Israel’s new NGO Bill – what it is and what it means – A Handy
Guide from APN
2/4: Cotton's "Made in Israel" bill: latest salvo in campaign to change US settlements policy (Lara Friedman in The Hill)
2/1 The Obama Administration Is Right to Reject the “Settlements=Israel” Conflation [examining/rebutting arguments of Eugene Kontorovich, who testified in the House on BDS and wrote a blogpost for the Washington Post defending the conflation in the TPA bill]
1/28: The Campaign to Legislate Support for Settlements: Taking the Battle to the States [including comprehensive data table on state-level BDS and BDS + pro-settlements legislation]
1/27: Settlement Product Labeling Policies, U.S. vs. EU [comprehensive examination of regulations and their history, with links to original U.S. government documents]
(SETTLEMENTS=ISRAEL: MIS-LABELING) S. 2474: Introduced 2/1 by Cotton (R-AR) and as of this writing having scored 3 GOP cosponsors (Cruz, R-TX, Rubio, R-FL, and Gardner, R-CO), to permit the knowing and deliberate mis-labeling of the point of origin of goods made in Israeli settlements (or the official title, “A bill to allow for additional markings, including the words ‘Israel’ and ‘Product in Israel,’ to be used for country of origin marking requirements for goods made in the geographical areas known as the West Bank and Gaza Strip”). Referred to the Committee on Finance. Cotton’s press release is here. APN STRONGLY OPPOSES THIS BILL AND HAS URGED SENATORS TO REFUSE TO COSPONSOR IT AND TO OPPOSE IT IF BROUGHT UP FOR A VOTE. See Section 2, below, for analysis. See Section 3, below, for APN’s message to the Senate on this bill. The response to the bill by the State Department spokesman is here. Also see report in HuffPo: Tom Cotton's New Law Would Allow A Product Made In Gaza To Be Labeled 'Made in Israel' and 2/4: Cotton's "Made in Israel" bill: latest salvo in campaign to change US settlements policy (Lara Friedman in The Hill). The RJC is lobbying in support of S. 2474.
(UNDERMINING THE JCPOA) HR 3662: Introduced 10/1/15 by Russell (R-OK) and having 62 all-GOP cosponsors, the “Iran Terror Finance Transparency Act.” As highlighted in Part 1 of the 12/31/15 Round-Up, this bill is one a number pending initiatives aimed at undermining the JCPOA. Notably, it is entirely partisan, meaning efforts to move it are nothing more than grandstanding (even if Republicans could pass it on their own in the House and Senate, without Democratic support they cannot overcome a presidential veto). As reported in the 1/15/16 edition of the Round-Up, GOP leaders attempted nonetheless to pass the bill before Implementation Day of the JCPOA (which took place on 1/16). As also reported in the 1/15/16 edition of the Round-Up, that vote – which took place on 1/12 – did not go as planned: So many members showed up late (or not at all) that Speaker Ryan closed the vote swiftly to punish tardiness. As a result, the 1/12 vote was VACATED and a new vote rescheduled for 1/26. Snowzilla led to that vote being postponed. Finally, on 2/2 the GOP got its vote on HR 3662, which passed by a party-line vote of 246-181 (all GOP members voted in favor; all Democrats voted against, except for Graham, D-FL; Peterson, D-MD) and Scott, D-GA.) Which means that this week the House GOP passed Iran legislation that will never become law, seeking to prevent the president from lifting sanctions that, with implementation of the JCPOA, have for the most part already been lifted. None of which is to suggest that Congressional efforts to undermine the JCPOA should not be taken very seriously. For excellent analysis, see: Groundhog Day for the Iran Deal. Many (maybe even most) GOP members issued statements announcing their support for HR 3662 – which member websites for statements from specific members. A few members issued statements opposing HR 3662 this week, including Ellison (D-MN) and Grijalva (D-AZ), and Larsen (D-WA). Additional statement opposing the bill when it was originally brought to the floor can be found in the previous edition of the Round-Up.
