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.
(BUNKER BUSTERS FOR ISRAEL) HR XXXX (text not yet introduced nor posted as pdf): On 10/27 Jewish Insider reported that, Reps. Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Mast (R-FL) are “expected to introduce bipartisan legislation this week that would seek to provide Israel with the largest non-nuclear bomb in the U.S. arsenal, with the ability to strike at Iran’s well-protected nuclear facilities.” Gottheimer subsequently issued remarks announcing the legislation, noting “We must ensure our ally Israel is equipped and prepared to confront a full range of threats, including the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran. That’s why I’m proud to be introducing this new bipartisan bill to defend Israel from Iran and Hezbollah and reinforce our historic ally’s qualitative military edge in the region with ‘bunker buster’ munitions. Iran and its terrorist proxies throughout the region must never be able to threaten the U.S. or Israel with a nuclear weapon. Truly, there should be nothing partisan about our national security, nor our relationship with our ally Israel.” Gottheimer also tweeted about the soon-to-be-introduced bill here.
- Media coverage: Intel: New bill in Congress would push for Israel to get bunker-busting bombs (Al-Monitor); New bipartisan legislation seeks to guarantee Israel’s QME (Jerusalem Post); US senators [sic] push to sell bunker-busting bombs to Israel (Al Jazeera); Lawmakers push to send bunker-busting bombs to Israel (Politico); Bipartisan House bill will encourage US to sell bunker buster bombs to Israel (Times of Israel).
- It is worth noting that this is not the first time members of Congress have sought to give Israel the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, aka, bunker buster bombs. For some background from arms control experts, see: The Massively Terrible Plan to Give Israel the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (Jeffrey Lewis in Foreign Policy, 10/1/15); This Big Bomb Should Not Go to Israel (Kingston Reif, War on the Rocks, 9/28/15); Why MOPs (for Israel) Are Really FLOPs (Ed Levine in Center for Arms Control & Non-Proliferation, 9/8/15); Sending MOPs and Bombers to Israel: Big Mistake (Robert Farley in LobeLog, 9/9/15)
- For some further background on how this played out in the past (in Israel) see: US offer of anti-Iran bomb lands as a dud in Israel (Julian Pecquet in Al Monitor, 9/21/15); Why U.S. Won’t Give Israel Bunker-Busting Bombs After All (Nathan Guttman in the Forward, 10/19/15 — excerpt: “as powerful as the MOP is in depriving enemies of their most guarded facilities, it is also, as demonstrated in recent months, a useful political tool. The MOP, it turns out, has been used to shield elected officials from criticism and to show their unwavering support for a Middle East ally whose own desire for the weapon was nonexistent”)
(SANCTIONS ON HEZBOLLAH FOR “HUMAN SHIELDS”) Gallagher-Souzzi letter to Trump: On 10/28, Reps. Gallagher (R-WI) and Souzzi (D-NY) led a bipartisan letter to President Trump, calling on him to “fully implement and enforce the Sanctioning the Use of Civilians as Defenseless Shields Act (the ‘Shields Act’), which you signed into law on December 21, 2018, following its unanimous passage by Congress.” The letter notes: “The Shields Act requires the President to submit to Congress an annually updated list of, and to impose sanctions on, individuals involved with the use of human shields by Hizballah and Hamas, as well as foreign persons, agencies, or instrumentalities that knowingly and materially support or direct the use of human shields by these groups.” Press release is here. Also see: Lawmakers Demand New Hezbollah Sanctions to Thwart Another Mass Explosion in Beirut (Washington Free Beacon)
(NO NORMALIZATION WITH ASSAD REGIME) Engel-McCaul letter to Pompeo: On 10/26, Reps. Engel (D-NY) and McCaul (R-TX) – chairman and ranking member, respectively, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, led a bipartisan letter to Pompeo noting “deep concern that various countries have taken steps to renew formal diplomatic ties with Bashar Al-Assad.” The letter goes on to state: “We look forward to working with you to ensure ongoing robust implementation of the Caesar Act, including sanctions, in order to communicate to the international community that the United States opposes any efforts to rehabilitate Assad and his cronies absent the behavior changes outlined in law.Given the regime’s continued deplorable crimes against its own people, we urge the Department of State to continue to make clear—publicly and privately—to our allies and partners that the U.S. opposes any efforts to renew diplomatic ties with or extend formal diplomatic recognition to the Assad regime. We look forward to your response, and to continuing to work with you to support the Syrian people.” Press release is here.
