Legislative Round-Up: September 13, 2019

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. More on Recess Travel to Israel
  3. On the Record 

Shameless plug: My latest analysis, published in the Times of Israel: Opposing Annexation Is Not Enough Key excerpt: “opposition to Israel’s potential annexation of a large swathe of land in the West Bank seems to stem from a fear of losing the prevailing paradigm — the one  which holds that the West Bank is still held in a state of “temporary occupation,” with its permanent status to be resolved someday, but only through negotiations.This occupation paradigm still stands, 52 years after the 1967 War and 26 years after the start of the Oslo peace process, despite the fact that it has become nothing more than a fig leaf covering up Israel’s de facto annexation of the West Bank. That fig leaf has proven invaluable to those who want to shield Israel from criticism for its policies and inoculate Israel from concrete pressure to change its behavior. It has been central to the narrative that delegitimizes those who do strongly criticize Israeli policies and who do seek to mobilize tangible pressure. And it has supported the twisted logic that not only absolves people from taking a hard stance against Israeli policies, but justifies them attacking anyone who does.

 

  1. Bills,  Resolutions, & Letters

 

PARTNERSHIP WITH ISRAEL IN FY20 ENERGY & WATER DEV APPROPS) S. 2470: Reported out of Committee on 9/12 by Alexander (R-TN), the “An original bill making appropriations for energy and water development and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2020, and for other purposes.” As explained in the Report accompanying the bill: “Within International Affairs, the Committee recommends $2,000,000 for the Israel Binational Industrial Research and Development [BIRD] Foundation and $4,000,000 to continue the U.S Israel Center of Excellence in Energy Engineering and Water Technology as authorized by the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act. This joint research and development center between the U.S. and Israel shall focus on collaborative research initiatives among universities, research institutions, and industry partners that could include hydrocarbon extraction and processing, energy infrastructure and policies, process water treatment, alternative energy sources, and impacts on coastal communities. Funding provided shall be matched with Israeli government and industry funding.” Committee markup of the bill is here.

 

($$ FOR ISRAEL IN FY20 DOD APPROPS BILL) S. 2474: Reported out of Committee on 9/12 by Shelby (R-AL), “An original bill making appropriations for the Department of Defense for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2020, and for other purposes.” An Appropriations Committee press release laying out highlights in the bill notes that the bill “Recommends $500 million for Israeli Cooperative Programs, as requested.” The bill text stipulates that this $500 million is broken down as follows: $95 million “shall be for the Secretary of Defense to provide to the Government of Israel for the procurement of the Iron Dome defense system to counter short-range rocket threats”; $191 million “shall be for the Short Range Ballistic Missile Defense (SRBMD) program, including cruise missile defense research and development under the SRBMD program, of which $50,000,000 shall be for co-production activities of SRBMD systems in the United States and in Israel to meet Israel’s defense requirements…”; $55 million shall be for an upper-tier component to the Israeli Missile Defense Architecture, of which $55,000,000 shall be for co-production activities of Arrow 3 Upper Tier systems in the United States and in Israel…; and $159 million shall be for the Arrow System Improvement Program including development of a long range, ground and airborne, detection suite…” The Report accompanying the bill is here. Committee markup of the bill is here.

 

UPDATES ON PENDING LEGISLATION

 

(BASHING BOYCOTTS) S. Res. 120: Introduced 3/25 by Cardin (D-MD) and Portman (R-OH), “A resolution opposing efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel and the Global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement targeting Israel.” This is the Senate version H. Res. 246 [the two texts are virtually identical], both of which are part of AIPAC’s 2019 lobbying agenda. H. Res. 246 was passed by the House on 7/23/29. S. Res. 120 currently has 69 cosponsors (38 Republicans, 30 Democrats, and 1 independent). On 9/11, Romney (R-UT) became the latest co-sponsor.

 

(SAFEGUARDING RIGHTS OF CHILDREN UNDER ISRAELI OCCUPATION) HR 2407: Introduced 4/30 by McCollum (D-MN), “To promote human rights for Palestinian children living under Israeli military occupation and require that United States funds do not support military detention, interrogation, abuse, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children, and for other purposes.” HR 2407 currently has 21 cosponsors (all Democrats). On 9/11, Grijalva (D-AZ) became the latest co-sponsor; Reps Dingell (D-MI) and DeLauro (D-CT) removed their names as cosponsors on 6/19 and 9/10, respectively.