(UNDERMINING THE JCPOA?) H. Amdt. 927 to HR 766: Offered 2/4 by Sherman (D-CA) as an amendment to the Financial Institution Customer Protection Act of 2015, “…to clarify that bill does not prevent federal banking regulators from requesting or requiring a financial institution to terminate a relationship with a customer because (1) the customer poses a threat to national security, (2) is engaged in terrorist financing, (3) is doing business with Iran, North Korea, Syria, or another State Sponsor of Terrorism, or (4) is doing business with an entity in any of those countries.” Adopted 2/4 by voice vote; floor consideration is here. Sherman explained that his amendment, “ clarifies that the underlying bill does not prevent banking regulators from requesting a financial institution terminate a relationship because the customer poses a national security threat, is engaged in terrorist financing, or is domiciled in Iran, North Korea, Syria, or another state sponsor of terrorism.”
(UNDERMINING THE JCPOA) S. XXX, S. XXX and S. XXX: From the Hill 2/2, “Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said Tuesday that he’s working on a package of Iran-related bills that would go further than the administration’s.” From the Washington Post: “’We are looking at ways of having a much stronger pushback on the violations that took place,’ Corker said of his proposed sanctions aimed at Iran’s recent ballistic missile tests. The ballistic missile measure is part of a trio Corker is readying, along with a reauthorization of ISA — a sweeping, longstanding law to curb Iran’s nuclear and missile activities as well as its support for terrorism through sanctions on the trade, energy, defense and banking sectors. Corker is also crafting a third measure, but declined to identify its content.”
(UNDERMINING THE JCPOA) S. XXX: From the Hill 2/2, “Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) also said Tuesday that he's working on new sanctions legislation unrelated to Iran’s nuclear program. He introduced legislation last year with Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) to extend the Iran Sanctions Act, which expires at the end of the year.” From the Washington Post: “Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) is also planning a package of “actions that we should be considering against Iran outside the nuclear portfolio.” Menendez has already co-authored, along with Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), legislation to extend ISA past 2016, and wants to step up sanctions against Tehran for its ballistic missile tests and human rights violations.”
(UNDERMINING THE JCPOA) HR 4448: Introduced 2/3 by DeSantis (R-FL) and 20 cosponsors, “To amend the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 to secure the authority of State and local governments to adopt and enforce measures restricting investment in business enterprises in Iran, and for other purposes.” DeSantis press release here. Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services.
(THREATENING SANCTIONS ON IRAN IF IT MISBEHAVES) S. 2485: Introduced 2/3 by Thune (R-SD) and 3 GOP cosponsors, “to provide for the immediate reinstatement of sanctions against Iran if Iran attempts to acquire nuclear weapons technology from North Korea. “ Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Thune press release is here.
(THREATENING CONSEQUENCES FOR IRAN IF IT MISBEHAVES) H.Res.600: Introduced 2/3 by Moulton (D-MA) and 4 cosponsors, “Reaffirming the right for the United States to use all available options, including the use of military force, to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
(U.S.-JORDAN DEFENSE COOPERATION) HR 907: Introduced 2/12/15 by Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and having 13 cosponsors, the “United States-Jordan Defense Cooperation Act of 2015.” Passed in the Senate 2/3 with an amendment by Unanimous Consent. Amendment (offered by Rubio, R-FL) is here. Rubio press release is here.
(SYRIA) S. Res.361: Introduced 2/3 by Corker (R-TN) and having 10 cosponsors, “A resolution urging robust funding for humanitarian relief for Syria.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.
(FIX VISA WAIVER PROGRAM!) Huffman et al letter: On 2/4, 26 House members, let by Huffman (D-CA) sent a letter to Secretary of State Kerry and Secretary of Homeland Security Johnson urge them to protect dual national Americans and Americans traveling to Iran from visa restrictions and ensure that they are not are not unjustly targeted. Co-signers Conyers (D-MI) and Dingell (D-MI) put out their own press release on the letter, here.
