Legislative Round-up: August 10, 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, Resolution, & Letters
2. On the Record


1. Bills & Resolutions, & Letters

(WISH LIST OF VIRTUALLY EVERYTHING ANYONE COULD THINK OF FOR ISRAEL) S. 2497: Introduced in the Senate 3/5 by Rubio (R-FL) and Coons (D-DE), and currently having 72 cosponsors, the “United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2018.” On 8/1, the bill was passed by the Senate, with an amendment, by a voice vote, and sent to the House (it is worth noting that the amendment added a new report requirement that, when satisfied, will lay out additional areas of US-Israel cooperation to be funded). On 8/3, the House referred the bill to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Committee on Armed Services, and the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. Statements applauding Senate passage: Menendez (D-NJ), Rubio (R-FL)
(“HUMAN SHIELDS” AS HOOK TO TARGET HAMAS, HEZBOLLAH, ETC) S. 3257: Introduced 7/24 by Cruz (R-TX) and having 14 cosponsors (11R, 3D), the  “STOP Using Human Shields Act.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. This bill is being actively lobbied by AIPAC (website, Twitter). For analysis, see the 7/27/18 edition of the Round-Up. [Note: Weirdly, S. 3257 shows up in the Record as having been introduced on 7/24, but didn’t actually appear in the Record until this week. Press releases (like this one) touting the bill the week of July 24 included no bill number and a pdf of the text]. It is worth reiterating that:

  • the primary objective of the bill – as made clear by the cosponsors quotes – appears to be to establish as a matter of U.S. law that responsibility for Israel killing any civilians in Gaza falls 100% on Hamas [bearing in mind that given the size and population density of Gaza, there is virtually no way that Hamas could exist or operate in Gaza that would not be characterized by Israel as involving the use of human shields] – and to make it a U.S. priority to get the international community to adopt this same position.
  • The secondary purpose appears to be to ensure that in the event that Israel engages in future military action in Lebanon, it is already established in U.S. law that responsibility for Israel killing any civilians in Lebanon falls 100% on Hezbollah.
  • A tertiary purpose may be to establish in U.S. law the broader principle – one that discards international laws of war regarding distinction (between combatants and civilians) and proportionality -holding that where “lawful armed forces” (Israel, American, Saudi, or whomever) are engaged in military actions in a context where FTOs are operating (say, in Syria, Yemen, Iran, or wherever), responsibility for the deaths of civilians automatically falls on the relevant FTO.

(ATTACKING UNRWA, YET AGAIN) Zeldin-Perry letter to GAO: On 8/6, Reps. Zeldin (R-NY) and Perry (R-PA) sent a letter to the State Department to “formally request a Mandatory Declassification Review” of the report entitled, “West Bank and Gaza: State Monitors Textbook Content but Should Improve its Reporting to Congress.” The authors apparently don’t need to actually read it to know what it contains, based on Zeldin’s tweet on the letter (sent out at 10pm on August 8), which read:“ Kids in Gaza, the West Bank & E Jerusalem are using UNRWA textbooks brainwashing them negatively re history, Israel & Judaism. The GAO issued a classified report on these textbooks. @RepScottPerry & I just requested a declassification review of the report to expose the truth.”
(RESTORE GAZA AID) Feinstein et al letter to Pompeo: On 8/3, a group of 10 senators – Feinstein (D-CA), Leahy (D-VT), Durbin (D-IL), Brown (D-OH), Carper (D-DE), Sanders (I-VT), Warren (D-MA), Merkley (D-OR), and Van Hollen (D-MD) – sent a letter to Defense Secretary Pompeo and USAID Administrator Green urging the Trump Administration to “release funds for existing programs and projects that could immediately benefit Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip as well as restore U.S. support for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).” Press release is here.
(THREATENING EUROPE OVER IRAN) Cruz et al letter: On 7/26, a group of 10 GOP senators – Cruz (R-TX), Rubio (R-FL), Lee (R-UT), Cotton (R-AR), Perdue (R-GA), Sasse (R-NE), Daines (R-MT), Enzi (R-WY), Rounds (R-SD), and Sullivan (R-AL) – sent a letter to the ambassadors in the U.S. of the UK, France and Germany. The letter highlights concerns that European governments are discussing “contingencies in which your governments would develop mechanisms for evading and undermining the American sanctions that were waived by the JCPOA and are now coming back into force.” The letter warns against Europe doing so – in effect suggesting that in the view of these senators, sovereign European governments have no right to pursue their own independent foreign policies on Iran pursuit. The letter’s warning is coupled with a threat that “Any attempt to evade or undermine” U.S. Iran policies “could well prompt Congressional action, in coordination with other elements in the U.S. government, to ensure their integrity.” Press release is here.