 

(PALESTINIAN PARTNERSHIP FUND) HR 3104 and S.1727: Introduced 6/5 in the House by Lowey (D-NY) and Fortenberry (R-NE), and in the Senate by Coons (D-DE), Graham (R-SC), Kaine (D-VA) and Gardner (R-CO), “To establish the Partnership Fund for Peace to promote joint economic development and finance ventures between Palestinian entrepreneurs and companies and those in the United States and Israel to improve economic cooperation and people-to-people peacebuilding programs, and to further shared community building, peaceful coexistence, dialogue, and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.” As of this writing, HR 3104 has 19 cosponsors (10 Republicans, 9 Democrats) - the most recent addition being Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) and Balderson (R-OH) on 9/9; and as of this writing, S. 1727 has 4 cosponsors most recent being Collins (R-ME), who added her name on 9/10.

 

(DEFENDING FREE SPEECH/BOYCOTTS) H. Res. 496: Introduced 7/16 by Omar (D-MN), “Affirming that all Americans have the right to participate in boycotts in pursuit of civil and human rights at home and abroad, as protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.” As a reminder, this resolution is being branded as pro-BDS, anti-Israel, hateful, etc., and is being used yet another weapon to allege antisemitism by Omar and other sponsors, and it is being exploited by President Trump in his shameless weaponization of Israel and antisemitism for partisan and electoral purposes. However, judged on its actual merits (i.e., the actual text) — which does not once mention Israel, the resolution should be 100% non-controversial and bipartisan, assuming members actually support free speech/the 1st Amendment. Yet, as of this writing, the resolution has a grand total of only 18 cosponsors, all Democrats - including three who signed on since the beginning of September: Chu (D-CA), Lofgren (D-CA), and Grijalva (D-AZ).

 

Letters

 

(DOS REPORT TO CONGRESS ON BDS) DOS letter/report: On 9/11, the Department of State transmitted to House Committee on Foreign Affairs a letter from the Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs, reporting on politically motivated boycotts of, divestment from, and sanctions against Israel. [If anyone has the text, please share it!]

 

(INVESTIGATE US MUSLIM ORG) Zeldin-Perry letter to Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations: On 9/12, Reps. Zelin (R-NY) and Perry (R-PA) sent a letter to the Executive Director of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations asking for the results of an investigation said it would conduct into the Muslim American Society (MAS) following footage of children singing radical Islamic group anthems at the MAS Islamic Center in Philadelphia. The press release notes that this request “is to help determine if the organization warrants further scrutiny from the Department of Justice (DOJ).” 

 

(STOP IRANIAN OIL SHIPMENTS TO SYRIA) Gonzalez et al letter to DOJ: On 8/21, Rep. Gonzalez (R-OH) led a letter, co-signed by 10 House members, to U.S. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, asking the Department of Treasury to outline its plan of action to deter Iranian crude oil shipments to Syria. Press release is here

 

  1. More on Recess Travel to Israel

 

As everyone knows by now, lots of members traveled to Israel (and some to the West Bank, which some of these members are now openly calling Palestine). Also, some members tried to travel to Israel but weren’t allowed to do so. For a compendium of statements/tweets on this subject, see the August 15 edition of the Round-Up. Of course, there were more comments after August 15th -- if you want to look for them, I suggest google (truly, there is only so much time any single person should have to spend on this insanity).

 

Two related issues that were not covered in the August 15th Round-Up:

 

(1) The Pro-Settlers Codel That Nobody Cared About. During the kerfuffle over the cancelation of the planned trip of Reps. Omar (D-MN) and Tlaib (D-MI), many -- on both sides of the aisle -- argued or insinuated that Omar and Tlaib had brought the mess on themselves by trying to go to Israel-Palestine with a group other than AIPAC (I mean, other than AIEF - so hard to remember to say it that way!).  The fact is, of course, that members of Congress regularly travel to Israel-Palestine with groups other than AIPAC (oops, AIEF) -- it’s just that nobody cares. 

 

That this is manifestly the case -- and that a double standard is being imposed here on Omar and Tlaib -- was highlighted by another group of members (all Republicans) who also went on a trip to Israel during the recess, not under the auspices of AIPAC/AIEF but with a group called the U.S. Israel Education Association (USIE). USIE’s basic purpose is to build support for settlements/settlers -- running tours to the West Bank selling a pro-settlement line (“USIEA sponsors advanced educational tours to Israel with members of Congress. During the tours, Members visit the two primary security fronts of Judea and Samaria (West Bank). These are places they are not allowed to visit on US government sponsored tours, and their firsthand experience provides them with vital information…” 

 

Notably, some suggested that the problem with the Omar/Tlaib trip was that their itinerary was not “balanced” (based on an incomplete copy of their schedule). Well, here’s a copy of USIE’s 2017 tour report - take a look and decide if this looks “balanced” to you. See this JNS report for details on the trip. For more details on this issue, see my thread on Twitter, here.

