime.” Witnesses were: Joseph Humire, Center for a Secure Free Society; Derek Maltz, Pen-Link, Ltd.; Celina Realuyo, National Defense University; and Louise Shelley, George Mason University. The framing for the hearing, according to the Hearing Memorandum, is: “…Given the profit potential, terrorist and insurgent groups have been steadily incorporating criminal activities into their business models, thus blurring the line between TCOs and terrorist organizations. Most notably, Hezbollah, with the backing of Iran, has developed lucrative criminal enterprises in both South and Central America that encompasses transnational trade in narcotics, military weapons, and hundreds of millions of dollars in illicit cash proceeds.” Video of the hearing is here. No written statements are online (as of this writing).

 

5. On the Record

Lamborn (R-CO) 3/22: Taylor Force Act Advances in Congress

Schumer (D-NY) 3/22: Schumer: Federal Spending Bill Includes ‘Taylor Force Act’; Senator Co-Sponsored Legislation, Which Cuts U.S. Funds That Directly Benefit The Palestinian Authority Unless Payments To Terrorists And Their Families Are Halted

Schumer (D-NY) 3/14: Schumer Statement on Sokolow v. PLO

 

 

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