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 plug: On October 1, FMEP will be convening a webinar entitled, “Foreign Influence: How Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs Funded Lobbying & Extremism in the U.S.” Panelists will be: Itamar Benzaquen (The Seventh Eye), Noa Landau (Ha’aretz), and Or Sadan (Movement for Freedom of Information) – in conversation with FMEP’s Lara Friedman. Details/registration here.
(IT’S ALWAYS GOOD POLITICS TO ATTACK PALESTINIANS!) H. Res. 1131: Introduced 9/21 by Gottheimer (D-NJ) [post-introduction two cosponsors joined – in time to make the press release – Rose, D-NJ and Reed, R-NY), “Condemning the murder of Sara Duker [in 1996] and renouncing Palestinian Authority martyr payments to terrorists,” aka, “Resolution to Stop Rewarding Terrorists.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and the Committee on the Judiciary [note: this resolution is straight-up grandstanding, using as its hook a terror attack that occurred nearly 25 yrs ago, to call for a policy that has already been enacted into law (via the Taylor Force Act)]. Gottheimer press release: Bipartisan House Resolution Calls for Justice for Teaneck Resident & American Victim of Terrorism [killed in 1996]; Condemns Palestinian Authority Martyr Payments to Terrorists; Tweet here. Media coverage: Jewish News Syndicate; Algemeiner; Jewish Insider
(THREE CHEERS FOR ISRAEL-UAE/BAHRAIN NORMALIZATION) S. Res. 713 (pdf): Introduced 9/24 by Inhofe (R-OK), “Expressing the sense of the Senate that the August 13,2020, announcement of the establishment of full diplomatic relations between the State of Israel and theUnited Arab Emirates and the September 11, 2020,announcement of the establishment of full diplomatic relations between the State of Israel and the Kingdom of Bahrain is a historic achievement.” Referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Inhofe press release is here; tweet is here.
(RESTRICT US ARMS SALES TO HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSERS) S. 4712 (pdf): Introduced 9/24 by Menendez (D-NJ), Leahy (D-VT) and Kaine (D-VA), “A bill to enhance the consideration of human rights in arms exports,” aka,the “Safeguarding Human Rights in Arms Exports (SAFEGUARD) Act of 2020.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Menendez press release, including summary of the bill, is here. Also see: Democrats propose legislation to put more human rights controls on foreign arms sales (CNN)
(SETTING UP SENATE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION) S. Res. 725: Introduced 9/24 by Coons (D-DE) and 5 bipartisan cosponsors, “A resolution establishing the Senate Human Rights Commission.” Referred to the Committee on Rules and Administration.
(HUMAN RIGHTS/RELIGIOUS FREEDOM) S. 4685: Introduced 9/24 by Paul (R-KY), “A bill to
prohibit assistance to foreign governments that violate human rights with respect to religious
freedom.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.
(SANCTION IRAN’S ENTIRE FINANCIAL SECTOR) Perry et al letter to Trump: On 9/24, Rep. Perry (R-FL) led 56 GOP colleagues in a letter urging President Trump to sanction the entirety of Iran’s financial sector pursuant to authority provided in Executive Order 13902. Press release is here; Perry tweet is here – “Honored to lead 56 colleagues in urging @realDonaldTrump to cut off the Iranian regime’s access to global financial systems completely. Our pressure on Iran must remain relentless until their global terrorist activity and other maligned [sic] behavior ends.”
(CONCERN RE: EVICTION OF PALESTINIANS IN JERUSALEM) Speier et al letter to Netanyahu: On 9/22, Rep. Speier (D-CA) led a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Netayanu, co-signed by 25 House colleagues, expressing concerns over eviction proceedings against the Sumarin family in East Jerusalem. The members write: “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,” and “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 could be further applied in areas that Israel might acquire through any future unilateral annexation of West Bank territories. We believe this could formalize the illegal expropriation of private Palestinian land on a massive scale.” Press release is here.
(CONCERN RE TRUMP-ERDOGAN RELATIONSHIP) Menendez letter to Natl Sec Advisor: On 9/21, SFRC ranking member Menendez (D-NJ) sent a letter to National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien raising concerns about President Trump’s relationship with Turkish president Erdogan, and requesting the NSA to submit to Congress specified internal documents and communications related to the nature and national security implications of Trump’s relationship with Erdogan. Menendez’s press release notes that the request “follows reporting by investigative journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein that raise additional questions about Trump’s affinity for Erdogan and his susceptibility to political manipulation due to his preoccupation with advancing his personal and electoral interests.”
