APN Legislative Round-Up: October 23, 2015

1. Bills, Resolutions, and Letters
2. Hearings
3. On the Record

Note: Recently defenders of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu have been arguing that settlement construction has actually decreased under Netanyahu (and that he has thus been unfairly criticized when he deserves to be praised). This argument is based on a single, misleading statistic – a case APN and Peace Now came together to make in a joint report laying out the facts of Netanyahu’s real settlements record, here.

1. Bills, Resolutions, and Letters

(PA INCITEMENT) H. Res. 293:  Introduced 6/3 by House Foreign Affairs Committee Middle East Subcommittee Chair Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Ranking Member Deutch (D-FL), “Expressing concern over anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement within the Palestinian Authority.” On 10/22, following a hearing on Palestinian incitement (discussed in Section 2, below) the full Committee marked up H. Res. 293, adopting by unanimous consent an amendment in the nature of a substitute offered by Chairman Royce (R-CA), and then passing the measure by unanimous consent, and by  unanimous  consent authorizing the  Chair  was  authorized  to  seek  House  consideration  of  H. Res. 293 under suspension of the rules. Ros-Lehtinen’s statement touting passage of the resolution is here. Royce statement is here.

The amended text (among other things) accuses the PA of “unabated” incitement against Israel for many years and describes the current violence as an “incitement-induced wave of terrorism.” The resolution (among other things) calls on the PA to: discontinue all incitement; repudiate acts of violence against Israelis; “engage in a sustained effort to publically and officially rebuke anti-Israeli incitement to violence”; continue security cooperation with Israel; and “agree to unconditionally renew direct talks with Israelis, including the reconstitution of the Trilateral Commission on Incitement.”

As discussed in the 6/5/15 edition of the Round-Up, there was not clear reason for the introduction of this resolution back in June, as evidenced by the fact that the litany of accusations against the PA in the original text all related to incidents that dated back more than six months, and some several years. Now, that text has been updated to focus on the current round of violence, but the original text itself offers a clear challenge to the new version’s assertion that the PA is guilty of years of “unabated” incitement. In addition, both versions suffer from some obvious blind spots, to say the least. For example:

  • They cite the issue of PA maps that do not show Israel, but ignore the fact that the Israeli government is guilty of the same offense, and to what appears to be a far greater and more systematic degree.  Indeed, a quick scan of Israeli government ministry websites conducted on 6/5 finds that every single site examined that displays maps of Israel includes maps of this kind:  The Israel Lands Authority; The Weather Service; The Israel Meteorological Service; the Tourism ministry (an “external site” accessed through the Israeli Government portal – see map of Israel with the Green Line erased here, page with links to the “Regions of Israel,” with the Palestinians erased and the West Bank broken down into several of these “regions of Israel,” here); the Ministry of Environmental Protection (which in addition to the Green Line-less map describes the Dead Sea – located mostly in the West Bank – as one of the three bodies of water bordering Israel); and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which compounds the map issue with text explicitly defining “Israel” to erase the Palestinians and any claims they may have – “The total area of the State of Israel is 8,630 sq. miles (22,145 sq.km.), of which 8,367 sq. miles (21,671 sq. km.) is land area. Israel is some 470 km. (290 miles) in length and about 85 miles (135 km.) across at the widest point. The country is bordered by Lebanon to the north, Syria to the northeast, Jordan to the east, Egypt to the southwest and the Mediterranean Sea to the west.”
  • They ignore the glaring problem of anti-Palestinian, anti-peace, racist incitement coming from the Israeli side, as was prominently displayed during the last Israeli election campaign, not to mention the anti-two-state positions openly and gleefully espoused by many in Netanyahu’s new government.  And not to mention, of course, this week’s statement by Netanyahu shifting responsibility for the Holocaust away from Adolf Hitler and the Nazis and onto the then-Mufti of Jerusalem – in effect suggesting that Palestinians bear collective guilt for the Holocaust and violence today is just an extension of that same virulent Jew-hatred. 

(BAD PA – NO AID FOR YOU!) H. Res. 485: Introduced 10/21 by McSally (R-AZ) and 43 GOP cosponsors, “Expressing solidarity with the people of Israel in the wake of recent terrorist attacks and condemning the Palestinian Authority for inciting an atmosphere of violence.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The resolution, which was helpfully leaked to the Washington Free Beacon before it was introduced, condemns “terrorism committed under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority” – notwithstanding the fact that not a single act of terrorism in question has been committed by anyone purporting to act in the name of the PA or with the backing of the PA, and for the most part this terrorism has been committed by Palestinians living outside of the jurisdiction of the PA, in areas that are not under the control of the PA. It goes on to call for aid to the PA to be frozen until “their leaders openly increase efforts to end their incitement of violence.” It also demands, “as a condition of continued United States aid consistent with section 620K of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2378b), as added by the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006 (Public Law 109–449; 120 Stat. 3318), that the President re-certify that the Palestinian Authority government, including all ministers, has publicly accepted and is complying with the principles of such section 620K, which demand the recognition of Israel’s right to exist and the acceptance of previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.” This last part appears to be referencing Abbas’ UN speech, which some in Congress have read as Abbas’ rejection of the Oslo agreement (not what he actually said, but no matter). McSally’s press release touting the resolution is here.