 

2) The Staggering Cost of the AIPAC/AIEF Israel Tour. In the August 15 edition of the Round-Up I took an in-depth look at AIEF, noting that “On its (single page, no links) website, AIEF describes itself as “the charitable organization affiliated with AIPAC, America’s pro-Israel lobby.”  The website of The Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation (“MFF”) gives more details, noting that AIEF both makes annual grants to directly to AIPAC for its programs and “funds educational seminars to Israel for members of Congress and other political influentials.” [For further fun reading about Adam Milstein’s activism and funding activities related to Israel, see here.]

 

I also noted that “The amount spent by AIEF on the August recess trips is not yet known (but will eventually be a matter of public record). What is known already is that according to Legistorm, going into the August recess, AIEF had already spent more on Congressional travel in 2019 than any other group, “dropping more than $407,000 on travel to Israel for a bipartisan group of 29 staffers.” Given the far larger number of travelers involved (even taking into account only members of Congress; it is unknown if AIEF is also paying spouses’ travel costs), the costs for the August travel will be far greater than that total.”

 

Well, as of this week we know a great deal more about how much was spent during this August recess, with numerous filings with the House Clerk showing up online (eg: here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. What we learn from those filings -- assuming that they are broadly speaking indicative of the costs for other members -- is that AIEF likely shelled out between $1 million and $2 million to take 72 members plus (for many but not all) spouses to Israel.

 

  1. On the Record

 

Roe (R-TN) 9/11: Post laying out what he learned on his recess trip to Israel (defined to include the West Bank). Reads like a child’s hasbara pamphlet (worth reading in full), replete with loads of factual errors (every clause in paragraph on Jerusalem is factually wrong). Money quote: “We had a long conversation with the Judea-Samaria Chamber of Commerce, which is about 18 months old, and we were very encouraged by the cooperation between people of the two nations…” Key take-away Bibi gave members: focus on “positive cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians that doesn’t receive nearly as much attention as it should”

Braun (R-IN) 9/11: In effect comparing Nazis & 9/11 terrorists to Palestinians -- “Over the summer break, Senator Rick Scott and I took a trip to Israel and saw all of that which goes into its preparedness against the evil that lurks around the world. I saw it again up close, and it always makes me wonder: How can they live like that? How can they be prepared when they know there are always individuals and countries out there just like in 1941 and just like in 2001? Imagine living in a country in which your entire border is surrounded by a fence or a wall in order to keep people out--where, in the tough places, there is another barrier and where, in the really tough places, there is a dirt berm.”]

Young (R-IN) and King (I-ME) 9/10: Pix & Press release - Senators Young and King Visit Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman, and U.S. Military Forces in the Gulf [first pic is with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman]

Durbin (D-IL) 9/10: Durbin Discusses The Importance Of Continued U.S. Global Engagement At Council On Foreign Relations [on Iran: “The U.S. should work with the global community to combat proliferation – and we should start by rejoining the Iran nuclear agreement in order to halt Iran’s nuclear weapons program.”]

Phillips (D-MN) 9/10: In response to question from the Algemeiner (right-wing Jewish media outlet) on whether Congress would take any action in response to Netanyahu blocking 2 members of Congress from traveling to Israel, “I don’t believe at this moment any further action is required”

Yoho (R-FL) 9/10: In response to question from the Algemeiner (right-wing Jewish media outlet) on whether Congress would take any action in response to Netanyahu blocking 2 members of Congress from traveling to Israel, “I think that government is allowed to do whatever they want...And when you look at who was funding that trip, I would have banned them too.”

Levin (D-MI) 9/10: “‘It was a big mistake for Israel. As a Zionist, I thought it was horrible,’ Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI), told The Algemeiner on Tuesday, asserting that Israel’s action put it in line with countries like Afghanistan, Russia, China and Iran that have barred members of Congress from entering to engage in oversight of US policy. ‘“So Israel’s joining those four countries,’ he stated. ‘That’s a very sad day, for me, as someone who loves Israel. Very sad.’”

Schakowsky (D-IL) 9/10: “A two-state solution remains the best option for lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s announcement today that if reelected, he intends to annex the Jordan Valley and all Israeli settlements in the West Bank, would mean the end of the Jewish, democratic, State of Israel as we know it. The Palestinian people will be left without a viable land for a state of their own.Neither side, Israelis or the Palestinians, should take unilateral actions that preclude a two-state solution. I urge the Prime Minister not go down this road, not to play games with Israel’s long-term viability for political purposes, and not put the future of Israel and the Jewish people in the hands of Donald Trump.

Price (D-NC) 9/10: Tweet - “Bibi's campaign stunt of promising to unilaterally annex the Jordan Valley & all settlements in the West Bank recklessly threatens Israel’s security and democracy, or any prospects for a two-state solution. The U.S. must oppose these efforts & protect the possibility of peace.”

