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.
(LEGISLATING US $$ FOR ISRAEL) S. 3176: Introduced 1/9 by Rubio (R-FL) and Coons (D-DE), the “United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2020”, aka, “A bill to amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2014 to make improvements to certain defense and security assistance provisions and to authorize the appropriations of funds to Israel, and for other purposes.” Marked up in SFRC 5/20, and adopted with an amendment (for details, see the 5/22/20 edition of the Round-Up). On 6/3, S. 3176 was reported out of the SFRC (amended) & placed on the Senate calendar (meaning it theoretically could be brought before the full Senate for a vote at anytime). This highly consequential bill –which authorizes billions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer money, including new programs — was reported out of the SFRC without a written report. This is not a surprise, considering that (as reported previously), the committee amended/passed the bill with zero debate/discussion, notwithstanding the fact that the text of the amendment , which replaced the entire bill with new text, was not available to the public until long after the hearing ended. And as of this writing — 9:45am ET on June 4) the amended text is still not available at congress.gov (if you click through on the bill link above, the only version available is the version that was deleted/replaced by the SFRC).
(OPPOSING ISRAELI UNILATERAL ANNEXATION) Casey letter to Bibi/Gantz: On 6/3, Sen. Casey (D-PA) sent a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Gantz stating that he is “concerned that stated plans to move forward with unilateral annexation of the West Bank will not only eliminate the possibility of a two-state solution, but may result in erosion of regional and international arrangements that guarantee Israel’s safety and security. I write to urge you to not move forward with plans to begin annexation on July 1, and to seek a path forward that will lay the groundwork for constructive dialogue toward a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians.” The title of Casey’s press release (which includes a link to download the letter) suggests a somewhat tougher position than the one articulated in the actual letter – “Casey Calls on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Gantz to Abandon Plans for West Bank Annexation.”
(INVESTIGATE TWITTER RE: IRAN) Cruz letter to DOJ & Treasury: On 5/29, Sen. Cruz (R-TX) sent a letter to Attorney General Barr and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin urging them to open an investigation into Twitter “for possible criminal violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) (50 U.S.C. §§ 1701 et seq.) and sanctionable activities prohibited by Executive Order 13876 (E.O. 13876),” based on what Cruz argues “appears to be Twitter’s blatant and willful violation of IEEPA by providing services to Khamenei, Zarif, and other designated Iranian entities.” Press release is here.
Members on the Record
Engel (D-NY), Maloney (D-NY), Menendez (D-NJ), Connolly (D-VA) & Castro (D-TX): 6/4: Statement on IG Linick’s Interview [Excerpt: “Mr. Linick confirmed that, at the time of his firing, there was an ongoing investigation into Secretary Pompeo’s 2019 ‘emergency’ declaration under the Arms Export Control Act, which was used to push through roughly $8 billion in weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and other countries. Mr. Linick said that his office had requested an interview with Secretary Pompeo, but that the Secretary refused after Mr. Linick insisted that a witness from the OIG be present” and “Mr. Linick also testified that Under Secretary Bulatao—a longtime friend of Secretary Pompeo—attempted to ‘bully’ the Inspector General on several occasions. Mr. Linick testified that Mr. Bulatao pressured him to act in ways that Mr. Linick felt were inappropriate—including Bulatao telling Linick that the investigation into weapons sales to Saudi Arabia was not a matter for the IG to investigate, and Bulatao telling Linick that he wanted to oversee the independent investigation into allegations of a State OIG draft report leak to the media.”]
McCaul (R-TX) 6/4: “I am relieved that Michael White has finally been released from Iran and will soon be reunited with his family. I applaud President Trump and his team for prioritizing the release of wrongfully detained prisoners and for their success in bringing them home. The United States is grateful to Switzerland for their assistance in bringing Michael home. I call on Iran to release all hostages.”
Ernst (R-IA) 6/4: Tweet – “I’ve long been an advocate for a strong partnership between the United States and Israel. Thanks to folks @AIPAC for taking some time yesterday to update me on your current efforts. You all play a vital role in Iowa & across the country!”
Inhofe (R-OK) 6/3: Floor statement making the case for the US to act extraterritorially (per the Oorah Act, passed into law in 2019 as part of the 2020 NDAA) to seize Iranian assets overseas [excerpt: “By the way, I had a joyful conversation for a half an hour yesterday with Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel. He was reminding me that I was in Israel and in the Prime Minister’s office at the very moment that President Trump pulled out of the Iran deal, and I had never seen him so jubilant. We just talked about that yesterday.”]
Brindisi (D-NY) 6/3: Tweet – “Thanks @AIPAC and @JasonKoppel for a productive virtual meeting this morning to discuss our work to strengthen the US-Israel relationship and the global efforts to fight back against the pandemic.”
Watkins (R-KS) 6/3: Tweet – “It was so great to catch up with my friends at @AIPAC yesterday, we discussed US and Israeli cooperation to tackle the global COVID-19 pandemic, @SecPompeo’s visit to Israel, and ways to maintain a strong and prosperous cooperation. I will always stand with Israel. #KS02 #ksleg”
Cramer (R-ND) 5/29: Twitter – “Sen. Kevin Cramer @SenKevinCramer President @realDonaldTrump has been the most pro-Israel president in my lifetime. He’s stood up to anti-Semitism bigotry, and he understands how dire it would be to allow the Holocaust to be forgotten or intentionally distorted.” [with link to White House statement on the singing into law of the Never Again Education Act].