(POINT-SCORING OVER THE JCPOA) Royce letter: On 2/3, House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Royce (R-CA) sent a letter to Secretary of State Kerry, “requesting detailed information regarding the Obama Administration’s January 17, 2016 announcement that the United States will pay this terrorist state $1.7 billion to settle a longstanding bilateral dispute.” The funds are repayment under a settlement reached to a lawsuit that had been pending under an international legal tribunal, and comprise $400 million from a trust fund used by Iran to purchase military equipment from the United States prior to the break in diplomatic ties, plus $1.3 billion in interest accrued since that time. Royce’s letter concludes with a laundry list of information demanded from Kerry, to be provided no later than 2/17/16, related to this settlement, to the release of the five American hostages; and to the JCPOA itself – including “Separate lists of all U.S. officials who participated in the negotiation with Iran” over each of these things.
This week, Cotton (R-AR) introduced S. 2474, a bill to allow the knowing and deliberate mis-labeling of the point of origin of goods made in Israeli settlements. Below is a Q&A on the bill – what it is about, and what are its prospects.
Q: Is this bill a surprise?
A: No. Given Congressional (misplaced, manipulated, supported by AIPAC) outrage over last year’s new EU’s labeling requirements for products made in settlements, it was only a matter of time before some enterprising member of Congress noticed that U.S. labeling requirements are not that different, and sought to score political points by introducing legislation mandating a change.
Q: Is Congress reacting to a new Obama Administration labeling policy?
A: No. U.S. policy since 1995 has mandated that products made in the West Bank (and Gaza) cannot be mis-labeled to show their point of origin as Israel. For comprehensive background on U.S. labeling policy (and a comparison to the EU policy) see here.
Q: What, then, is Cotton’s pretext for introducing this bill now?
A: His pretext is a notice sent out by U.S. Customs on 1/23 reminding the trade community of the labeling policy. That reminder was issued in the wake of what are reportedly numerous inquiries regarding possible violations of the Customs regulations.
Q: Have the existing regulations been controversial before now?
A: No. The government of Israel has never objected to the existing labeling requirements –not when they were adopted in 1995, or when they were amended in 1997, or anytime since then. AIPAC has never lobbied Congress to change the regulations and as recently as last month, AIPAC stated that they had no problem with the regulations.
Q: Whatever its reasons, can Congress pass legislation like this?
A: Congress can pass whatever it wants.
Q: Is there a good chance that this will pass?
A: A solo effort by Cotton (who is not considered a team player even within the GOP), without backing from AIPAC or bipartisan cosponsors , has little chance of passing. However, that doesn't mean someone more mainstream won't pick up and run with the issue, introducing their own legislation and/or attaching it to a piece of must-pass legislation (like an appropriations bill). In that case, given the (so far) extraordinary victory of AIPAC et al in framing anything focusing on settlements as a form of BDS against Israel, something like this could well be very pass. Indeed, the groundwork for legislation like this has already been laid with what have thus far been treated as non-controversial Congressional attacks on the EU for its labeling policy.
Q: What happens if it passes into law?
A: There are two ways this could go, and both end the same way. (1) If this effort passes into law on its own, the President (this one or the next) would likely veto it. He or she would do so not only because it directly contradicts longstanding U.S. policy vis-à-vis settlements, but also because it represents a clear effort by Congress to usurp the president’s constitutional authority, in effect legislating de facto U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank. If Congress somehow overturned that veto, he ro she would likely declare the measure unconstitutional. (2) If this effort passes into law as part of a piece of bigger legislation that the president doesn’t want to veto, she or he will almost certainly issue a signing statement declaring the labeling provision unconstitutional (for the reasons discussed in #1).
Q: What happens if this becomes law, on its own or as part of another bill, but the President declares it unconstitutional?
