Legislative Round-Up: May 8, 2020

1. Bills, Resolutions, and Letters
2. Hearings
3. On the Record

Produced by the Foundation for Middle East Peace in cooperation with Americans for Peace Now, where the Legislative Round-Up was conceived. Views and positions expressed here are those of the writer, and do not necessarily represent APN's views and policy positions.

1. Bills, Resolutions and Letters

(NO UNAUTHORIZED WAR WITH IRAN) S. J. Res. 68: Introduced 1/9 by Kaine (D-VA) and having 30 other cosponsors (26 Democrats, 3 Republicans, and 2 Independents), “A joint resolution to direct the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities against the Islamic Republic of Iran that have not been authorized by Congress.” Passed by the Senate 2/13 by a vote of 55-45 (with all Democrats presenting voting in favor, joined by Alexander (R-TN), Cassidy (R-LA), Collins (R-ME), Lee (R-UT), Moran (R-KS), Murkowski (R-AK), Paul (R-KY) and Young (R-IN). On 5/5, the measure was presented to President Trump, who vetoed it on 5/6 (Kaine statement on veto is here; Engel, D-NY, statement on veto is here). On 5/7, the Senate vote to override the president’s veto failed by a vote of 49 – 44 (a ⅔ majority is required to override a veto).


(DEAR ISRAEL: DON’T ANNEX) Senate letter to Bibi/Gantz: This week, a letter is circulating in the Senate, led to Senators Kaine (D-VA), Van Hollen (D-MD), and Murphy (D-CT) for co-signers. The letter, addressed to “Prime Minister Netanyahu and Deputy Prime Minister Gantz” makes the case against annexation (full text in section 3, below). As of this writing it is unknown how many senators have signed on. What is known is that the senior senator from Maryland, Cardin (D-MD) has publicly stated that he will not sign the letter, telling a right-wing Jewish news outlet, “I don’t like to second-guess Israel’s government’s decisions…” Cardin went on to say: “that while he deems unilateral annexation ‘not to be a helpful process’ and would ‘encourage [Israel] to try to preserve’ the position of a two-state solution, he added, ‘I don’t think it is helpful for us to sow dissension in the United States as it relates to the support for Israel. I think we have to show that even when we disagree with the policies of the government that the relationship between the United States and Israel must remain strong.’”

(EXTEND IRAN ARMS EMBARGO) AIPAC-backed letter to Pompeo: On 5/4, a letter, signed by 387 House members, was sent to SecState Pompeo urging him to work with “allies and like-minded partners, including through the United Nations Security Council” to extend the UN’s arms embargo against Iran. The letter, led by Engel (D-NY) and McCaul (R-TX) debuted around the March 2020 AIPAC policy conference as one of the three “asks” of House members, laid out in the printed “Lobbying Agenda” distributed to conference-goers (and featured on AIPAC’s website on the “Legislative Agenda” page ever since). Engel-McCaul press release is here. Also see: Haaretz 5/4: In Surprise Move, Ilhan Omar Signs on to AIPAC-backed Policy Letter

(EXTEND IRAN ARMS EMBARGO) AIPAC-backed letter to Pompeo: On 4/30, Reuters reported that nearly 382 House members have signed on to a letter urging SecState Pompeo to work with “allies and like-minded partners, including through the United Nations Security Council” to extend the UN’s arms embargo against Iran. The article notes that the letter was “seen” by Reuters, suggesting that its text is not available to the public; however, the quotes from the letter included in the article (along with the fact that it is being led by Engel, D-NY), and McCaul, R-TX) confirm that this is the Iran-focused letter debuted around the March 2020 AIPAC policy conference. The letter, in fact, was one of three “asks” of House members, laid out in the printed “Lobbying Agenda” distributed to conference-goers (and has been featured on AIPAC’s website on the “Legislative Agenda” page ever since). The Reuters article makes no mention of AIPAC’s role in the letter.

(JORDAN MUST EXTRADITE BOMBER TO THE US) House FOP letter to Jordanian Ambassador: On 4/30, 7 GOP House members sent a letter to the Jordanian Ambassador to the United States, Dina Kawwar, regarding the case of a Ahlam Ahmad Al-Tamimi, a Jordanian woman who has publicly claimed responsibility for a 2001 bombing in Jerusalem that killed 15 people, including an American. Al-Tamimi was arrested and convicted by Israel, but released as part of the deal to gain the release of a soldier, Gilad Shalit, captured by Hamas, and since then living in Jordan. The family of the American victim of the bombing has sought to have Al-Tamimi extradited to the U.S., where she would face charges in the U.S. justice system. The Members of Congress wrote: “The potential seriousness of these sanctions provisions reflect the deep concern of the Congress, the Administration and the American people. We believe it is of the highest importance to US/Jordan relations that an outcome is found that honors Jordanian law while ensuring this unrepentant terrorist and murderer of innocent Americans is brought to US justice. Extraditing Tamimi within the framework of a long-standing, effective treaty is a powerful statement that Jordan will not tolerate terrorism nor its promotion.” For more see: Times of Israel – Failed by Israel, Malki Roth’s parents hope US can extradite her gloating killer. Also see 5/6 tweet from one of the letter’s signers, Rep. Perry (R-PA): “I’m committed to delivering justice for the three American lives brutally stolen from us in the 2001 attack. We’ll keep fighting until Al-Tamimi is extradited to the United States to face justice.” [with link to Times of Israel article] Perry also posted on the topic on Facebook on 5/7, here.

