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.
Report of note: “DIPLOMACY IN CRISIS: The Trump Admin’s Decimation of the State Department,” prepared by Democratic Staff for the SFRC, dated 7/28/20
1. Bills, Resolutions, & Letters
(BEIRUT CATASTROPHE) S. Res. 682 (text): Introduced 8/13 by Menendez (D-NJ) and 7 bipartisan cosponsors, “A resolution recognizing the devastating explosion that rocked the Port of Beirut on August 4, 2020, and expressing solidarity with the Lebanese people.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Menendez press release is here (and tweet). Romney (R-UT) press release is here.
(US-ISRAEL AGRICULTURE RESEARCH) S. 4522: Introduced 8/11 by Sens. Hoeven (R-ND) and Baldwin (D-WI), “the U.S.-Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund (BARD) Act.” Per Hoeven’s press release (also see tweet), the bill “would authorize appropriations directly to the program through the Agriculture Appropriations Committee, which Hoeven chairs in the Senate. This would help ensure certainty for the BARD program, strengthen the U.S.-Israeli partnership and support projects that are critical to agriculture, food safety and conservation, among other things.” Referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.
(Stop Eviction of Sumarin Family) Speier letter to Bibi: On 8/11, Rep. Speier (D-CA) circulated a Dear Colleague inviting members to sign a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, “calling on his government to intervene in the ongoing attempts by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) to evict the Sumarin family from their home of more than seventy years in East Jerusalem.” The letter to Netanyahu lays out the Sumarin family’s 30-year battle to keep their home, starting when “Thirty years ago, JNF asked the Israeli government to seize the Sumarin family home based on Israel’s Absentee Property Law, even though the family had the rightful title and were never absent. On May 23, 1991, without notification to the family, the property was purchased by JNF from the Development Authority in a land barter. In 1994, Judge Yehudit Tzur ruled that the declaration of the home as absentee property was unlawful and denied the claim for eviction, yet the land and the title to their home were never returned to the Sumarin family. The Israeli Government’s Klugman Commission later noted ‘grave findings regarding the functioning of the Custodian of Absentee Properties,’ and pledged to end the use of the law but failed to apply the policy retroactively to past eviction cases.” The letter goes on to state: “We believe that the eviction of the Sumarin family and expropriation of their property sets a dangerous precedent that is detrimental to the stability of Jerusalem and further undermines the opportunity for peace. We are highly concerned that, if the government of Israel permits the misapplication of the Absentee Property Law in the case of the Sumarin family, it will further apply it in any area that Israel acquires unilaterally through the proposed annexation of West Bank territories. This could formalize the illegal expropriation of private Palestinian land on a massive scale.” The letter has been endorsed by J Street, the Rebuilding Alliance, and American Muslims for Palestine (it is also being supported publicly by Americans for Peace Now).
(INVESTIGATE TRUMP-ADELSON CALL) Lieu-Rice letter to Wray: On 8/10, Reps. Lieu (D-CA) and Rice (D-NY) sent a letter to FBI director Wray stating: “As former prosecutors and current Members of Congress, we request the Federal Bureau of Investigation look into whether any crimes were committed during a conversation between President Trump and Sheldon Adelson.” The letter cites an article in Politico reporting “The 87-year-old casino mogul had reached out to Trump to talk about the coronavirus relief bill and the economy. But then Trump brought the conversation around to the campaign and confronted Adelson about why he wasn’t doing more to bolster his reelection, according to three people with direct knowledge of the call.” The letter notes that: “…Mr Adelson discussed a specific piece of legislation, the Coronavirus relief bill, with the President. In the same conversation, the President asked Mr. Adelson to do more to support his campaign. Depending on what exactly was said, a bribe or solicitation of a bribe may have occurred.”
(HUMANITARIAN AID TO LEBANON) LaHood et al letter to Pompeo: On 8/7, Reps. LaHood (R-IL), Crist (D-FL), Dingell (D-MI) and Shalala (D-FL) and Graves (R-LA) led a bipartisan letter, consigned by 86 House colleagues, urging SecState Pompeo “to continue deploying needed humanitarian relief for the people of Lebanon and support the multilateral efforts underway to address the impacts of the Beirut explosion” and committing, “in our capacity in Congress, to support United States efforts to aid the people of Lebanon during this difficult time.” Press releases and tweets: LaHood (R-IL), Crist (D-FL), Dingell (D-MI), Langevin (D-RI).