(PREVENT SFSU FROM HOSTING PALESTINIAN EX-TERRORIST) Lamborn letter to DeVos: On 9/21, Rep. Lamborn (R-CO) sent a letter to Secretary of Education DeVos raising alarm at San Francisco State University’s hosting Leila Khaled – a convicted Palestinian terrorist – for a virtual lecture to university students. Lamborn writes: “As lead sponsor of the Taylor Force Act, I am deeply troubled that federal dollars may be used to subsidize an event that props up a Palestinian terrorist like Mrs. Khaled and provides an academic platform to spread her toxic ideology. Providing a digital forum and platform for an admitted member of a terrorist organization who has unrepentantly committed terrorist acts is not speech or academic inquiry. Rather, it is aiding the dissemination of terrorist propaganda and materially supporting terrorism. Leila Khaled is unwelcome in the European Union, unwelcome in the United States, and she should be unwelcome in Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco as well.” Press release is here. NOTE: The event was canceled 9/22 by Zoom, after the Lawfare Project sent a letter warning that permitting the event could violate US material support laws (Lawfare Project’s press release is here). Organizers sought to move the event to Facebook, where it was also shut down after public pressure organized by the Lawfare Project. They then moved it to YouTube, which also shut it down. See: Washington Free Beacon – Legal Group: Zoom and California University in Violation of U.S. Law for Hosting Forum With Terrorist; Zoom Cancels Virtual Event With Terrorist After Public Outrage; Jewish News Syndicate – After Zoom deplatforms Leila Khaled event, Facebook and YouTube follow suit; The Algemeiner: After Zoom and Facebook Refuse to Host Event, SFSU Seminar Featuring Notorious Palestinian Terrorist Briefly Airs on YouTube Before Being Taken Down Midstream; Haaretz: Zoom Will Not Host San Francisco State U Event Featuring Palestinian Hijacker; Jerusalem Post: Zoom cancels Leila Khaled webinar at San Francisco State University; Middle East Eye: Zoom criticised for cancelling webinar with Palestinian activist Leila Khaled
(MORE IRAN SANCTIONS ON IRAN FINANCIAL SECTOR!) Cotten et al letter to Trump: On 9/17, Senators Cotton (R-AR), Cornyn (R-TX), Cruz (R-TX), Rubio (R-FL), Scott (R-FL), and Tillis (R-NC) sent a letter to President Trump urging him to impose sanctions on the entirety of Iran’s financial sector pursuant to Executive Order 13902, which was signed earlier this year.” Press release is here, noting “The letter applauds the Trump administration’s efforts to crack down on Iran, and urges them to do more to pressure the regime and force it to return to the negotiating table on U.S. terms.”
(PUNISH COUNTRIES THAT BLOCK TRUMP’S IRAN EFFORTS AT UNSC) House GOP letter to Pompeo: On 9/17, Reps. Walker (R-NC), Arrington (R-TX), Bacon (R-NE), and LaMalfa (R-CA) sent a letter to SecState Pompeo urging the US to consider cutting off or reducing aid to members of the UN Security Council — Indonesia and Niger — that have obstructed Trump Admin efforts to reimpose UN sanctions on Iran. Press release is here.
(RESTORE YEMEN AID) House letter to Pompeo: On 9/16, Reps, Deutch (D-FL), Khanna (D-CA), Lieu (D-CA), Pocan (D-WI), Malinowski (D-NJ), and Engel (D-NY) sent a letter, cosigned by 49 House colleagues, to SecState Pompeo urging him to restore humanitarian aid to Yemen, enhance U.S. assistance to counter COVID-19, and bolster diplomacy to end the ongoing conflict. Press release is here.
(RESTORE YEMEN AID) Senate letter to Pompeo: On 9/16, Senator Gillibrand (D-NY) and a 18 Senate colleagues sent a letter to SecState Pompeo and USAID Acting Administrator Barsa urging the restoration of $73 million in suspended USAID funding to Yemen and to work with the international community to disburse critical medical supplies in order to combat the spread of COVID-19 and help address multiple humanitarian crises. Press release is here.