(PROTECT JOURNALISTS) Klobucher et al letter to Pompeo: On 10/26 – marking the anniversary of the 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi — Sen. Klobuchar (D-MN) led a letter to SecState Pompeo, signed by 10 Senate Democratic colleagues, urging the Trump administration to increase efforts to protect journalists around the world, and hold foreign leaders accountable for suppressing freedom of the press. Press release is here.
(SUPPORT LEBANESE PEOPLE, OPPOSE HEZBOLLAH) Reschenthaler-Luria letter to Pompeo: On 10/20 (not previously reported in Round-Up), Reps. Reschenthaler (R-PA) and Luria (D-VA) led a bipartisan letter to SecState Pompeo, signed by 18 House colleagues, to “urge the administration to continue supporting the Lebanese people while ensuring no U.S. assistance benefits the deep-rooted corruption network inside Lebanon or Hezbollah.” The letter states: “To keep U.S.taxpayer dollars outside Hezbollah’s grasp, future assistance must be directed with strict oversight and transparency through trusted, vetted NGOs verified to have no connection to the terror group or to corruption. Moreover, we encourage you to work with other international donors to support their adoption of similar standards to prevent Hezbollah from using this terrible tragedy to enrich itself with international assistance.” Press release is here.
(IMPLEMENT MAGNITSKY SANCTIONS AGAINST AZERI OFFICIALS) Sherman-Cox letter to Pompeo: On 10/23, Reps. Sherman (D-CA), Cox (D-CA), Costa (D-CA) and Clark (D-MA) sent a letter to SecState Pompeo to “express our concern regarding Azerbaijan’s ongoing military offensive against the people of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh).” The letter goes on to urge the Trump Administration to “impose significant, tangible consequences on the individuals responsible for Azerbaijan’s continuous campaign of aggression against civilians in Artsakh.” Press release is here.
Note: As in past, the Round-Up is not rounding up recent statements praising normalization between Israel and various Arab countries. If you want to see what a member said, or didn’t say, about UAE, Bahrain, or Sudan normalizing relations with Israel, check that member’s website or Twitter feed.
Members on Trump Move to Treat Settlements as Part of Israel
Castro (D-TX) 10/29: Tweet – “Israeli settlements violate international law and their expansion is a serious impediment to peace. The Trump administration’s decision to fund investments there breaks decades of bipartisan consensus, undermining America’s ability to be a fair arbiter for a two-state solution.” [linked to thread about Trump Admin shifting policy to treat settlements as part of Israel]
Sherman (D-CA) 10/29: Twitter thread: “As the author of the US-Israel Energy Cooperation Program, whose projects are administered by the Binational Industrial Research & Development (BIRD) Foundation, I oppose expanding the scientific cooperation agreements to include Israeli settlements. (1/3)” & “Funding from BIRD, BARD and BSF has gone to important research. For several years I have led the effort to seek robust appropriations for these valuable scientific research programs. They are particularly good scientific investments because Israel funds half the cost. (2/3)” & “The Trump administration’s action is transparently political. It will undermine efforts to fund cooperative scientific research, which has wide bipartisan support, by linking it to highly controversial settlement policies. (3/3)”
Meeks (D-NY) 10/29: Tweet – “My colleagues @JoaquinCastrotx and @BradSherman are absolutely correct. Trump continues to deteriorate America’s ability to be an honest broker. I look forward to a Biden administration that can repair that credibility.” [linked to Castro’s tweet, above]
Members on Trump Move to Allow US Passports to Show Jerusalem as Part of Israel
Green (R-TN) 10/29: Tweet – “President @realDonaldTrump remains strong in his commitment to an unwavering US-Israel relationship. Under the Trump Administration, Americans born in Jerusalem will now be able to list their place of birth as Israel.”