(CONSOLIDATED APPROPRIATIONS BILL) S. 2130: Introduced 10/6 by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Cochran (R-MI), “making appropriations for Department of Defense, energy and water development, Department of Homeland Security, military construction, Department of Veterans Affairs, and Department of State, foreign operations, and related programs for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2016, and for other purposes.” This bill is now the vehicle for funding for Israel and the Middle East under both the Forops bill and the DOD approps bill (covered previously in the Round-Up).


(AIPAC-BACKED LETTER SLAMMING PALESTINIAN INCITEMENT) Royce-Engel letter: Reps. Royce (R-CA) and Engel (D-NY) are seeking cosigners on a letter to President Abbas blaming PA incitement for inflaming the situation on the ground and stating, “Now is the time for the Palestinian Authority to take concrete steps to avoid further violence. This starts with a sustained effort to publicly and officially repudiate these attacks, ending the unacceptable incitement to violence emanating from Palestinian Authority officials and institutions, continuing important security cooperation with Israel and agreeing to unconditionally renew direct talks with the Israelis.” The letter is the main “Take Action” item highlighted on the AIPAC website (as of this writing), with AIPAC urging people to write to their representatives to urge them to sign the letter.

(RESTRICT AID TO PA) Donovan letter: On 10/22, Rep. Donovan (R-NY) sent a letter to Secretary Kerry urging him to express to Netanyahu the “total support of the American people during this difficult period.” The letter also states that “it should be the policy of the United States to condition any further assistance to the Palestinian Authority on the cessation of incitement to riot and the requirement that they end all support of those who target Israeli civilians.” Donovan also called on Kerry to “impress upon the Palestinian Authority the need to protect all religious sites, regardless of creed.”

(THANKS FOR OPPOSING UNESCO RES!) Frankel-Engel letter: On 10/22, Reps. Frankel (D-FL) and Engel (D-NY) sent a letter to Secretary Kerry expressing thanks for the U.S. opposition to the UNESCO resolution regarding the Temple Mount. “We commend you for recognizing that this resolution contravenes UNESCO’s mandate—to contribute to peace and security by promoting collaboration among the nations. We view your opposition to this resolution as just one example of the moral clarity you bring to bear in your service to the United States in the international arena.” Press release here.

(CONCERN OVER IRAN MISSILE TEXT) Senate Dems letter: On 10/21, Senators Cardin (D-MD), Schumer (D-NY), Blumenthal (D-CT), Bennet (D-CO), Coons (D-DE), Shaheen (D-NH), Warner (D-VA), Markey (D-MA), Wyden (D-OR), Murphy (D-CT), and Booker (D-NJ) sent a letter to Secretary Kerry expressing profound concern about the October 11th Iranian ballistic missile test.  The letter concludes by stating: “We believe calibrated pressure on Iran is appropriate due to its clear non-compliance with UNSCR 1929 and to deter future violations.”

(JEWISH MEMBERS CONDEMN UNESCO) Joint statement: On 10/21, Reps. Nadler (D-NY), Levin (D-MI), Engel (D-NY), Lowey (D-NY), Sherman (D-CA), Schakowsky (D-IL), Davis (D-CA), Israel (D-NY), Schiff (D-CA), Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Cohen (D-TN), Yarmuth (D-KY), Deutch (D-FL), Polis (D-CO), Cicilline (D-RI), Grayson (D-FL), Frankel (D-FL), Lowenthal (D-CA), and Zeldin (R-NY) issued a joint, bipartisan statement “in response to a UNESCO resolution condemning Israel for the recent surge in violence and falsely blaming Israel for violating the status quo of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.”   The statement argues that “The resolution adopted by the UNESCO Executive Board condemning Israel for the recent surge in violence can serve no purpose other than to escalate tensions, exacerbate religious conflict, and further incite violence. “

(THREATENING CUT TO PA AID) Granger-Lowey letter to Abbas: On 10/20, Rep. Granger (D-TX), chair of the House Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, and ranking member Rep, Lowey (D-NY), sent a letter to Palestinian President Abbas warning that assistance would suffer if Abbas did not agree to “resume direct negotiations with Prime Minister Netanyahu,” “refrain from highly-inflammatory language” and “redouble your efforts to uphold nonviolence.” The State Department informed Congress this week that it would be cutting aid to the PA by $80 million (full report in Al-Monitor, here).