Spano (R-FL) 9/9: Report on AIEF trip to Israel - Americans have a lot to learn from Israel

Rosen (D-NV) 9/9: On AJC trip to Israel - ““Israel is a beacon of democracy in the Middle East, a key strategic ally, and a major economic partner. My visit only reaffirms how committed I am to strengthening our alliance and special relationship with Israel… In the face of increasing threats in the region from Iran and its proxies, the ongoing conflict in Syria, and rising global anti-Semitism, the bonds between the United States and Israel are more important now than they have ever been. We must continue our efforts to strengthen our security alliance and our longstanding economic partnership, which have been tremendously beneficial to both nations.” [press release touts her support for S. 1, which includes the Combating BDS, Act and her support for the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2018]

Cruz (R-TX) 9/6: press release - Sen. Cruz: It’s Time to End the Charade and Dismantle the Iran Nuclear Deal Completely

McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) 9/5: Post about her trip to Israel & “why promoting economic freedom and cooperation in Judea and Samaria is critical” [linked to JNS article about the trip, sponsored by a pro-settlement U.S. Evangelical group]

Cruz (R-TX) 9/4: Address at the Hudson Institute. On Iran: "[The Deep State's] overarching objective is to prevent this administration from dismantling from the Iran deal completely because they believe one of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates is going to win...f we finish the job and end the waivers there will be no deal to reinstate. And indeed, what we should do is exercise the snap back sanctions that the U.S. has the unilateral right to do to impose United Nations sanctions on Iran. That's what we should be doing...Part of [the Europeans'] slavish devotion to the Iran deal is that they hate Donald Trump - that's the irony. You have world leaders who detest President Trump, trying to convince him to give up his biggest national security victory [...] they want to say to the world, ‘you see, Obama was right and Trump was wrong.' And yet the Deep State in the U.S. is pushing the White House to go that way. I think that would be a massive, massive mistake." On his bill to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terror org:  "The Muslim Brotherhood - its conduct, its charter, its operation - it is explicitly a terrorist organization. They don't hide it. [...] A number of our allies, including Egypt, designate the Muslin Brotherhood as a terrorist organization because they have seen firsthand the consequences. [...] They are a terrorist organization that has demonstrated a willingness to murder anyone who does not accord with their Jihadist world vision. I think we should absolutely designate it."

Rubio (R-FL) 8/29: Rubio Praises U.S. Sanctions Targeting Foreign Bank for Hizballah Terror Financing

Buchanan (R-FL) 8/28: Buchanan Calls for Holocaust Education in Schools [money quote: “Sixteen members of Congress have co-sponsored a resolution supporting the BDS movement, comparing their crusade to delegitimize Israel with the boycotts of Nazi Germany before the Holocaust.” -- language brazenly mis-characterizing H. Res. 496, “Affirming that all Americans have the right to participate in boycotts in pursuit of civil and human rights at home and abroad, as protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution” - which doesn’t mention BDS or Israel at all]

Cotton (R-AR) and Inhofe (R-OK) 8/26: Cotton and Inhofe Statement on Iran’s Responsibility for Houthi Destabilization of Yemen

Brady (R-TX) 8/26: Excerpt from his weekly Brady Briefing, “The U.S. House of Representatives recently took encouraging steps towards standing up for our strongest ally in the Middle East, Israel. As anti-Semitic rhetoric continues to rise in the United States and around the world, the time is now to take a strong stance against the economic warfare perpetrated by movements like Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS). However, a show of solidarity means little without real, concrete legislative action. That is why I am urging House Democrats to bring H.R. 336—a bill that contains concrete actions against the BDS movement—to the House floor for a vote.”

McCaul (R-TX) 8/23: McCaul Statement on Expiration of UN Arms Embargo on Iran and Soleimani Travel Ban

Steil (R-WI) 8/21: Newsletter with trip report from AIEF trip to Israel

Cardin (D-MD) 8/21: Cardin Statement on President Trump Calling Jews “Disloyal” for Supporting Democrats [“President Trump continues to give oxygen to anti-Semites around the world by using tropes about the loyalty of Jewish Americans. This must end. It is reprehensible for anyone to engage in such language. Making Israel a partisan wedge is not in our national security interest or Israel’s.”]
Scott (R-FL) 8/21: “As I continue to travel Israel, the contrast could not be more clear. Israel is a vibrant democracy that supports capitalism, champions human rights and holds free and open elections. Conversely, Palestine had their last election for president in 2005, refuses to hold open and free elections, and fails to champion human rights. The United States must always align with those fighting for freedom and democracy, and stand up against those that do not respect human rights.”

Hoyer (D-MD) 8/21: Hoyer Statement on the President Accusing Jewish American Voters of Disloyalty

 

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