10/1: The Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) will host a 3-panel public virtual conference entitled, “Mohammed bin Salman’s Saudi Arabia: A Critical Look.” Panel 1, entitled “Repression Under the Crown Prince: Surveillance, Abductions, and Hit Squads,” will feature remarks from experts as well as from Sen. Kaine (D-VA) and Reps. Van Hollen (D-MD), Connolly (D-VA), Khanna (D-CA), Malinowski (D-NJ), McGovern (D-MA), and Trone (D-MD). Full details including registration info here.
9/24: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing entitled, “U.S. Policy in a Changing Middle East.” Witnesses were: Elliott Abrams, U.S. Special Representative for Iran and Venezuela (testimony); and David Hale, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (testimony). Video is here. Opening statements: Risch (R-ID), Menendez (D-NJ)
9/24: The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing entitled “Threats to the Homeland.” Witnesses were: FBI Director Christopher Wray (testimony); National Counterterrorism Center Director Christopher Miller (testimony); and Kenneth Cuccinelli [with his nifty special title:“Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security”], (testimony). Opening statements: Johnson (R-WI) and Peters (D-MI). Notably, Miller’s testimony includes Israel-related threats (suggesting that threats to Israel/Israelis are viewed to some degree as a threat to the US homeland). Video is here.
9/23: The House Armed Services Committee held a hearing entitled, “The Role of Allies and Partners in U.S. Military Strategy and Operations.” Witnesses were: Christine Wormuth, RAND (statement); Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges (ret), Center for European Policy Analysis (statement); and Elbridge Colby, The Marathon Initiative (statement). Video is here.
Members in general
Grothman (R-WI) 9/24: Tweet – “After @realDonaldTrump moved the #US embassy in #Israel to Jerusalem in 2018, other countries followed. I’m glad that Honduras is now planning on doing the same.”
Rubio (R-FL) 9/24: Speaking at Hudson Institute, on the potential use of military strikes in response to Iranian bomb production [“‘Well, I hate to speculate on it. Obviously that’s the kind of thing that you don’t want to be cavalier about. Suffice it to say, though, that what has been missing here is that Iran continues to upgrade and improve its conventional capabilities and it’s done so despite these sanctions. Imagine if they weren’t in place — they would have even more revenue to advance that. So I do think as Iran continues to build both their conventional and asymmetric capabilities — in essence, their ability to make people pay a price for taking such action — and continue to improve and harden their own domestic security, a military option that could successfully degrade their nuclear capability becomes less and less tenable. I would say that every year that goes by it becomes harder to envision a military attack that could deny them the ability to have a weapons program.’”]
McCaul (R-TX) 9/23: McCaul Statement on Snapback Sanctions Against Iran
Cornyn (R-TX) 9/20: Tweet – “Israel is too valuable to the Arab world to be relegated to the status of a regional pariah. It has earned its place in the Middle East, writes @wrmead” [linked to this article in the Wall Street Journal]
Cruz (R-TX) 9/19: Sen. Cruz Applauds the Trump Administration for Enforcing Snapback Sanctions on Iran, Finalizing End of Iran Deal
Rose (D-NY) 9/18: Rose Hosts Forum on Anti-Semitism with Special Envoy Elan Carr [video – including starting at around 19:20 making an empassioned pitch for universal adoption of the IHRA definition, and especially its contemporary examples, “if a country has not adopted it, it is my top diplomatic ask”; also, highlighting as a top goal getting social media to adopt the IHRA definition and implement it, including its examples, and noting “I’m happy to say that very shortly we’ll have an important announcement in that regard.”]
Deutch (D-FL) 9/18: Chairman Deutch Statement on Reports of Trump Admin. Plan to Unilaterally Snapback UN Sanctions on Iran
Cruz (R-TX) 9/18: Tweet – “Sen. @tedcruz: ‘Under Barack Obama and Joe Biden — there was a profound antagonism and antipathy to Israel.’”
Gottheimer (D-NJ) 9/18: Tweet – “It was great to meet with friends + members of the @AIPAC National Council from NJ to discuss the historic agreements between our ally Israel and the UAE and Bahrain, and ways we can continue to strengthen the bipartisan U.S.-Israel relationship in Congress.”
