Legislative Round-up: October 4, 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. Hearings
3. On the Record

1. Bills & Resolutions, & Letters

(MAKING IT EASIER TO USE U.S. COURTS TO GO AFTER PA/PLO & GOVERNMENTS AROUND THE WORLD) S. 2946: On 10/3/18, President Trump signed into law S. 2946, the bipartisan “Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act of 2018,” which passed in both the House and Senate by voice votes and sent to the President on 9/24 (covered repeatedly in past editions of the Round-Up). This bill becoming law is a very, very big deal, for a number of reasons (as laid out by me in this Twitter thread). In brief:

  • As noted in previous Round-Ups, this law amends existing U.S. law to facilitate American citizens in bring terror lawsuits in U.S. courts against the PLO/PA, by establishing “personal jurisdiction.” The bill is in large measure a reaction to a case known as Sokolow v. PLO, in which an effort by U.S. citizens to sue the PLO/PA under U.S. anti-terror laws was thwarted (the connection to Sokolow v. PLO has been repeatedly noted in floor statements and press releases from backers of the bill). 
  • S. 2946 achieves this by making it U.S. law that parties “consent” to personal jurisdiction if they accept U.S. economic aid, international narcotics control & law enforcement aid (INCLE), or non-proliferation aid (NADR); or if they benefit from (the PLO-specific) waiver of (PLO-specific) law that until recently let the PLO maintain a representative office in Washington.
  • What does this mean for the PLO and PA? The provision related to the PLO waiver is now irrelevant, given that the Trump Administration rescinded the waiver back in November 2017 (it then allowed the mission to stay open, in violation of the law, until last month, when it announced it was ejecting the PLO from the United States). Likewise, the provisions related to economic aid and NADR are irrelevant, at least for now, since the Trump Administration has frozen all non-security aid to the Palestinians.
  • HOWEVER, the Trump Administration has preserved one category of aid to the PA – i.e., security aid that funds Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation. Which is comes in the form of INCLE. Meaning that the INCLE provision is extremely relevant.
  • With S. 2946 now law, if anytime starting 120 days from yesterday the PA accepts a single dollar of INCLE from the U.S., it will be opening itself (and by extension, the PLO) to personal lawsuits in U.S. courts that will be designed to bankrupt them out of existence. In this context, the chances of the PA henceforth accepting INCLE are low, making continued PA-Israel security cooperation doubtful.
  • But this is actually an even bigger deal than that. In fact, it is a really, really big deal, since this law will fundamentally undercut US foreign aid worldwide. Because under this law, ANY country that accepts even one dollar of U.S. economic aid, INCLE, or NADR will open the door for private U.S. lawsuits, in which U.S. courts could impose massive fines & seize national assets to satisfy rulings.
  • This creates a huge risk for a range of U.S. allies/partners who receive U.S. aid, in the Mideast & beyond (most conspicuously, but not limited to, Jordan & Egypt). Notably, while the new law has huge potential impacts on most U.S. aid recipients, it has no potential impact on Israel, because, either by fortuitous happenstance or by design, Israel doesn’t receive any of the kinds of aid stipulated in this new law – Israel gets military aid (FMF), refugee aid (MRA), plus DOD funding – for details of all US aid to Israel, see the latest CRS report, here.
  • In short, with passage of this law, it appears that Congress – in its zeal to stick it to the PA/PLO – has either accidentally undercut or deliberately sacrificed U.S. aid as a tool of US policy worldwide.

(EVEN MORE US-ISRAEL SECURITY COOPERATION) HR 6998 (pdf of text): Introduced 9/28 by Meadows (R-NC), Schneider (D-IL), and Lamborn (R-CO) [having a total of 10 cosponsors, 1D and 10R), “to support security and law enforcement training and cooperation between the United States and Israel,” aka, the “U.S. - Israel Cooperation Expansion Act.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Press release is here.
(CONCERNS ABOUT KSA NUCLEAR PROGRAM) HR 6894: Introduced 9/25 by Scott (D-IL) and Meadows (R-NC), “To require a report on Saudi Arabia obtaining nuclear fuel enrichment capabilities.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Press release is here.
(STANDING WITH KINGDOM OF MOROCCO) H. Res. 1101: Introduced 9/28 by Wilson (R-SC), Connolly (D-VA) and Curbelo (R-FL), “Affirming the historical relationship between the United States and the Kingdom of Morocco, condemning the recent provocative actions of the Polisario Front and its foreign supporters, and encouraging efforts by the United Nations to reach a peaceful resolution of the Western Sahara conflict.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Wilson press release is here.


(RESTORE US WBG AID/UNRWA FUNDING) Price-Welch-Smith et al letter to Pompeo: On 9/28, Reps. Price (D-NC), Welch (D-VT), and Smith (D-WA) led a letter, cosigned by 109 fellow House Democrats, to Secretary of State Pompeo. The letter urges the Trump Administration to “reverse its decisions to end vital United States contributions to the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) and to reprogram bilateral foreign aid away from the West Bank and Gaza.” Press release is here.
(FREE SPEECH? MEH. DOE MOST NOT LET PROFESSORS BOYCOTT ISRAEL) House GOP letter to Secretary DeVos: On 9/27, Rep. Budd (R-NC) led a letter, cosigned by Reps. Gohmert (R-TX), Lamborn (R-CO), Weber (R-TX), Zeldin (R-NY), and Norman (R-SC), to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, articulating concerns about a professor at the University of Michigan declined to write a letter of recommendation for a student for a study abroad program in Israel, as part of an academic boycott of Israel. The letter implies that since the professor is employed by a university that receives federal funding, the U.S. government legally has a say in what he can and cannot do in this regard. The letter closes with a request to DeVos to, “reaffirm the department’s [of Education] support for Israel and ensure that instances like the one at the University of Michigan are not occurring elsewhere on campuses throughout the country. The relationship between the United States and Israel is as strong as it’s ever been, and we must take every step to make sure it stays that way.” Budd tweet is here; press release is here.
2. Hearings

October 2: The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing entitled, “
The Global Crisis of Religious Freedom: the Stakes for America and the World.” Witnesses were Thomas Farr, Religious Freedom Institute (testimony - with lots of focus on Middle East);  Bob Fu, ChinaAid Association (testimony); and Amanda Tyler,  Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (testimony). Video of the hearing is here.
[postponed] October 2: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “Russia's Role in Syria and the Broader Middle East.” Scheduled witnesses are James Jeffrey, Special Representative for Syria Engagement for the Department of State; and Robert Karam, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, Department of Defense.

3. On the Record

Cruz (R-TX) 10/3: Tweet – “Important article on the strategic and diplomatic importance of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. I’ve long called for acknowledging the reality of that sovereignty. --> https://t.co/6FmdKuROE2
Cotton (R-AR)10/3: Iran’s Case in United Nations’ Court is ‘Baseless’