(BLOCK UNESCO RESOLUTION) Lowey-Deutch letter: On 10/19, Reps. Lowey (D-NY) and Deutch (D-FL) sent a letter urging US Ambassador to UNESCO Crystal Nix-Hines calling for the U.S. to block a draft UNESCO resolution asserting, among other things, that the Western Wall is part of al-Aqsa Mosque. Press release here.


2.  Hearings

10/28: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “The U.S. Role and Strategy in the Middle East.” Scheduled witnesses are: Anne Patterson, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs; and General John R. Allen (USMC, Ret.), Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, U.S. Department of State

10/27: The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “United States Military Strategy in the Middle East.” Scheduled witnesses are: Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford.

10/27: The House Committee on Foreign Affairs will hold a hearing entitled, “Examining the Syrian Humanitarian Crisis from the Ground (Part II).” Scheduled witnesses are: Anne Richard, Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration; and León Rodríguez, Director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

10/22: The House Committee on Foreign Affairs held a hearing entitled, “Words Have Consequences: Palestinian Authority Incitement to Violence.”  Video of the hearing is here. A stiff drink (or to) is recommended before watching. The hearing provided committee members a forum to grandstand in support of Israel and blame both the current violence and the absence of peace exclusively on Palestinian – and specifically Palestinian Authority –  anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement (notwithstanding the fact that Israeli security authorities disagree). Chairman Royce’s (R-CA) opening statement is here; Ranking Member Engel’s (D-NY) statement is here (in his later comments he appeared to suggest that in addition to incitement, the biggest problem is the unwillingness of the Palestinians to prepare their people for peace by convincing them to embrace the Jewish narrative of exile and return to the Jewish homeland).

Overall the discussion suggested, directly and indirectly, that NO FACTORS shape Palestinian views other than incitement – as if living under occupation for nearly 5 decades is completely irrelevant to the worldview of Palestinians. Along these lines, the hearing featured witnesses offering what could generously be characterized as the antithesis of a broad spectrum of views and analysis on the issue (i.e., witnesses that Netanyahu and AIPAC would certainly approve of): Elliott Abrams, CFR [statement – calling for closing PLO office, going after PA corruption, and sanctions against Palestinians who engage in incitement]; Jonathan Schanzer, FDD, [statement – among other things blaming Obama Administration for fueling Palestinian violence; calling on Congress to stop Iran, Turkey, and Qatar from funding the Palestinians; urging Congress to “rethink” its recognition of the PLO; and urging Washington to “prepare for Palestinian succession,” including urging the U.S. to work to identify the next generation of leaders we want to work with]; and David Makovsky, WINEP [statement – urging Congress to press Europe to get on board with Congressional efforts to go after Palestinian incitement, and suggesting that the cause of the violence is the failure of Palestinians to accept Jewish claims to holy sites].  Overall, the main recommendations coming from the witnesses (not unanimously) were: defund the PA or end cash assistance and turn it into other things; kick the PLO out of Washington; end recognition of the PLO; pressure Europe to get tougher on the PA; work toward regime change for the Palestinians.

While some might have expected Israeli Prime Minister’s remarks earlier this week –  explicitly shifting blame for the genocide of against the Jews in the Holocaust away from Adolf Hitler and onto the then-mufti of Jerusalem (in effect suggesting that Palestinians bear collective guilt for the Holocaust and violence today is just an extension of that same virulent Jew-hatred) – to have muddled the case for talking ONLY about Palestinian incitement, the hearing proved them wrong. Bizarrely, the ONLY member who implicitly referenced acts by Israelis that incite violence was Sherman (D-CA), who noted (around 49:00 in the video): “Back in the days of the Roman Empire, those zealots who claimed to be the most pro-Israel did enormous harm. So now we see a few fringe Israeli leaders who want to disturb the status quo on the Temple Mount. They, too, are harmful.  They provide a pretext for those who incite terrorism in Israel and those who seek delegitimization abroadThose few Israeli leaders who oppose a two-state solution also do immeasurable harm.” [The balance of his statement is pretty much what you would expect].

10/22: Following the hearing discussed above, the committee held a markup of H. Res. 293, expressing concern over anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement within the Palestinian Authority. The committee adopted an amendment in the nature of a substitute, passed the resolution and reported it out of committee. H. Res 293 is discussed in detail in Section 1 above.

3.  On the Record

On the current Israeli-Palestinian violence:

(Note: AIPAC is keeping a handy public scorecard – I mean, tally – of Members of Congress condemning the PA, blaming PA incitement for the current violence, and demanding that this incitement stop).

Peters (D-MI) 10/22: Condemning recent attacks in Israel

Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) 10/22: Condemning Palestinian attacks and incitement (and linking Abbas’ UN speech with the outbreak of violence), standing with Israel.