2. On the Record

Commending Trump Admin for Reinstating Iran sanctions: Gaetz (R-FL), Lance (R-NJ), Rubio (R-FL), Perdue (R-GA), Inhofe (R-OK), Cruz (R-TX – “America Must Do Everything Possible to Support the Iranian People, Including Fully Enforcing All American Sanctions”), Hoeven (R-ND), Barletta (R-PA), Cramer (R-ND), Wilson (R-SC), Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Donovan (R-NY), Meadows (R-NC)
Curbelo (R-FL) 8/10: Tweet slamming Columbia’s decision to recognize Palestine as a soverign state
Lowey (D-NY) 8/10: Tweets thread slamming Hamas for attacking Israel and reiterating Israel’s right to defend itself
Deutch (D-FL) 8/9: Tweet slamming Hamas, reiterating Israel’s right to defend itself
Hastings (D-FL) 8/9: Tweet slamming Hamas, reiterating Israel’s right to defend itself
Engel (D-NY) 8/9: Statement on Hamas Attacks [“…The situation in Gaza is heartbreaking, but completely avoidable if Hamas were to change its behavior. Every day that Hamas clings to power, it risks the lives of Gazans and blames Israel for Gaza’s misery…”]
Granger (R-TX) 8/9: FB post slamming Hamas and standing with Israel
Fitzpatrick (R-PA) 8/9: Tweet standing with Israel, slamming Hamas
McSally (R-AZ) 8/8: Tweet: “Congratulations to “Maj. G,” on becoming Israel's 1st female fighter squadron commander. Having been the 1st female to command a US fighter squadron, I am proud to see Israel reach this milestone. Sometimes the best man for the job is a woman!”
Durbin (D-IL) 8/6: “The nuclear agreement with Iran has worked, and continues to work.  For years, it has allowed inspectors on the ground to verify that Iran’s nuclear activities no longer threaten the world.  I have long opposed this Administration’s irrational hostility to this agreement.  Today’s actions, yet again, put the U.S. in violation of this deal.  It risks reopening a resolved conflict, and will divide us further from our European allies.  President Trump’s foreign policy is a dangerous gamble with nuclear weapons.”
Cicilline (D-RI) 8/6: “Ensuring that Iran never has the ability to develop and use a nuclear weapon is essential to the security of the United States and to the peace and stability of the entire world. The Iran Deal prevented Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, and the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from this agreement was reckless and short-sighted. It’s clear that President Trump did so without a plan for what comes next. The imposition of sanctions by the prior administration is what brought Iran to the negotiating table in the first place and led to the historic agreement with Iran. President Trump's decision to impose new sanctions today does nothing to prevent Iran from proceeding with its nuclear program, nor does it advance our national security interests.”
Coons (D-DE) 8/2: Senate passes Coons, Rubio bill to enhance U.S. Security Assistance to Israel
Engel (D-NY) 7/31: “Engel Statement On Trump Administration’s Iran Policy Confusion”
Hill (R-AR) 7/30: Article in Egypt Today, “U.S. International Religious Freedom praises religious freedom in Egypt” (Sisi, “met with U.S. Congressmen Chris Smith, French Hill, and Dave Trott, who expressed their appreciation of Sisi’s efforts in combating extremism and facilitating the necessary approval requirements to build new churches and to construct the biggest cathedral in the Middle East in the New Administrative Capital.”)
Sessions (R-TX) 7/30: Blog on his meeting with CUFI
Schneider (D-IL) 7/30: Schneider Amendments to Support Small Business Research and Hold Iran Accountable included in Final Passage of National Defense Authorization Act