Legislative Round-up: September 7, 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 & Letters

(KILLING UNRWA) S. 3425: Introduced 9/6 by Lankford (R-OK) and no cosponsors, A bill to redirect United States funding from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East to other entities providing assistance to Palestinians living in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon,” aka the “Palestinian Assistance Reform Act.” Referred to Foreign Relations Committee. Lankford press release (including link to pdf of text) is here. Note: This bill text was circulating on the Hill during much of the summer (referenced in this article on UNRWA-focused attacks). despite this, it appears Lankford was unable to find anyone, from either party, to cosponsor its introduction.

(MORE US-ISRAEL MILITARY COOPERATION) HR 6725: Introduced 9/6 by Lieu (D-CA) and Stefanik (R-NY), “To authorize the Secretary of Defense, upon request of the Ministry of Defense of Israel and with the concurrence of the Secretary of State, to carry out research, development, test, and evaluation activities, on a joint basis with Israel, to establish directed energy capabilities that address threats to the United States, deployed forces of the United States, or Israel, and for other purposes,” aka the “U.S.-Israel Directed Energy Cooperation Act.” Referred to the Committee on Armed Services and Committee on Foreign Affairs. Lieu press release is here; Stefanik press release is here. PDF of the bill text is here.

Letters

(GIULIANI FARA VIOLATIONS?) Udall et al letter to DOJ: On 9/5, Senator Udall (D-NM) led a letter, co-signed by 6 fellow Democratic senators, highlighting media reports regarding the myriad relationships between that President Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and various foreign governments. These relationships, and Giuliani’s unique access to Trump and other top officials, raise serious concerns about possible lobbying activities and violation of FARA requirements. Among other things, the letter notes Giuliani’s lobbying on behalf of the MEK. The letter closes noting: “Given Mr. Giuliani’s ongoing relationships with foreign governments as well as his concurrent representation of the President, we hope you will agree this situation merits immediate attention.”

(CERTIFICATION OR REPORT ON HUMANITARIAN CRISIS AND WAR IN YEMEN) Young-Shaheen letter to Pompeo: On 8/29, Senators Young (R-IN) and Shaheen (D-NH) led a bipartisan letter (2 GOP signers, 7 Dem signers) to SecState Pompeo, drawing his attention to the fact that “Section 1290 [of the new NDAA] provides leverage that the administration can use to hold our security partners accountable to their commitments and further U.S. interests, principles, and objectives in Yemen. Within 30 days, this statute requires you to submit a certification to Congress regarding the actions of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in Yemen.” The letter goes on to note that “the provision provides a national security waiver. However, if you utilize this waiver, we look forward to reviewing the report as required in subsection (a)(2)(B). In accordance with the law, we look forward to reviewing your written, detailed, and unclassified certification no later than September 12, 2018.” Press release is here.

 

2. Hearings

September 13: The House Committee on Foreign Affairs will hold a hearing entitled, “Oversight of U.S. Sanctions Policy.” Scheduled witnesses (so far) are: Manisha Singh, Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs, and Marshall Billingslea, Assistant Secretary of Treasury for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes. Hearing notice is here; Royce (R-CA) comment: “U.S sanctions are critical to fighting terrorism, stopping Iran and North Korea from developing nuclear weapons and countering Russian aggression. This committee has long played a leadership role in advancing legislation to support and direct U.S. sanctions, but their effectiveness relies on successful implementation. This hearing will give members the opportunity to hear from the administration on their efforts to enforce and implement the existing sanctions tools congress has already provided.”

September 7: The House Financial Services Committee held a hearing entitled, “Survey of Terrorist Groups and Their Means of Financing.” Witnesses were:  Katherine Bauer, WINEP (testimony); Colin Clarke, RAND (testimony); Yaya Fanusie, FDD (testimony); Oren Segal, ADL (testimony);  and Ali Soufan, The Soufan Center (testimony). Video of the hearing is here. The committee memorandum announcing/framing the hearing is here.

 

3. On the Record

NOTE: AIPAC was active this week meeting with members of Congress (something we know about thanks to Twitter). These meetings included: McKinley (R-WV); O’Rourke (D-TX); Joyce (R-OH); Sires (D-NJ); Isakson (R-GA); McCaul (R-TX); Duncan (R-CA); Pallone (D-NJ); Capito (R-WV); Manchin (R-WV); Suozzi (D-NY), and Rubio (R-FL).

Courtney (D-CT) 9/6: Twitter – “I oppose the Trump administration’s decision to halt US funding for @UNRWA humanitarian aid. These senseless cuts will worsen the dire situation for Palestinians in Gaza and will exacerbate security issues for Israel. I have joined with colleagues to oppose these funding cuts.”