2. Hearings

Nothing on the schedule.

3. On the Record

Members on the Record

Menendez (D-NJ) and Rubio (R-FL) 5/4: Menendez, Rubio Statement on GAO Investigation into Executive Branch’s Nuclear Deal Negotiations with Saudi Arabia

Risch (R-ID) and Menendez (D-NJ) 5/1: Risch, Menendez Commend Saudi-led Coalition’s Decision to Extend Unilateral Ceasefire in Yemen, Encourage Continued De-Escalation Efforts

Articles and Reports Related to the Hill

Jewish Insider 5/8: Chris Coons has the inside track to be Biden’s secretary of state [“If he joins a Biden administration, Coons would potentially have to address Israel’s unilateral annexation of parts of the West Bank. On a recent webcast hosted by the Jewish Democratic Council of America, Coons expressed hope that Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi — who is expected to serve as Israel’s foreign minister for the first half of the unity government’s term — would use their political leverage to block unilateral action. But the Delaware senator declined to elaborate in the webcast on how a Biden administration would address annexation.”]

JNS 5/8: Sen. Mike Lee places hold on Never Again Education Act

Times of Israel 5/8: US Defense Department said pushing to withdraw troops from Sinai; Israel opposed

JNS 5/7: Republican Jewish Coalition endorses Rep. Steve King’s primary opponent

Arutz Sheva report 5/7: Rep. Dan Crenshaw: Democrats falling for anti-Israel narrative [“According to Crenshaw, the lens of oppressor and oppressed causes Democrats to ‘view Israel as an oppressor, they view Palestinians as the oppressed — and they will not listen to any kind of evidence that suggests otherwise.’ He stated that this worldview is ‘manifesting in increasing anti-Israel sentiment.’”] Full Jewish Insider article – The Navy SEAL turned congressman who has no patience for outrage culture [slamming Rep. Omar, D-MN, and talking about his visits to Israel]

POMED Report 5/5: U.S. Security Assistance to Egypt: Examining the Return on Investment [recommending: cut in US military aid to Egypt, removal of waiver of human rights-related conditions on aid, addition of transparency measures, and new restrictions of US aid]

The Hill 5/4: Trump endorses Omar’s Republican challenger

Jerusalem Post 5/3: From Jerusalem’s Hebrew U and city council to running for Congress [former Sherman (D-CA) staffer Guido Weiss challenging Lois Frankel (D-FL)]

Text of the Kaine-Van Hollen-Murphy letter circulating in the Senate

Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu and Deputy Prime Minister Gantz,

As American lawmakers who have long supported strong U.S.-Israel ties, we write to express our grave concern with provisions in the recently concluded government agreement to consider unilateral annexation of Palestinian territory as early as this July. Such an action would mark a dramatic reversal of decades of shared understandings between the United States, Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the international community, and would have severe ramifications for both Israel’s future and our vital bilateral and bipartisan relationship.

A deep commitment to Israel’s security and a shared set of democratic values are foundational elements of the close relationship between our countries – and annexation would threaten both. Annexation would betray our shared democratic values by denying Palestinians’ right to self-determination. It would likely bring an end to Palestinian security cooperation with Israel, directly threatening the security of the Israeli people, and would endanger Israel’s crucial peace agreement with Jordan.

On the world stage, unilateral annexation will be nearly universally viewed as a violation of international law, and will be met with deep concern from our mutual allies. The formalization of a fragmented and disconnected array of Palestinian islets surrounded by Israeli territory would be rejected by the international community as both unequal and undemocratic. And most concerning, a unilateral annexation outside of a negotiated agreement would likely erode the strong support among the American people for the unwavering security assistance and diplomatic partnership from the United States that Israel currently enjoys.

We hope you view this relationship as the strategic asset it is for both of our countries. As friends and supporters of Israel, we caution you against taking unilateral steps that would fray our unique bonds, imperil Israel’s future and place out of reach the prospect of a lasting peace. If you move forward with unilateral annexation, we could not support that action and would sadly conclude that Israel no longer values the bipartisan support that Congress has provided it for decades.