APN Legislative Round-Up: November 6, 2015

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

Shameless plug:

Lara Friedman in HuffPo 11/4: Bibi's 'Anti-Solutionism' as Cover for 'Anti-Solution' (response to Natan Sachs in Foreign Affairs)
Lara Friedman & Hagit Ofran in Haaretz 11/2: Don't Be Fooled by Netanyahu's Sleight of Hand on Settlements

1. Bills, Resolutions, & Letters

(HONORING YITZHAK RABIN) H. Res. 513: Introduced 11/3 by Engel (D-NY) and currently having 42 cosponsors, “Honoring the life, legacy, and example of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on the twentieth anniversary of his death.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. APN supports this resolution, along with the other two resolutions on this matter previously introduced, S. Res. 299 and H. Res. 502).

(STAND WITH ISRAEL/SLAM ABBAS) H. Res. 293: Introduced 6/3 by Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and having 71 cosponsors, “Expressing concern over anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement within the Palestinian Authority.” (See the 10/23/15 edition of the Round-Up for details of this resolution – its genesis and its final version).  On 11/2 the House voted to suspend the rules and passed H. Res. 293 by a voice vote (it is not clear why Ros-Lehtinen did not seek a recorded vote, as is normally the case with this kind of resolution. With a voice vote, members cannot be credited or held accountable for their vote on the measure, only on whether they co-sponsored. One possible explanation is that “scoring” on this issue will be focused on the Royce-Engel letter, discussed below).  Ros-Lehtinen’s press release on passage of the resolution is here. AIPAC’s statement praising passage of the resolution (which they lobbied members to cosponsor) is here. During floor consideration, the following members spoke in support and/or grandstanded on the measure: Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Engel (D-NY), Poe (R-TX), Deutch (D-FL), Zeldin (R-NY). In separate statements, the following members did likewise: Royce (R-CA), Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Lowey (D-NY), Scalise (R-LA), Lamborn (R-CO), and Bilirakis (R-FL). Only one member, Ellison (D-MN), publicly opposed the measure:

“Mr. Speaker, securing a lasting peace between Israel and Palestine requires a commitment to humanizing the experiences of both peoples. Divisive rhetoric dehumanizes people and undermines the prospect of long-term peace. This resolution is divisive.

“Incitement by either party, including Palestinian Authority leaders, is a serious issue and deserves to be condemned. But when we denounce the Palestinians and leave no mention of divisive rhetoric by the Israeli government, we do a disservice to Palestinians and Israelis. Just two weeks ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said ``Hitler didn't want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jews.'' He laid the blame for the Shoa at the feet of a Palestinian Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini. Al-Husseini was a virulent anti-Semite. But Prime Minister Netanyahu's blaming the idea of the Holocaust on a Palestinian, and by implication Palestinians, deserves to be condemned by this body just as Palestinian incitement does.

“I oppose this resolution, not because the Palestinians are not inciting, and not because I believe this incitement should not be condemned. I oppose this resolution because any resolution that attacks one side while ignoring the other can only further tension and violence. If Congress wants to be considered a legitimate arbiter of peace between Israel and Palestine we must pursue a balanced approach that calls for an end to incitement on both sides and both leaders to live up to their obligations under the Oslo Accords.”

(STAND WITH ISRAEL/SLAM ABBAS) S. Res. 302:  Introduced 11/3 by Blumenthal (D-CT) and so far having 46 cosponsors, “A resolution expressing the sense of the Senate in support of Israel and in condemnation of Palestinian terror attacks.”  Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. (text here as of 11/4). Press release here. S. Res. 302 (like H. Res. 293) is being actively lobbied by AIPAC. It is notable that this resolution is being led by a Democrat; normally an AIPAC-backed resolution of this nature (which will be expected to get nearly universal support and pass with a proverbial “bang”) is led by a leader from the majority party. The fact that Blumenthal was either selected or allowed to lead on this (partnered with a rising star from the Tea Party) may be evidence of AIPAC’s readiness to “help” Democrats restore good relations with it and smooth relations between Democrats and Netanyahu (something many Democrats in Congress are reportedly eager to do).

(NO $$ FOR SYRIA WAR) S. 2239: Introduced 11/4 by Udall (D-NM) and two cosponsors, “A bill to restrict funds related to escalating United States military involvement in Syria.”Referred to the Select Committee on Intelligence.

(DESIGNATE THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD AN FTO) HR 3892 & S. 2230:  Introduced in the House 11/3 by Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and 4 cosponsors, and 11/4 in the Senate by Cruz (R-TX) and no cosponsors, “To require the Secretary of State to submit a report to Congress on the designation of the Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organization, and for other purposes.” Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary and the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, respectively.  Advance notice of the bill was helpfully leaked to the Washington Free Beacon, which noted that “Lawmakers such as Cruz maintain that the Brotherhood poses a direct threat to U.S. national security.” 