Blackburn (R-TN) 10/29: Twitter thread – “For over 60 years, the United States refused to recognize that Jerusalem is within the state of Israel, and in fact Israel’s capital. Then @realDonaldTrump was elected.” & “Today’s announcement to allow this fact to be reflected on U.S. passports is just another in a series of steps @POTUS has taken to support Israel. Americans stand with Israel.”
Members in general
Engel (D-NY) 10/29: Engel Statement on Proposed Sale of F-35 Aircraft to UAE
Menendez (D-NY) 10/29: Menendez Statement on Trump Administration’s Proposed Rushed Sale of F-35 Jets to UAE
Rosen (D-NV) and Lankford (R-OK) 10/28: Rosen, Lankford Recognize One Year Anniversary of Senate Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism [“In the last year since Senator Rosen and I started the Senate Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism, more than a third of the Senate has joined with us in a bipartisan way to condemn acts of hate, promote a uniform definition of anti-Semitism for the U.S. and governments around the world, and ensure our schools are equipped to provide education on the Holocaust…” (bold added for emphasis for readers of the Round-Up)]
Gottheimer (D-NJ) 10/27: RELEASE: Gottheimer, U.S. Special Envoy Elan Carr Call for Combating Foreign Terrorists on Social Media and Fighting Anti-Semitism at Home and Abroad [full remarks]
Pence (R-IN) 10/23: Greg Pence Resolution to Honor Beirut Bombing Attack Highlighted in Marine Corps Times
Cramer (R-ND) 10/23: Sens. Cramer Joins Bipartisan Push to Include Measures Bolstering the US-Israel Relationship in 2020 NDAA
Articles and Reports Related to the Hill
Jewish News Syndicate 10/29: Genevieve Collins promises to be ‘loud voice for Israel’ in Congress
JTA 10/29: A guide to the 23 Jewish Democratic incumbents running on Tuesday [including some views related to Israel/Middle East issues]
Jewish Insider 10/29: When a candidate met the ex-Israeli PM who killed his grandparents
JTA 10/28: Meet the 11 Jewish Democrats vying in 2020 to join Congress for the first time [including some views related to Israel/Middle East issues]
Jewish Insider 10/28: Top Senate races Jewish voters should be eyeing before Nov. 3 [including where they stand on issues that “could affect U.S. policy on issues relevant to the Jewish and pro-Israel community.”
San Diego Jewish News 10/28: Campa-Najjar tells stands on Mideast Peace, BDS
Breitbart 10/27: Leaked WhatsApp Messages Reveal Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar Opposes Two-State Solution [Note: Breitbart’s scandalized take on this stands in rather sharp contrast to its own views on the two-state solution, for example, see: March 6, 2018: Breitbart’s Aaron Klein: Belief in Two-State Solution Fits Definition of Insanity – penned by Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief, who was handpicked for that job by Steve Bannon]
JTA 10/27: Your guide to the 10 Jewish Republicans running for Congress in 2020 [including some views related to Israel/Middle East issues]
Jewish Insider 10/27: Matt Lieberman won’t back down
Jewish Insider 10/27: A congressman’s daughter looks to build on his political legacy in upstate New York
Jewish Insider 10/26: Justice Dems boosted this candidate until she disagreed with them on Israel
Floridian Press 10/25: “Florida Republican Party ties Kamala Harris to anti-Semitic, anti-Israel group CAIR”
Moment 10/23: Jewish Democrats May Turn Down-Ballot Seats Blue
The Day (CT) 10/21: 2nd Congressional District candidates offer differing visions in forum [“Both Courtney and Anderson addressed the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement…They both opposed BDS, forcing Courtney to distance himself from progressive Congressional colleagues who support it.”]