Legislative Round-Up - August 28, 2020

1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters
2. Hearings & Markups
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.

Shameless plugs:

  • ICYMI, on 8/7 FMEP convened a webinar, “From Washington to Jerusalem: Evangelicals, Israel/Palestine, and American Domestic Politics,” featuring on the foremost experts on the topic, Sarah Posner (author of the newly published book “Unholy: Why White Evangelicals Worship at the Altar of Donald Trump”). If you missed it live, you can still watch the video here – well worth your time!
  • Also, next week FMEP, together with the Middle East Institute, will be convening 2 webinars looking at “The Implications of the Israel-UAE Deal.” Part 1 (Sept 1 at 11am EDT) will feature experts from the region, and Part 1 (Sept 2 at 11am EDT) will feature US experts. You can get more information and register for either/both here.

1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters



(INVESTIGATING POMPEO FOR JERUSALEM/RNC SPEECH) Castro letter to DOS DepSec: On 8/25, Rep. Castro (D-TX), Vice Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Chairman of its Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, sent a letter to Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun opening an investigation and demanding answers on SecState Pompeo’s participation in a political party convention in the course of official government work, in possible violation of federal regulations, clear violation of U.S. State Department policy, and possible violation of the Hatch Act. The investigation is in connection with Pompeo’s speech to the RNC, delivered from Jerusalem. The letter notes: “It is highly unusual, and likely unprecedented, for a sitting Secretary of State to speak at a partisan convention for either of the political parties. It appears that it may also be illegal.” The letter also notes: “Secretary Pompeo was on official travel –funded on an apolitical basis by every American taxpayer –when the speech was pre-recorded and likely will be on official business when it will be shown at the RNC. Similarly, he was outside the United States when the speech was recorded and will be outside the United States when it airs.This is a flagrant violation not only of the laws, regulations and policies summarized in the December 2019 memorandum, but also of the Foreign Affairs Manual, which prohibits not just State Department employees, but also their spouses or family members from ‘engag[ing] in partisan political activities abroad.’” Press release is here.

(TURKEY VIOLATIONS OF GREEK/CYPRIOT SOVEREIGNTY?) House letter to SecState: On 8/25, the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues and Congressional Hellenic-Israel Alliance, represented by Reps. Maloney (D-NY), Bilirakis (R-FL), Deutch (D-FL), and Sarbanes (D-MD), today requested an update from SecState Pompeo on the Administration’s “monitoring of violations of the sovereign territory of Greece and Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone in light of Turkey’s illegal, provocative behavior  in the Eastern Mediterranean.” The letter states: “Turkey’s aggressive actions – most notably its illegal and repeated violations of Greek and Cypriot sovereignty in pursuit of drilling for natural gas – in the region over the past few months have raised tensions to dangerously high levels. Greece, a crucial U.S. ally in the region, has had to rapidly mobilize its armed forces in response to threats from Turkey, raising the troubling prospect of a conflict between NATO-member countries in the Eastern Mediterranean. Turkey’s continued provocations in Cyprus’s Exclusive Economic Zone only heightens the prospects of an EU-Turkey confrontation. We are extremely concerned about these tensions, and believe it is necessary that the U.S. make clear to all involved that it is paying close attention to the situation. Fortunately, the reports required by the Act give us the mechanism to do so.” Maloney press release is here; Sarbanes press release is here.

(3 CHEERS FOR IRAN SANCTIONS SNAPBACK!) Marshall letter to Trump: On 8/24, Rep. Marshall (R-KS) sent a letter to President Trump supporting the president’s decision to initiate a snapback of all pre-Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran. The letter asserts: “The maximum pressure campaign implemented by your administration will force Iran to abandon its goal of nuclear armageddon and bring us closer to a lasting peace for Americans, Israelis, and the Iranian people, who continue to suffer each day at the hands of this brutal regime.” Press release is here.

2. Hearings & Markups


3. On the Record

Note: As previously observed in the Round-Up, a huge number of Members of Congress issued statements (press release, tweets, comments to the media) in support of the Israel-UAE deal — so many that I elected not to cover them in the Round-Up. But no fear — there is now a  page on its website of the UAE Embassy in Washington devoted to tracking Congressional support for the UAE-Israel deal.

Members on the Record

Congressional Progressive Caucus 8/27: Congressional Progressive Caucus Leaders Forcefully Condemn Trump Administration Efforts to Trigger Iran Deal ‘Snapback’ Provisions

Rosen (D-NV) 8/27: Tweet – “I’m proud to support @JoeBiden and @KamalaHarris. Their Administration will strengthen the US-Israel relationship.” [linked to tweet reporting Harris stating “Joe has made it clear that he will not tie security assistance to any political decisions that Israel makes and I couldn’t agree more.”]

Emmer (R-MN) 8/27: Emmer Supports Continued Actions to Confront Iran

Cotton (R-IN) 8/27: Tweet – “Biden and Obama treated Israel like a nuisance. @realDonaldTrump moved our embassy to Jerusalem.” [Part of thread extolling Trump’s accomplishments]

Lowey (D-NY) 8/26: Lowey Statement on Secretary of State Pompeo Convention Speech from Israel

Deutch (D-FL) 8/26: Tweet – “SecState’s RNC speech was delivered in Jerusalem while on official travel, but we are asked to believe no official resources were used? Giving a party convention speech from Jerusalem politicizes the US-Israel relationship, helping neither US nor Israel.