A: An outside party could sue the Administration to try to force it to implement the law. This is what happened with the famous Zivitovsky case, in which an American citizen (with the backing of major Jewish organizations and Congress) sued the U.S. government to try to force it to record the birthplace of his child, born in Jerusalem, as “Israel” in the child’s passport – contrary to consistent U.S. policy dating back to 1948 that does not recognize Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem. That case dragged on for a number of years and was ultimately taken up twice(!) by the Supreme Court. Last year, that court ruled that the case revolved around the question of who has the right – Congress or the Executive – to recognize foreign sovereignty. In its ruling, the Court confirmed with unprecedented clarity that this recognition right resides exclusively with the Executive. In this context, the President is in the strongest position at any time in history to declare unconstitutional any law passed by Congress that, through legislating labeling regulations or anything else, seeks to grant de facto U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank.
On behalf of Americans for Peace Now (APN), America’s veteran grassroots, Jewish, Zionist, pro-peace organization and the sister organization to the Israeli Peace Now movement (Shalom Achshav), I’m writing to urge your boss to refuse to cosponsor S. 2474 and oppose this bill if it is brought to a vote.
This bill, introduced by Senator Cotton (R-AR), purports to be about ensuring “fair” treatment for Israel. In reality, S. 2474 has nothing to do with treatment of Israel or of products made in Israel. Rather, it is about one thing only: reversing nearly 50 years of unbroken U.S. policy opposing Israeli settlements, by conflating Israel and Israeli settlements built in territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 war.
Cotton’s bill seeks to do so by changing longstanding U.S. rules regarding the labeling of West Bank goods – rules pre-dating the Obama Administration by more than a decade and never opposed by the government of Israel. S. 2474 seeks to give settler producers and exporters official sanction to mis-label their products as “made in Israel,” hiding from U.S. consumers the actual point of origin of these products when they are being exported to the United States, and, in effect, conferring de facto U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over settlements.
Senator Cotton’s bill does not come in a vacuum. It is part of a broader effort to exploit legitimate concerns about growing grassroots support for the BDS movement (which calls for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israel), in order to change U.S. policy on settlements. Members of Congress who truly care about Israel – those who are genuinely committed to Israel’s security, its democracy, and its character as a Jewish state – should be outraged at this cynical exploitation of their support for Israel and their concerns about BDS, and they must reject the dangerous “settlements=Israel” conflation that is at the heart of the Cotton bill and similar legislation.
- Those who adopt this conflation are, deliberately or unwittingly, playing into the hands of BDS, rather than fighting it. They are making common cause with and fueling hardliners and zealots on both sides, including in the BDS movement, who likewise refuse to distinguish between Israel and the occupied territories. They seek, instead, a zero-sum goal of one nation, be it Israel or Palestine, extending from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.
- This conflation flies in the face of nearly 5 decades of unbroken U.S. policy opposing settlements. Since 1967, every president, regardless of party, has maintained this policy. And until recently, every Congress, regardless of which party was in control, supported this policy, including in law (e.g., legislation barring Israel from using U.S. loan guarantees in areas occupied in 1967). Indeed, never before in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, until now, has there been any serious effort in Congress to legislate U.S. support for settlements.
- This conflation threatens the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Despite U.S. opposition, successive Israeli governments have continued to build in settlements for decades, eroding both the credibility and the viability of the two-state solution. An unprecedented shift in policy in Congress to now actively support settlements can only encourage further construction, undermining the chances for ever resolving this conflict.
- This conflation contradicts Congress’ commitment to negotiations as the only means of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. With S. 2474 and similar measures, Congress is seeking to use U.S. law to grant “legitimacy” to settlements and, in doing so, to impose specific elements of a solution, outside of negotiations. The future of the occupied territories – and the settlements Israel has built in them – will be determined through negotiations, not by unilateral actions by either side, nor by actions at the United Nations or by the international community, nor by acts of Congress.
- This conflation further discredits Congress and U.S. leadership in the Middle East arena – an arena in which even Israel’s closest allies– countries that have not adopted anything even resembling BDS against Israel (the EU remains Israel’s largest trading partner) – have run out of patience with Israeli leaders who talk about supporting two states but keep building settlements.