Articles and Reports Related to the Hill
Jewish Insider 9/23: Madison Cawthorn wants to be the AOC of the GOP [impossible to capture this article in any single excerpt – read the whole thing, but here’s a taste: “‘A lot of Jews, I’ve found, they don’t have anything to do with Israel,’ he said. ‘They just want to send their kids to school, they want to live a happy life, they want to make more money. The American dream. A normal person. But then, when Trump decides to move the embassy — which doesn’t affect them in any way because they very rarely ever go to Israel — but Trump decides to move the embassy and then they have to be afraid that there’s going to be a stabbing attack at their kids’ school, they have to be afraid that there’s going to be a firebombing at the synagogue they go to. And so, I can see why sometimes maybe they don’t even want to support Republicans because they don’t really want to support the Jewish state.’” — FOR THE RECORD, looking back on the spate of school and synagogue shootings in recent years, the number of those linked to people motivated by opposition to Israel or Trump’s Israel policies is ZERO. Notably, the interviewer in no way challenged Cawthorn’s statement]
Jewish Insider 9/22: In the heart of the Keystone State, two Pennsylvania politicos battle it out [“DePasquale supports a two-state solution, and believes the United States has a major role to play in brokering such a deal. ‘The United States needs to make clear not only are we a friend of Israel, but we’ve got to be a fair negotiator among both sides to reestablish credibility,’ he said, ‘so that we can get these sides to the table and try to negotiate.’ DePasquale expressed concern that the U.S.’s credibility as a negotiator has been undermined in recent years by ‘unilateral actions’ that go ‘well beyond political parties.’ ‘Our friendship and alliance with Israel is non-negotiable,’ he continued. ‘That doesn’t mean we can’t sit at the table and try to make sure that everyone is negotiating fairly.’”]
Bloomberg 9/20: Adelsons Pump $25 Million Into GOP Senate Super-PAC in August
Jewish Insider 9/25:Congressional Democrats concerned about potential F-35 sale to UAE
Jerusalem Post 9/24: Engel: ‘I’m concerned UAE F-35 deal will undermine Israeli security’
Jewish Insider 9/24: Rep. Meeks expresses ‘absolute’ opposition to sale of F-35 jets to UAE
Breaking Defense News 9/24: Senate Skeptical Of F-35 Sale To UAE Despite White House Push
Jewish Insider 9/21: Lowey urges Senate to act on Israeli-Palestinian partnership legislation
Jewish Insider 9/21: With Lowey and Engel departing, Elaine Luria says she’ll be stepping up [“While Luria voted for Trump’s impeachment last year, she has aligned herself with the president when it comes to his policy on Israel and — as a member of the House Bipartisan Task Force For Combating Anti-Semitism — she has been an outspoken critic of the far-left wing of the Democratic Party. Luria was one of 12 House Democrats who broke party ranks last year to vote in favor of a Republican motion to recommit on anti-BDS legislation that would allow state and local governments to adopt laws to divest public funds from entities that boycott Israel.”]
New York Times 9/18: Ilhan Omar Is Not Here to Put You at Ease [Q: “I’m curious about whether your being made to think about anti-Semitism has caused any changes or filled in any gaps in your understanding of what anti-Semitism is and how it works.” A: “I think a lot of people have gaps in their understanding of what it is. It’s been important to understand the ways in which people experience it. In the process of writing a few of the op-eds I’ve written on the rise of anti-Semitism in comparison to the rise of Islamophobia, it has been interesting to see the ways in which so many people create a lens through which they see it. It is important, when you are not of that community, to understand the different ways that bigotry shows up. It has always been a disappointment as a minority when I communicate with people and they’re like: ‘That’s not Islamophobia. That’s not anti-Blackness.’ But I am telling you: ‘This is my experience! This is how these things impact me!’ So I have brought that lens of frustration to this conversation. I’m not going to say, ‘That’s not that’ because I know what it feels like for me when somebody is dismissive of what I’m expressing. If you’re an ally, it’s your job to learn and to be supportive. That’s what I expect of allies, and that’s how I behave as an ally.”]
Free Beacon 9/18: Senate GOP Pushes for Fresh Sanctions on Iran’s Financial Sector