Moulton (D-MA) 8/25: Twitter thread – “American weakness is on display for the world to see. Mike Pompeo has turned our foreign policy into a reality show by giving an unethical, un-American political speech on foreign soil. This is the latest in four years of Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, and Mike Pompeo prioritizing domestic politics and photo ops over the hard work of peace. Where has it gotten us with Israel and the Palestinians? A two-state solution seems further away today than it has in decades. And they have allowed Bibi Netanyahu to fear-monger over settlements and annexation in order to win an election. In tonight’s actions we see more of the same: four years of failed foreign policy that’s weakened our standing in the world and politicized our national security.

Murphy (D-CT) 8/25: Tweet – “Under any circumstances, it would be a bad idea for Secretary Pompeo to speak at the Republican convention. But it’s just shameful he is spending taxpayer dollars so that he can turn Jerusalem into a political prop and the U.S.-Israel relationship into a political weapon.”

Price (D-NC) 8/25: Rep. David Price: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Should Resign (tweet)

McCaul (R-TX) 8/25: McCaul on Recent Developments in Sudan

Young (R-IN) 8/25: Tweet – “#ICYMI: I introduced a bipartisan resolution praising the historic agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the first such agreement between Israel and a major Arab country since 1994. Learn more via @RiponAdvance” [linked to this article]

Engel (D-NY) 8/24: Engel: Internal State Department Documents Show Pompeo RNC Speech Apparently Violates Legal Restrictions & His Own Instructions to Department Personnel [including lots of links to original documents]

Cruz (R-TX) 8/24: Sen. Cruz, Who Led Fight to Shred Catastrophic Obama-Biden Iran Nuclear Deal, Praises Administration’s Move to Invoke Snapback Mechanism

Price (D-NC), Lee (D-CA), Schakowsky (D-IL), Yarmuth (D-KY), Connolly (D-VA), Welch (D-VT), Lowenthal (D-CA),Doggett (D-TX), and Blumenauer (D-OR) 8/24: House Democrats Release Joint Statement Condemning Trump Administration on Proposed Iran “Snapback” Sanctions

Hyde-Smith (R-MS) 8/24: Twitter thread – “100 Accomplishments in 100 Days Strengthening America’s Allies in the Middle East: Cosponsored and passed a bipartisan package of legislation that deepens our security relationship with Israel, bolsters cooperation with our allies in Jordan” & “imposes more sanctions on the Assad regime in Syria, and allows local governments to reject the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ movement.

Republican Jewish Coalition 8/23: Tweet – “Senator @tedcruz on the Israel-UAE deal ‘It is the result of four years of strong and unequivocal American support for Israel’ #RJC2020 You can watch the conversation, live, here: https://rjchq.org/rjc_rnc_cruz”

Articles and Reports Related to the Hill


Times of Israel/JTA 8/27: Lee Zeldin, one of two Jewish Republicans in Congress, in dead-heat race

CT Jewish Ledger/JNS 8/26: ELECTION 2020 – Could a pro-BDS congressional candidate win in New England’s largest Jewish district? [“...the campaign of Ihssane Leckey, a Democratic Socialist who has endorsed the BDS movement, is making many Jewish/pro-Israel observers in Massachusetts’s 4th District nervous…”] Also see (as an example of the questions being asked of candidates and positions being taken): American Jewish Committee New England Questionnaire – responses from candidate Jake Auchincloss & Jewish Insider survey – responses of candidate Alex Morse.

Jewish Insider 8/26: Rep. Joe Kennedy vows to bring progressive, pro-Israel values to the Senate [“…many Democratic members of the state’s pro-Israel community view the young political scion, who is a grandson of the late Robert F. Kennedy and a son of former Massachusetts congressman Joseph P. Kennedy II, as their candidate. In an early August letter, around 80 Massachusetts Jewish leaders endorsed Kennedy over Markey. ‘At a time when some work overtime to delegitimize Israel, Joe has been unyielding in making Israel’s case to those who may be reluctant to listen to it,’ read the note. ‘He has never ducked and run when it comes to support for Israel.’ Barry Shrage, a professor in the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program at Brandeis University and the former president of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston, was one of those who signed the letter. He recently described Markey as a reliable, pro-Israel Democrat, but expressed concern about the senator’s affiliation with Ocasio-Cortez, who, like several members of her progressive cohort, holds certain views that are less favorable to Israel.”]

Jewish Insider 8/26: Controversial North Carolina GOP candidate unapologetic about conservatism, support for Israel

Roll Call 8/25: Democrats say Pompeo’s speech to RNC is unethical, hypocritical, and possibly illegal

Bloomberg 8/25: Chairmanship Fight Highlights Democratic Divisions on Israel

Jewish News Syndicate 8/25: Questions stir over BDS, certain Democratic primary candidates in Massachusetts

Algemeiner 8/24: Ilhan Omar May Have Won, but the Pro-Israel Community Stood Strong

Other News

Al Jazeera 8/25: UAE nixes meeting with US, Israel over F-35 arms deal row: Report  Emiratis reportedly angered by Netanyahu’s public denial of the deal and his vow to lobby US Congress to oppose it.

Times of Israel 8/25: Israel ducks blame for firm with ex-intel officers that bid to ‘shape’ US vote  Defense Ministry tries to shrug off responsibility as Senate report reveals activities of Psy-Group; Israeli law prohibits unlicensed export of defense tech, knowledge, services