(SYRIA NEGOTIATIONS) H. Res. 508: Introduced 11/2 by Homes (D-CT) and 21 cosponsors, “Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the President of the United States should use the full authority of his office to convene international negotiations intended to stop the civil war in Syria.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

(SYRIAN REFUGEES IN THE MIDEAST) H. Res.509: Introduced 11/2 by Kinzinger (R-IL), “Expressing support for the efforts of the Republic of Turkey, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and the Lebanese Republic to provide housing, educational opportunities, health care, and other forms of humanitarian assistance to individuals and families displaced by the conflict in Syria.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

(FUNDING FOR MIDEAST REFUGEE CRISIS) S. 2145: Introduced 10/6 (not previously reported in the Round-Up) by Graham (R-SC) and having 11 cosponsors, the “Middle East Refugee Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2016.” The bill would appropriate $1 billion in emergency funding “to respond to the refugee crisis resulting from conflict in the Middle East, including costs associated with the resettlement of refugees in the United States.” Referred to the Committee on Appropriations.

(MINORITIES TARGETED IN MIDEAST) HR 3942: Introduced 11/5 by Rohrabacher (R-CA) and 14 cosponsors, “To recognize that Christians and Yazidis in Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Iran, Egypt, and Libya are targets of genocide, and to provide for the expedited processing of immigrant and refugee visas for such individuals, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary and the Committee on Foreign Affairs. Rohrabacher’s  statement  introducing the bill is here.



(CONFLATING ISRAEL & THE SETTLEMENTS) Cruz-Gillibrand letter: On 11/4, Senators Cruz (R-TX) and Gillibrand (D-NY) began seeking cosigners on 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. In an email to Senate staff, the letter is characterized as being about nothing more than fighting discrimination against Israel, pushing back against the boycott-divestment-sanctions (BDS) movement, and battling anti-Semitism.  The email and the letter are 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 is reportedly being actively supported by the American Jewish Committee. According to emails from Cruz staff, the letter is set to be sent to Mogherini on 11/6. APN OPPOSES THIS LETTER AND HAS URGED SENATORS TO REFUSE TO SIGN IT.  For further discussion of this letter and the broader effort to change U.S. policy of which it is a part, see Section 2, below.

(AIPAC-BACKED LETTER SLAMMING PALESTINIAN INCITEMENT) Royce-Engel letter: For the past two weeks, Reps. Royce (R-CA) and Engel (D-NY) have been 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 has also been a key “Take Action” item highlighted on the AIPAC website, with AIPAC urging people to write to their representatives to urge them to sign the letter. This week, the letter closed and was sent to Abbas, with a total of 369 House members having signed on. Royce’s press release touting the final count of signers on the letter is here.


2. Settlements= Israel, Round 3

Supporters of settlements are continuing their efforts to get Congress to shift U.S. policy to adopt their cause, and once again doing so by framing their efforts – deceptively – as being about fighting BDS against Israel.

ROUND 1: The AIPAC-backed faux-“anti-BDS” bills. Round 1 one of this battle saw legislation introduced early in 2015 in both the House and Senate (HR 825 and S. 619) – legislation that has been a central AIPAC lobbying priority since that time.  Both bills are ostensibly about fighting boycotts and other discriminatory treatment against Israel, particularly by the EU. However the actual purpose/impact of the bills is to protect settlements, not Israel, from pressure – as evidenced by the fact that the bills are peppered with references not just to Israel but to “Israeli-controlled territories” – code for settlements and the occupation.  Indeed, the EU and European countries have very conspicuously NEVER adopted discriminatory policies targeting Israel, but, rather, have policies – grounded in international law and EU law – distinguishing between Israel and the settlements. It is those policies that are the clear target of this legislation. Indeed, rather than being called anti-BDS legislation, these bills should more properly be called a pro-settlements initiatives.  If passed into law, they would make it U.S. policy to oppose and push back against policies that distinguish between settlements and Israel. The bills are also likely laying the groundwork for a new legal framework intended to prevent U.S. companies from working with foreign companies that obey EU and international law (by distinguishing between Israel and settlements), and possibly even for extraterritorial sanctions. Round 1 of this battle is still not over – both of these bills are still pending and still being actively lobbied by AIPAC, and action on them could happen at any time. For more, see the 2/13/15  and 3/6/15 editions of the Round-Ups. APN STRONGLY OPPOSES BOTH OF THESE BILLS.