Poe (R-TX) 10/22: Blaming Palestinian leaders’ incitement for current violence, and accusing Obama Administration of turning its back on Israel. [Money quote, showing a lot about Poe’s understanding of democracy and rule of law – keeping in mind that Poe is a JUDGE: “Israel has reacted how any democratic country would react to defend its people. The policy is simple: if a terrorist is wielding a knife and is spotted, Israeli security is ordered to shoot that terrorist.’]

Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 10/21: Calling for Congress to stand with Israel against Abbas, but also against Iran and other threats – “it is absolutely vital, Mr. Speaker, that Congress and Israel stand together to face these challenges united. The President won't do it.” Specifically calling for Congress “to enact additional sanctions against Iran, and we must designate and sanction Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Quds Force [note: Congress does not have the authority to designate a group an FTO], because they will be the big winners in this sanctions relief. We must target Hezbollah and Iran's other proxies because you can be sure that, with Hezbollah, it is only a matter of when, not if, it decides to attack Israel.  We must ensure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself from Hezbollah and from other outside threats. With Iran providing Hezbollah with more advanced rockets and missiles, even with precision-guided systems, Israel is facing an enemy with almost 150,000 rockets pointed at every major city in Israel . Congress needs to get more funding to Israel for its David's Sling system, for its Iron Dome system.”

Moulton (D-MA) 10/21: Condemning violence against Israel

Duckworth (D-IL) 10/20: Standing with Israel

Loudermilk (R-GA) 10/20: Condemning terrorism against Israel, slamming Obama Administration for criticizing Israeli response

Casey (D-PA) 10/19: Condemning terrorism against Israel

Brown (D-OH) 10/19: “The recent violent attacks in Israel, Jerusalem, and the West Bank are reprehensible. We must condemn all acts of terror. It is only through a negotiated political process that Israelis and Palestinians can reach a peaceful settlement and we must support that effort.”

Westmoreland (R-GA) 10/19: “To add to the tragedy, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas - also known as Abu Mazen - stood before world leaders at the United National General Assembly and made anti-Israel and anti-Semitic statements, fueling the fire for more violent acts to occur. Hopes for peace have failed thus far, and the Palestinian Authority must be held accountable… Rather than fueling the fire, Abu Mazen must apologize for his anti-Semitic statements and call for the violence to stop.”

Yoho (R-FL) 10/16: Slamming the Obama Administration for accusing Israel of terrorism [something the Obama Administration did not, in fact, do], taking a shot at the Iran nuclear deal, and arguing that “President Obama’s convoluted foreign policy needs to be curtailed. One such way is to repeal the current AUMF’s in force and replace it with a sound strategy for the region with limited military authorities. All future military actions need to be approved by congress before this president does any more harm and erodes more of the United States’ credibility abroad.”

Tiberi (R-OH) 10/16: Condemning attacks against Israel.


On the UNESCO resolution:

 Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 10/21: Using UNESCO vote on Western Wall to accuse the Obama Administration of shifting U.S. policy by failing to stand with Israel at the UN [factually inaccurate], stating: “The administration's refusal to stand publicly and firmly with Israel emboldens groups at the U.N. to push forward with these initiatives and undermines longstanding U.S. policy. If the administration won't counter these efforts at the U.N., then Congress must use every tool at our disposal to hold these agencies and Abu Mazen accountable.”

Gillibrand (D-NY) 10/21: “The resolution as originally proposed before the UNESCO Executive Board was a dangerous attempt to undermine the arrangement governing the Temple Mount, and would have incited even more violence at a time when so many have been killed and wounded. Any discussion of the status of Jerusalem must happen in the context of negotiations with Israel – not through irresponsible and unilateral efforts at the United Nations. I’m once again frustrated by the United Nations’s one-sided treatment of Israel, which is counterproductive to achieving the safety and security of the region.”

Hoyer (D-MD) 10/21: Condemning UNESCO resolution on Temple Mount, praising the U.S. for voting “no.”

Cardin (D-MD) 10/21: Condemning UNESCO resolution on Temple Mount as “unacceptable, needlessly provocative” and arguing that it will “fan the flames of an already combustible conflict.”

Kirk (R-IL) 10/20: Condemning pending UNESCO resolution to deny Jewish people’s connection to the Western Wall


On everything else:

Ayotte (R-NH) 10/22: Bipartisan Expert Panel Agrees with Ayotte's Call for Consequences for Latest Iranian Ballistic Missile Violation

Wilson (R-SC) 10/22: Arguing that the Iran nuclear deal has made Americans less safe.

Blumenthal (D-CT) 10/22: Praising DOT for Calling on Kuwait Airways to Cease Discrimination Against Israeli Citizens