- This conflation pointlessly puts the U.S. on a collision course with its own allies. It does so not for the sake of supporting and defending Israel, but for the sake of defending settlements – settlements built in defiance of almost 50 years of U.S. policy and in contradiction to a genuine commitment by Israel’s prime minister to achieving a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
- This conflation represents an extraordinary twisting of reality. Israel and the settlements are not the same thing. Members of Congress would do well to note that Israel has never annexed the West Bank, meaning that under Israeli law, the West Bank is not considered part of Israel, and under international law and Israeli court decisions the West Bank is deemed as being held in a state of belligerent military occupation. Distinguishing between Israel and settlements is neither discrimination against nor unfair treatment of Israel. Rather, it reflects this objective reality, and is both pro-Israel and pro-peace. This is true whether talking about the new EU interpretive notice relating to settlement products, or longstanding U.S. Customs rules, or the longstanding policy of Congress that U.S. aid cannot be used in the settlements.
We are fast approaching the 50th anniversary of the 1967 War and of the occupation. As this anniversary nears, the situation on the ground grows more and more dire. Israeli security authorities recognize that actions by the Israeli military and law enforcement, alone, will not suffice to end the violence. Now, more than ever, they recognize the urgency of re-establishing a horizon for a political solution – a two-state solution – to the conflict. While such a solution may not be within reach today, it can and must be in the future, but it won’t be if the Green Line (the line separating between Israel and the West Bank), has been erased.
For the sake of Israel and the hopes of ever achieving a two-state resolution to this conflict, it is critical that members of Congress who care about Israel – including your boss – refuse to accept the dangerous conflation of Israel and the settlements. Members of Congress who care about Israel must not permit opposition to BDS to be used as cover for legislation that seeks to erase the Green Line and reverse 48 years of consistent, non-partisan U.S. opposition to settlements.
2/11: The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “Iran Nuclear Deal Oversight: Implementation and its Consequences.” Witnessed announced so far are: Steve Mull, Lead Coordinator for Iran Nuclear Implementation, U.S. Department of State; and John Smith, Acting Director, Office of Foreign Assets Control, U.S. Department of the Treasury.
2/11: The House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “The Future of Iranian Terror and Its Threat to the US Homeland.” No details on witnesses are available at this time.
2/10: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a business meeting to consider S. Res. 99, A resolution calling on the Government of Iran to fulfill its promises of assistance in the case of Robert Levinson, the longest held United States civilian in our Nation's history, with amendments
2/10: The House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “National Security and Law Enforcement: Breaking the New Visa Waiver Law to Appease Iran.” No details on witnesses are available at this time.
2/9: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a CLOSED hearing (TS/SCI) entitled, “Administration Update on the Way Forward in Syria and Iraq.” The briefer will be Brett McGurk Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL.
2/3 (rescheduled from 1/26): The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats held a hearing entitled, “Turkey: Political Trends in 2016.” Witnesses were: Nate Schenkkan, Freedom House (statement); Gonul Tol, Middle East Institute (statement); and Ali Cinar, Assembly of Turkish American Associations (statement). Video of the hearing is unavailable as of this writing.
2/2 (rescheduled from 1/27): The House Oversight Committee’s Subcommittee on National Security held a hearing entitled, “Seeking Justice for Victims of Palestinian Terrorism in Israel.” Witnesses were: Brad Wiegmann, DOJ Deputy Assistant Attorney General, National Security Division (no written statement); Sarri Singer, “Strength to Strength,” (statement); Peter Schwartz, uncle of victim (statement); and Arnold Roth, father of victim (statement). Statements were also invited/submitted for the record from Sherri Mandel (mother of victim), National Council of Young Israel, Alan Bauer (victim and father of victim), and Mark Sokolow (victim, along with his family). Video of the hearing is here.