ROUND 2: Inserting faux-“anti-BDS” text into major trade bills. Round 2 of this battle kicked off in April, with pro-settlement provisions similar to those in HR 825 and S. 619  included in two pieces of major trade legislation that the Administration wanted badly to see passed into law: the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill, which eventually became HR 2146; and the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act (aka, the Customs Bill), which eventually became HR 644. Both bills contain variations on the same text as the two freestanding bills – i.e., language that purports to be about preventing discriminatory policies against Israel, but that in effect is ONLY about preventing policies that distinguish between Israel and the settlements – as evidenced by the bills’ explicitly defining areas of concern to policies related to “Israel or in Israeli-controlled territories.” HR 2146 was signed into law on 6/29/15, but the pro-settlements provision included in it was of sufficient concern to the Obama Administration that on 6/30 it issued a statement clarifying that the bill’s conflation of Israel and settlement was NOT U.S. policy. Notably, the provision included in HR 2146 applies only to one particular set of trade negotiations; the provision included in HR 644, like the two free-standing bills, is more far-reaching. For more, see the 4/24/15, 6/12/15, and 6/19/15 editions of the Round-Ups.  Also see: Inside AIPAC's Quiet Campaign To Blur Israeli Settlement Lines (Jessica Shulberg, HuffPo, 5/28); Trade measures could shift U.S. policy on Israeli settlements (Bob Egelko, SFGate, 5/15); AIPAC-backed amendments add to trade bill turmoil (Nahal Toosi, Politico, 5/11); Dear Congress: ‘Pro-Israel’ is not ‘pro-settlements’ (Lara Friedman, The Hill, 4/27/15) APN STRONGLY OPPOSES THE PRO-SETTLEMENTS PROVISONS IN BOTH OF THESE BILLS.

ROUND 3: Attacking the EU over labeling of settlement products. Round 3 of this battle started this week, with the letter in the Senate led by Cruz (R-TX) and Gillibrand (D-NY), objecting to the EU’s new labeling policy. In an email to Senate staff, the letter is characterized as being about nothing more than fighting discrimination against Israel, pushing back against the boycott-divestment-sanctions (BDS) movement, and battling anti-Semitism.  The email and the letter are 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 is reportedly being actively supported by the American Jewish Committee. Given the continued hype-ing of the BDS threat, the apparent desire of Democrats to demonstrate their pro-Israel bona fides in the wake of the Iran deal, and imminent elections, it is quite possible that this letter is just the opening salvo in a new effort to pass either the legislation introduced in Round 1, or other similar legislation. APN STRONGLY OPPOSES THE CRUZ-GILLIBRAND LETTER.

 On 11/5, APN sent the following message to Senate offices urging Senators not so sign.

I’m writing to urge your boss to stay off the Cruz-Gillibrand letter to Frederica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. This letter is being characterized as being about nothing more than fighting discrimination against Israel, pushing back against the boycott-divestment-sanctions (BDS) movement, and battling anti-Semitism. In reality, the letter is not about any of those things.

Rather, the Cruz-Gillibrand letter is about re-defining “supporting Israel” to mean “supporting settlements and protecting them from pressure” – and demanding that the EU do the same.

Notably, the letter avoids any mention of what it is actually about, never once using the words “settlements,” “the West Bank,” or “occupied territories.” This, despite the fact that the EU labeling policy it is attacking is ONLY about settlements and has no impact on Israel or products manufactured in Israel. The EU policy in question requires only that products made in settlements – not in Israel – be labeled accurately to reflect this fact.  This distinction between Israel and the settlements is nothing more than a recognition of reality: Israel has never annexed the West Bank, and it is contrary to reality and to law to insist that the EU or any country accept that products made in West Bank settlements are labeled, inaccurately, “made in Israel.”  

The conflation of Israel and the settlements is not only at odds with the facts, but it is also counterproductive, fueling anti-Israel activism. Make no mistake: supporters of this conflation are promoting a view that is identical to the one promoted by many BDS activists and advocates: that settlements and Israel are one and the same. Likewise, efforts like this letter will only further discredit U.S. leadership and policy in the Middle East arena and put the U.S. unnecessarily at odds with even its own closest allies – all for the sake not of Israel, but of settlements.

The Cruz-Gillibrand letter is of particular concern because it comes as part of a broader effort to shift the policy of Congress and the United States to erase the distinction between Israel and Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. Congress already took a step in the direction of adopting this conflation (with many members of Congress being entirely unaware) when it included pro-settlements language – also masquerading as an anti-BDS provision – in the Trade Promotion Authority bill passed into law earlier this year. As a result, the Obama Administration took the rare step of issuing a clarification that U.S. policy does not, in fact, accept this conflation.

Congress has a long record of supporting and defending Israel's security, Israel's economy, Israel's position and treatment in international organizations and the international community, Israel's right to self-defense, and Israel's reputation as a nation that seeks peace. For this it deserves credit. 

