Legislative Round-up - June 15, 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. Hearings
  3. On the Record

1. Bills & Resolutions

(OUTLAWING BOYCOTTS OF ISRAEL) HR 6095: Introduced 6/13 by De Santis (R-FL) and Goodlatte (R-VA), “To prohibit the boycotting of countries friendly to the United States, and for other purposes,” aka, the “the Export Administration Anti-Discrimination Act (EEADA).” DeSantis’s press release is here. The press release, which makes clear that the sole purpose of the bill is to shield Israel (and, no doubt, settlements) from boycotts, notes that the bill includes provisions: “Expanding the scope of prohibited conduct from boycotts imposed by foreign countries to all boycotts of a nation not subject to U.S. sanctions, regardless of the boycott’s origin; Creating a private right of action for those harmed by unlawful boycotts; and Permanently enacting the anti-boycott protections in the EAA that are presently only enforced by Executive Order.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and in addition to the Committee on Education and the Workforce.

(EVERY DAY IS A GOOD DAY TO TARGET UNRWA & PA) HR 6034: [covered in last week’s Round-Up, but now there is text] Introduced 6/7 by Young (R-IA), Gottheimer (D-NJ), Roskam (R-IL), and Sherman (D-CA), the “Palestinian Authority Educational Curriculum Transparency Act.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Young tweeted about the bill on 6/8: “The Palestinian Authority uses children's textbooks to teach violence and demonize Israel. Yesterday, @RepJoshG and I introduced a bill that will shed light on this dangerous practice https://goo.gl/uBVq2F “ [the replies suggest his Twitter followers are not enthusiastic about his effort].

(FY19 STATE & FOROPS BILL) HR XXXX: This week the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs marked up the FY19 State & Foreign Operations Appropriations bill. The base text is here. The full committee is scheduled to markup the bill on 6/20. Next week’s Round-Up will include a comprehensive analysis of Middle East-related elements in the bill. Also note: The Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs is scheduled to markup up the Senate version of the FY19 State and Foreign Ops bill on 6/19.

(FY19 DEFENSE APPROPS BILL) HR XXXX: On 6/13, the House Appropriations Committee approved the subcommittee draft of the FY 19 Defense Appropriations bill by a vote of 48-4. Bill summary is here; report is here; text of the bill is here. The bill earmarks $70 million for Iron Dome, $187 million for the SRBMD program, $80 million for the Arrow program. The report notes that under Title II of the bill, the committee recommends $200 million for the Israeli Cooperative Programs under the Missile Defense Agency, and under title IV, the committee recommends $300 million for the Israeli Cooperative Programs under the Missile Defense Agency. The report notes, too, that the committee “directs the Secretary of the Army to provide a report to the congressional defense committees not later than 90 days after the enactment of this Act that details the possible integration of the Iron Dome system into the Army air and missile defense architecture and an acquisition strategy that includes cost and schedule.”

(NUCLEAR COOPERATION WITH KSA) S. Res. 541: Introduced 6/12 by Merkley (D-OR) along with Paul (R-KY) and Markey (D-MA), “ A resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that any United States-Saudi Arabia civilian nuclear cooperation agreement must prohibit the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from enriching uranium or separating plutonium on its own territory, in keeping with the strongest possible nonproliferation ‘gold standard.’” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.

(GOING AFTER TERRORISTS) HR 5954: Introduced 5/24 by Goodlatte (R-VA) and Nadler (D-NY), and 6 bipartisan cosponsors – the “Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act of 2018.” (Senate companion is S. 2946). As noted in the 5/24 edition of the Round-Up, the purpose of this bill is to make it easier for Americans to sue, and obtain judgments against, Palestinians and Iran, and is directly linked the Sokolow v. Palestine Liberation Organization case. On 6/13, the House Judiciary Committee marked up and passed HR 5954, clearing the way for it to move to the House floor. Nadler statement on the markup is here; Goodlatte statement is here.


(NO F-35s FOR TURKEY) Sarbanes et al letter to Mattis: On 6/14, Rep. Sarbanes (D-MD) led a bipartisan group of 44 Members of Congress in urging Defense Secretary Mattis to block the sale and delivery of the F-35 Lightning II fighter jet to Turkey. Press release is here.

(YEMEN CRISIS) Corker-Menendez letter to Pomeo & Mattis: On 6/12, Sens. Corker (R-TN) and Menendez (D-NJ) sent a letter to Secretary of State Pompeo and Secretary Defense Mattis raising concerns over a reported imminent military operation by the Emirati-led coalition to seize the port of Hudaydah. Press release is here.

(WHY IS THE PLO OFFICE IN DC STILL OPEN?) Cruz/Ros-Lehtinen letter to Pompeo & Sessions: On 6/7, Sen. Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) sent a letter to Secretary of State Pompeo and Attorney General Sessions challenging the continued operations of the PLO’s representative office in Washington, DC and requesting answers to a series of questions regarding the reasons why it has not yet been closed, consistent with U.S. law. Press release is here.


2. Hearings

June 14: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing to consider the nomination of David Schenker to be the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs. Schenker’s written testimony is here. Video of the hearing is here. Chairman Corker’s (R-TN) statement is here. Ranking Member Menendez’s (D-NJ) statement is here.
June 14: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’ held a hearing entitled, “Democracy Promotion in a Challenging World.” Witnesses were: Carl Gershman, National Endowment for Democracy (statement); Daniel Twining, International Republican Institute (statement); and Kenneth Wollack, National Democratic Institute (statement). Video is here. And congratulations, House Foreign Affairs Committee, on holding another all-male, all-white panel.

June 13: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa held a hearing entitled, “The Middle East and North Africa: Ensuring Resources Match Objectives.” Witnesses were: David Satterfield, acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs (statement); and Hallam Ferguson, Senior Deputy Assistant USAID Administrator in the Bureau for the Middle East (statement). Chairwoman Ros-Lehtinen’s (R-FL) opening statement is here. Video is here, which is well worth watching in full.  Overall the Q&A’s are agonizing to watch, as Satterfield – an accomplished and respected career diplomat – delivers responses on Gaza, Yemen, and Syria that are detached, robotic, and defensive as he seeks to respond to Members’ questions while faithfully communicating nearly incoherent Trump Administration policies and talking points (one is tempted to watch his blinking to see if he sending out a silent plea for rescue as he is forced to delivers these responses, especially in the final few questions).

Highlights related to Israel-Palestine:

  • DeSantis (R-FL) calling for the US to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan;
  • Satterfield reciting U.S./Israeli talking points blaming Hamas for the misery in Gaza and denying that there is a freeze on humanitarian funding (a denial that was factually clarified by his USAID colleague; Satterfield was challenged on this issue by multiple members; his responses in every instance were painfully awkward and left Members visibly frustrated);
  • Zeldin (R-NY) agreeing with Satterfield that everything in Gaza is the fault of Hamas, and going after UNRWA textbooks, including for “not teaching their children about Judaism” (seriously)
  • Satterfield’s response to Zeldin in effect suggesting that over many years of concern about textbooks and incitement, nothing has been done to improve the situation.
  • Notably: Satterfield’s response on UNRWA suggests that the Administration is wholly on board with an effort to fundamentally change UNRWA’s mandate and operations.


3. On the Record

Royce (R-CA) 6/14: Statement “after the president released approximately $6.6 million in frozen funds for the White Helmets and the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism in Syria”

Tillis (R-NC) 6/13: Calling for the Release of Pastor Andrew Brunson

Poe (R-TX) 6/8: The Treasury Department Officials Encouraged Banks to Violate the Law