Pompeo (R-KS), Zeldin (R-NY), and LoBiondo (R-NJ) 2/4: Press release, “Pompeo, Zeldin, LoBiondo Seek Travel to Iran to Meet with American Hostages, Observe Elections, Visit Nuclear Facilities”
McCain (R-AZ) & Graham (R-SC) colloquy 2/4: On “American Leadership and Syria” (taking shots at Iran policy, etc)
Coons (D-DE) 2/4: Floor speech on the details of the nuclear deal with Iran (achievements, challenges going forward)
Babin (R-TX) 2/4: Slamming the Obama Administration’s handling of Iran
Murphy (D-CT) 2/3: “…I want to talk about
the fight that is on across the world--or particularly in the Middle East for the soul of Islam and how it matters
to the United States--and I want to talk about our relationship with Saudi Arabia and the connection to the former
Blunt (R-MO) 2/3: Attacking Obama Administration over JCPOA and post-JCPOA actions on Iran, including $1.7 billion payment.
Poe (R-TX) 2/3: Slamming Obama Admin for planning to waive new Iran-related visa restrictions
LaMalfa (R-CA) 2/3: On Iran and the JCPOA: “The Obama administration has already made too many of these concessions. We can still prevent sanctions relief from ending up in the pockets of terrorists.”
Rohrabacher (R-CA) 2/3: Making a pitch for his bill, HR. 4017, the “Save Christians from Genocide Act” and railing against Obama Admin Mideast policy (Excerpt: “…General el-Sisi has worked with Israel. He has gone out of his way to make sure there isn't war between Israel and Egypt. What could be better than a man who is reaching out, asking for tolerance among all faiths, a man who reaches out to a country where they have been at war before and is trying to say: We will never be at war again, we will work together to build a better world. That is what he is doing. But that is what our President is trying to undermine…”)
Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 2/3: Remembering IDF Lt. Hadar Goldin, “We must demand Hadar's return home and support the Goldin family in its efforts to give Hadar a proper burial and put an end to this nightmare.”
Moulton (D-MA) 2/2: Foreign Policy address at Council on Foreign Relations, including on Iran and Israel
McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) 2/2: “…I have repeatedly urged the Obama administration to secure a better deal with Iran — and not only has the administration failed to deliver, it also refuses to acknowledge the grave threats facing the world today, some of the worst created by Iran…”
Gohmert (R-TX) 2/2: Rambling floor consisting of reading aloud a 2/2 article in the Washington Free Beacon entitled, “The Obama Administration Has Not Prosecuted a Single Palestinian Terrorist Who Killed Americans,” and then shifting to Iran, Benghazi, Afghanistan, etc..
Wilson (R-SC) 2/2: Iranian nuclear deal supports terrorism (“I am grateful to cosponsor the bipartisan Zero Tolerance for Terror Act”).
Gohmert (R-TX) 12/30: Interviewed in World Net Daily, headline: “Congressman looks to courts to stop Iran ‘treaty’”
Carper (D-DE) 1/28: “… Over the past couple of weeks, the Obama administration's decision to engage with Iran, along with these other five nations, through diplomacy instead of military action has faced key tests. The results are in, and the agreement that we struck--the United States, the Brits, the Germans, the French, the Chinese, the Russians, and the Iranians--appears to be working thus far, and, God willing, we may actually be on our way to being safe as a result.”
Colloquy on JCPOA implementation and enforcement 1/27 - Coons (D-DE), Shaheen (D-NH), Booker (D-NJ), Murphy (D-CT), Casey (D-PA),and Kaine (D-VA)
Barrasso (R-WY) 1/28: Making the case for greater U.S. LNG exports: “… The Obama administration, as of right now, is shackling American natural gas, shackling the production, shackling the export. At the same time, the President, through his agreement with Iran, is enabling Iran to move forward and seek ways to ship out gas as sanctions ease.”
Moran (R-KS) 1/28: Making the case for his bill, S. 2452, arguing “… What makes no sense to me is that the Obama administration would agree to pay the Iranian Government $1.7 billion without concurrently resolving the issues of what Iran should pay U.S. citizens. It makes no sense to me that we are not withholding the payment of that $1.7 billion until Iran pays American citizens the judgment amounts owed to them for their country's terrorist attacks.”
Ayotte (R-NH) 1/21: Press conference on Iran (video)