Congress also has a long record of refusing to affirmatively support Israel's policy of building settlements in the occupied territories, including, for example, by barring the use of U.S.-backed loan guarantees for settlement activity. For this too, Congress deserves credit.  Israel's settlements enterprise runs counter to the policy of every U.S. administration since 1967, whether led by a Republican or Democrat, and runs counter to Israel's own interests.  Settlements undermine Israel's security, erode Israel's position in the international community and belie Israel's commitment to peace and the two-state solution - and if there is no two-state solution, Israel cannot survive as both a democracy and a Jewish state.  

Members of the Senate who care about Israel and Israel’s future must wake up to the danger and folly at the heart of this effort to conflate Israel and settlements. And they must then stand up, as genuine supporters of Israel and a two-state solution, and reject the Cruz-Gillibrand letter and all other efforts to move Congress to embrace this disastrous new pro-settlement policy.


3.  Hearings

11/5: The House Oversight Committee’s Subcommittee on National Security held a hearing entitled “Iran’s Power Projection Capability.” Witnesses were: Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Thomas McInerney, Member of the Iran Policy Committee (statement); Jonathan Schanzer, FDD (statement); Steven Bucci, Heritage Foundation (statement); and Alireza Nader, RAND (statement). Video of the hearing is available here.

11/4: The Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight, Agency Action, Federal Rights and Federal Courts held a hearing (presided over by Senator Cruz, R-TX) entitled, “Justice Forsaken: How the Federal Government Fails the American Victims of Iranian and Palestinian Terrorism.”  Witnesses were: Kenneth Stethem, Aegis Industries, LLC (statement); Eric Lorber, CNAS (statement); Kent Yalowitz, Arnold & Porter LLP (statement); Ilan Goldenberg, CNAS (statement); Richard Heideman, Heideman Nudelman & Kalik, P.C. (statement); Robert Wexler, S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace (statement); Orde F. Kittrie, FDD (statement); and Daniel Miller, CFO, PediStat (statement). Video of the hearing is available here. Cruz press release on the hearing: Sen. Cruz Shines Light on Obama Administration’s Failure to Stand With American Victims of Terrorism

11/4: The House Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight held a hearing on presidential authority to waive anti-terror provisions in the tax code with respect to Iran. Witnesses were: Mark Dubowitz, FDD (statement); Douglas Feith, Hudson Institute (statement);  David Schizer, Columbia Law School (statement); Kenneth Stethem, Aegis Industries, LLC (statement);  and Jim Walsh, MIT (statement).

11/4: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing entitled, “U.S. Policy in North Africa.” Scheduled witnesses are:  Haim Malka, CSIS (testimony) and William Lawrence, GWU- Elliot School (no written testimony).

11/4: The House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing entitled, “U.S. Policy After Russia’s Escalation in Syria.” Witnesses were: Anne Patterson, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs (statement); and Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs (statement). Committee press release is here. Chairman Royce’s (R-CA) opening statement is here.

11/4: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats held a hearing entitled, “Challenge to Europe: The Growing Refugee Crisis.” Witnesses were:  Gary Shiffman, Georgetown University (statement); and V. Bradley Lewis, The Catholic University of America (statement).

11/3: The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission held a hearing entitled “Human Rights in Egypt.” Panel 1 consisted of one witness, Tom Malinowski Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Panel 2 consisted of one witness, Dr. Robert P. George, Chairman, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (testimony).  Panel 3 consisted of:  Shadi Hamid, Brookings (testimony); Mohammed Soltan, Egyptian-American activist and former political prisoner (testimony); Sarah Leah Whitson, Human Rights Watch (testimony); and Daniel Calingaert, Freedom House (testimony). Video of the hearing is available here.

10/29: The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission held a hearing entitled “Human Rights in Iran.” Panelists were: Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran; Roya Boroumand, Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation; and Hadi Ghaemi, International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. The moderator was Stephen McInerney, POMED; and introductory remarks were given by Rep. McGovern (D-MA), Co-Chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.


4.  On the Record

Van Hollen (D-MD), Pelosi (D-CA), Hastings (D-FL), Feinstein (D-CA), Moore (D-WI): Commemorating the 20th anniversary of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin

Coons (D-DE) 11/6: Statement on Bibi’s visit to DC – a “critical opportunity for the Prime Minister, the President, and Congress to remind the world that America’s support for Israel is not a partisan political issue, but rather a commitment honored by Democrats and Republicans alike” (despite Bibi’s constant efforts to make it partisan). 

Rogers (R-AL) 11/5: Rogers Honored for Support of Israel

Gohmert (R-TX) 11/5: Blah blah blah…RADICAL ISLAMISTS…blah blah blah.. .OBAMA…blah blah blah...IRAN (etc)

Pompeo (R-KS) 11/4: Floor speech on 100 Days since Completion of Iran Nuclear Deal

Royce (R-CA) 11/3: Chairman Royce on Arrest of Lebanese-American in Iran