(MAKE AL-JAZEERA REGISTER UNDER FARA) Zeldin-Rubio et al letter to AG Barr: On 8/7, Sens. Zeldin (R-NY) and Rubio (R-FL) led an bicameral, all-GOP letter to Attorney General Barr urging DOJ to Al Jazeera to register as a foreign agent of Qatar. The letter was cosigned by Senators Cotton (R-AR), Cruz (R- TX) and as well as by Representatives Cheney (R-WY). Mast (R-FL), Chabot (R-OH), King (R-NY, Bergman (R-MI) and Wagner (R-MO). Press release is here. Also see: ForeignLobby.com 8/10 — UAE lobby sought out congressional hawks on Al Jazeera attack
(INVESTIGATE ICC FOR TIES TO ANTI-ISRAEL NGOS & FTOs) Biggs letter to DOJ: On 8/5 (not previously reported in the Round-Up) Rep. Biggs (R-AZ) sent a letter to US Attorney General Barr, to “encourage the Justice Department to take appropriate action with respect to shocking information alleging troubling ties between the International Criminal Court (ICC); key non-governmental organizations driving the ICC’s investigations of the U.S. and Israel; and U.S.-designated foreign terrorists and Foreign Terrorist Organizations.” In his letter, Biggs directly cites the work of Dore Gold’s Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs attacking the ICC. As noted in the Hill, Biggs argued elsewhere (likely in background materials he submitted to DOJ along with his letter): “…the two international NGOs advancing the case against the U.S., the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), have strong ties to the Palestinian NGOs that brought the complaint against Israel to the ICC—Al-Haq, Palestinian Center for Human Rights PCHR), Al Mezan and Al-Dameer—and were intimately involved in their submissions to the court…In turn, these four Palestinian organizations, Al-Haq, Al-Dameer, Al Mezan and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), which together submitted six reports to the ICC between 2015 and 2018, have strong ties to U.S.-designated FTOs, including Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)...” Press release (dated 8/7) is here.
2. Hearings & Markups
3. On the Record
Note: Many, many House and Senate members issued statements or Tweets celebrating news of Israel-UAE normalization of relations. If you want to see what a particular member said, check their website, search Twitter, or try Google.
Members on the Record (in general)…
Engel (D-NY) 8/11: Engel Statement on State Department’s Pre-Spin of OIG Arms Sales Report
Portman (R-OH) & Booker (D-NJ) 8/10: Portman, Booker Introduce Legislation that Supports Israel & Urges Community Engagement in the Middle East
Portman (R-OH) 8/10: Tweet – “Proud to join @SenBooker in introducing legislation supporting Israel & affirming longstanding US policy encouraging Arab League states to normalize relations w #Israel. Community engagement amongst Arabs & Israelis is key to fostering peace & prosperity in the region.”
Warner (D-VA) 8/7: Tweet – “Like so many Americans, I was horrified by Tuesday’s explosion in Beirut. The Lebanese people already have seen their fair share of tragedy, but the people of Beirut are beginning the hard work of rebuilding their city. Lebanon is a country of hope, and its people will prevail.”
Articles and Reports Related to the Hill
Jewish Insider 8/12: Hakeem Jeffries hopeful Bowman will become a pro-Israel member of Congress
Al-Monitor 8/12: Ilhan Omar wins primary election despite pro-Israel groups’ efforts
JTA 8/11: Why Ilhan Omar’s primary became the Jewish community’s most watched pre-November vote
Jewish Insider 8/11: Republicans compete to take on vulnerable Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson [“Fischbach is also critical of BDS. She said she supports anti-BDS legislation like the 2017 Combating BDS Act and the Israel Anti-Boycott Act introduced by Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), and said, ‘the only goal of any boycott, divestment and sanctions policy is to destabilize Israel.’”]
Jerusalem Post 8/11: Why Ilhan Omar’s primary became the Jews’ most watched pre-November vote
Haaretz 8/11: Ilhan Omar’s Fate Uncertain as She Faces pro-Israel Challenger in Democratic Primary
Wall Street Journal 8/11: Ilhan Omar Faces Well-Funded Rival in Democratic Primary in Minnesota
Algemeiner 8/11: US Representative Ilhan Omar Faces Primary Challenge on Tuesday
Jewish Insider 8/11: MA congressional candidate Alan Khazei explains his opposition to BDS
+972 Magazine (Alex Kane) 8/10: Israel lobby faces off with Palestinian rights movement in Ilhan Omar primary
Open Secrets 8/10: Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar faces an expensive Democratic primary [“Melton-Meaux has received major support from pro-Israel PACs, and a new pro-Israel super PAC, Americans for Tomorrow’s Future has spent over $2 million attacking Omar. The group also gave $400,000 to Democratic Majority for Israel, which spent over $1.5 million supporting Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) who was recently unseated by progressive newcomer Jamaal Bowman. With $417,000, Melton-Meaux has received more contributions from pro-Israel donors this cycle than any other congressional candidate except Engel.”]
Middle East Eye 8/10: Why Israel and centrist Democrats want to see the back of Ilhan Omar
Medium (Jeremy Iggers) 8/6: Why Ilhan Omar is Good for the Jews
Andalou Agency (Turkey) 8/13: Friends of Israel in Congress wreck US ties with Turkey
Jewish News Syndicate 8/13: Congressman [Lamborn] urges Trump administration to sever all ties with Palestinian Authority
Arutz Sheva 8/13: US Rep. Lamborn responds to PLO leader’s incentivizing terror
Defense News 8/12: Congress has secretly blocked US arms sales to Turkey for nearly two years
ForeignLobby 8/12: Lebanese-Americans step up advocacy as country crumbles
The Forward 8/11: All 3 Democrats vying for top foreign affairs chair support Israel aid restrictions
Times of Israel 8/11: Bipartisan US bill aims to advance normalized ties between Israel, Arab states
Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations 8/9: Jewish Leaders Praise Bipartisan Legislation Promoting Normalization With Israel
Jewish Insider 8/7: Sens. Booker, Portman cosponsor legislation addressing Arab anti-normalization policies
Times of Israel 8/7: Dems seeking House foreign affairs job would restrict Israel aid over annexation