Graham (R-SC) 9/5: Twitter – “I received a call this morning from the @IsraeliPM Benjamin @Netanyahu. I appreciate the Prime Minister for calling today to express his condolences on the passing of @SenJohnMcCain.”

Doggett (D-TX) 9/5: Twitter – “Trump’s decision to eliminate funding to Palestinian refugees is deeply destabilizing, harms Israeli security, & hurt the most vulnerable. Again, Trump breaks w/ traditional U.S. role, damaging prospects for peace & bringing about more suffering—not less.”

Cruz (R-TX) 9/5: Comments on Israel in speech at Act for America conference [excerpt: “I don’t believe we will ever see a real peace, unless and until the Palestinian leadership number one, acknowledges Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, and number two, renounces terrorism. As long as they remain in a unity government with Hamas, an avowed terrorist organization, peace is not to be had.” 

Lipinski (D-IL) 9/4: press release - Trump Administration Moving Away From a Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Lowey (D-NY) 8/28: Lowey Statement on Administration’s $200M Cut in Aid to West Bank and Gaza

Barletta (R-PA) 8/31: Recognizing The Zionist Organization of America Greater Philadelphia Chapter's 2018 Gala

Lamborn (R-CO) 8/31: "I am pleased with the Administration's decision to end funding for UNWRA. I've looked into this issue for many years. UNRWA schools incite Palestinian children to commit terror attacks against Israel, rockets have been fired from UNRWA hospitals, and UNRWA has even employed Hamas terrorists. For too long, U.S. taxpayer dollars have funded an overseas program that doesn't fulfill its original mission and actually perpetuates the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. That is why I introduced the UNRWA Reform and Refugee Support Act in July which called for cuts and reform to UNRWA. I look forward to continue working with the Administration on this important issue."

Kaine (D-VA) 8/31: “The Trump Administration continues to undermine the peace process and move us further away from the possibility of a two-state solution. Ending U.S. funding, especially against the recommendation of Israeli defense officials, will be devastating to the lives of millions of Palestinians – 526,000 of which are students in UNRWA schools.  It will also strengthen Hamas’ hand and increase instability in a region already reeling from wars and humanitarian crises. The Administration has deeply compromised the U.S. role as a broker of peace, and that should worry all of us who care about Israel and the Palestinians.”

Feinstein (D-CA) 8/27: “President Trump’s decision to cut nearly all humanitarian aid to Gaza and the West Bank shows how little he cares about the Palestinian people. Cutting U.S. assistance is a huge mistake that will undermine the Palestinian Authority, further empower extremists like Hamas and make peace even harder to achieve. The living conditions in Gaza in particular have become a humanitarian crisis. Stopping vital funding for health care, water sanitization, education and infrastructure will only make an already volatile situation worse. If the president follows through with this decision, it will continue to make it impossible for the United States to act as a neutral arbiter between the Israelis and Palestinians. It shows the Trump administration won’t honor U.S. commitments and has completely abandoned the peace process. Instead of using assistance as a cudgel against the Palestinian Authority, the president should reverse course and defuse this humanitarian crisis.

Woodall (R-GA) 8/27: Rob Woodall Receives the Friend of Israel Award

Capuano (D-MA) 8/25: “I met with constituents who are active in AIPAC… We also discussed HR 1697, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act. I told them, as they well knew, that I am opposed to the BDS, Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction Movement, and had fought divestment locally. I could not, however, support this bill. I object on First Amendment grounds because it imposes penalties for advocacy. We then spoke, candidly, about the policies of President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu. I expressed my concern that moving the United States Embassy would needlessly embitter our relations with states that might, otherwise, be helpful in supporting a two-state solution. I also noted my fear that settlement construction in the West Bank would make lasting peace more difficult…”

Kaine (D-VA) 8/25: “The President’s decision to cut U.S. assistance to the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza is cruel and reckless.  Without this funding, the humanitarian crisis will surely be exacerbated, leaving millions in desperation while undermining the security of Israel.  There is no justifiable reason to stop this funding for basic human needs like water and health care, especially given the close vetting it receives to prevent Hamas from benefiting. The President’s careless decisions in the region continue to undue all attempts at peaceful negotiations.”

Leahy (D-VT) 8/24: “After a year and eight months in office, President Trump has yet to announce anything remotely resembling a coherent policy to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Instead, the White House has engaged in a series of provocative and harmful acts which have exacerbated tensions and set back prospects for constructive negotiations.  Inhabitants of Gaza are already suffering severe hardships under the tyranny of Hamas and border restrictions imposed by Israel.  It is the Palestinian people, virtual prisoners in an increasingly volatile conflict, who will most directly suffer the consequences of this callous and ill-advised attempt to respond to Israel’s security concerns.”

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