Burgess (R-TX) 5/29: Burgess: Trump Administration Takes the Right Steps by Ending Civilian Nuclear Waivers
Connecticut Delegation (House) 5/29: Connecticut Congressional Delegation Urges President Trump to Support Families of 9/11 Victims in Pursuit of Justice [Excerpt: “For nearly two decades, the families of 9/11 victims have sought justice regarding Saudi Arabia’s participation in the unspeakable terrorist attacks on our nation on September 11, 2001. We continue to support 9/11 families—especially those of our constituents in Connecticut—following the latest developments in the ongoing civil lawsuit and their relentless pursuit of justice. President Trump and his administration should join us in siding with American families over Saudi Arabia…”]
Menendez (D-NJ) & Blumenthal (D-CT) 5/29: Menendez, Blumenthal, Booker Call on Trump Administration to Support 9/11 Families [“We stand with the 9/11 families as the Trump Administration obfuscates the truth. We are committed to justice and closure in this deeply traumatizing chapter of American history while the Trump Administration seems determined to conceal the truth about Saudi Arabia’s involvement in 9/11 from these families and the American public. Last September 11, President Trump looked the 9/11 families in the eye and said he would help them. Instead, he has stood in their way. When we make a commitment to the 9/11 families and the American people, we must keep it.”]
Articles and Reports Related to the Hill
AMI Magazine 6/5: Tweet – “Senator @tedcruz in this week’s issue of @Ami_Magazine: “It’s difficult to find an area of policy on which there has been a sharper reversal between the Trump @realDonaldTrump and Obama @POTUS44 administrations than when it comes to our policies towards #Israel.”
Jewish News Syndicate 6/4: Is longtime pro-Israel congressman Eliot Engel in trouble?
Jewish News Syndicate 6/4: Pelosi Israeli ‘annexation’ of West Bank ‘undermines US national security interests’
Jewish Insider 6/3: The outspoken Georgia state senator who isn’t afraid of a fight [excerpt: “Unterman’s conversion also guides her views on Israel. Though she has never been there, she made clear that she is a die-hard supporter of the Jewish state. ‘I’m very pro-Israel, and that’s one of the reasons I’m running for Congress,’ Unterman said. ‘I very much support an independent nation and the ability to be free — and also to keep the dialogue and the economic support of Israel with the United States. And I think Trump is doing a good job with that.’”]
Global Ministries 6/3: In ecumenical letter to Congress, Disciples & UCC leaders oppose Israeli annexation
Jerusalem Post 6/3: Deutch warns: Trump’s reelection not reason to jump the gun on annexation
ZOA 6/3: Press Release – ZOA Criticizes 19 Senators Threatening Israel If It Applies Sovereignty to Parts of Judea Samaria
Jewish Insider 6/2: Is Eliot Engel in trouble? [excerpt: “Bowman believes that his views on Israel do not differ all that drastically from his opponent’s. ‘We need to maintain a quality relationship with Israel,’ he said. ‘Israel has the right to exist. I think Israel has a right to be safe and secure. And I think Israel has a right to self-determination. I also think the people of Palestine have a right to exist, have a right to be safe and secure, and have a right to self-determination as well.’ The congressional hopeful singled out Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for condemnation, arguing that his ‘aggressive policies toward the Palestinian people, particularly around occupation, annexation and the detaining of Palestinian children,’ were unacceptable. ‘I may be just more open to having those conversations about the humanitarian crisis happening in Palestine than Eliot Engel has been all through his career,’ Bowman said. Engel vehemently disagreed that Bowman’s approach to Israel was anything like his own. ‘I would certainly regard him as anti-Israel,’ Engel told JI. ‘Conditioning aid for Israel is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard. Foreign aid doesn’t only benefit the countries that we are giving it to — it benefits the United States. This nonsense about conditioning aid is a bit arrogant,’ Engel added, ‘because we’d essentially be telling Israel, if you don’t toe the mark, if when we crack the whip you don’t jump, we’re gonna pull it away from you. That’s not how one ally treats another ally.’”]
Jewish Insider 6/2: New Mexico’s Yvette Herrell fights for a second chance to defeat Rep. Xochitil Torres Small [Excerpt: “Halley Faust, chairman of local pro-Israel group Santa Fe Middle East Watch, said the former state representative was an ‘instrumental’ backer of anti-BDS legislation, which ultimately failed to pass. Herrell told JI she supports Israel because of her ‘personal conviction… as a Christian’ and because ‘I know how important Israel is to not only New Mexico, but the nation, in terms of being an ally for us.’ She told JI that she backs Trump’s supportive posture toward Israel as well as a two-state solution, although a position paper her campaign shared with JI does not mention a two-state solution. When pressed on how she thinks the U.S. can or should support the Palestinians, Herrell reiterated her support for Trump’s policies, but said she did not feel informed enough to elaborate.”]
Jewish Insider 6/2: Crowded GOP primary in Pennsylvania turns testy [excerpt: “Both Bognet and Daniels said they strongly support Israel and the U.S.-Israel alliance. When pressed on Middle East peace issues, Bognet praised Trump’s efforts in the region, though he seemed to express some skepticism about the possibility of a two-state solution. ‘I’m in favor of an Israel that is allowed to survive where you don’t have the Palestinians committed to pushing Israel into the sea,’ Bognet said. ‘I am very uncomfortable with anything that threatens the territorial integrity of Israel.’ Daniels said he was not familiar with the two-state solution.”]
Jewish Insider, 6/1: The New Mexico congressman setting his sights on the Senate [excerpt: “The congressman supports a two-state solution and believes the prospect of annexation in parts of the West Bank, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said could take place as soon as July, would move Israel further away from that goal.”]