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.
Timely resource: Congressional Research Service Report — U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel (Updated Nov. 16, 2020)
Shameless plug: Check out FMEP’s Lara Friedman (and the amazing Noura Erekat) interviewed by Mehdi Hasan 11/19/20
(FY21 NDAA) HR 6395: Passed/agreed to in Senate 11/16 by Voice Vote, with an amendment in the nature of a substitute (which is the Senate-passed text of the NDAA). Senate amendment rejected by the House 11/18, conference requested, and House conferees appointed [NOTE: According to Hill rumors, the House-Senate work on conferencing the FY21 NDAA has been quietly under way since the August recess]. Further reading:
- A run-down of Middle East-related details of the Senate FY21 NDAA text are in the July 3, 2020 edition of the Round-Up.].
- Assessing those details, I noted in that Round-Up: “this NDAA represents an unprecedented bonanza for Israel: millions in funding; a role in Cabinet-level discussions on US military planning; codification of $3.8 billion in aid as an untouchable entitlement; & far-reaching new domains of US funding and cooperation. Some people may think — great! Fantastic moves by the Senate! Please let this pass into law! Others may have policy/substantive concerns with some or much of this, not the least being that major policy of this nature merit real oversight and debate…But whether you are happy or not, there is no denying that this NDAA is nothing short of an historic JACKPOT for Israel. And coming at this moment in history when Israel is literally on the brink of annexing West Bank territory, it sends a clear & unmistakable message. That message is: as far as this Congress is considered (& this is bipartisan & non-controversial), not only will there no meaningful price for annexation, annexation will be richly rewarded, including by codifying into US law Israel impunity & entitlement.”
- Today, formal/official annexation has been “suspended” but de facto annexation — including the razing of an entire Palestinian community on the same day the US had its elections — continues and is accelerating. Meaning the central message of this bonanza of a bill (which is already being conferenced with a House version that is its own unprecedented bonanza for Israel) is the same today as it was 4 months ago: as far as this Congress is considered (and this is bipartisan and non-controversial), not only will there no meaningful price for Israeli actions/policies that deliberately and openly undermine, obstruct, and contradict the very notion of a negotiated two-state agreement, but such actions/policies will be ever-more richly rewarded, including by codifying into US law Israel impunity & entitlement.”
- Details of the House version of the NDAA are covered in the July 17 and July 24 editions of the Round-Up.
(DISAPPROVING OF ARMS SALES TO UAE) S.J.Res.77, S.J.Res. 78, S.J.Res. 79, S.J.Res.80: Introduced 11/18 by Menendez (D-NJ), Paul (R-KY) and Murphy (D-CT), four joint resolutions “providing for congressional disapproval of the proposed foreign military sale to the United Arab Emirates of certain defense articles and services.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Menendez press release: Senators Menendez, Paul, Murphy Unveil Joint Resolutions of Disapproval for Proposed Arms Package to UAE. Also see: Three US senators introduce resolutions to stop arms sales to the UAE (Jerusalem Post); Three US senators seek to stop sale of advanced jets to UAE (Times of Israel); Senators Take Aim At Massive Trump Arms Deal (uffington Post)
(DISAPPROVING OF ARMS SALES TO UAE) H.J.Res.100, H.J.Res.101, H.J.Res.102, H.J.Res.103: Introduced 11/19 by Omar (D-MN), “Providing for congressional disapproval of the proposed foreign military sale to the United Arab Emirates of certain defense articles and services.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
(US-IRAQ RELATIONSHIP) H. Res. 1062: Introduced 7/23 by Allred (D-TX) and having 20 cosponsors, “Affirming the nature and importance of the United States-Iraq bilateral relationship, including security and economic components of the relationship.” Passed/agreed to in House 11/18 by voice vote.
(LIBYA STABILIZATION) HR 4644: Introduced 10/11 by Deutch (D-FL), and having 14 cosponsors, the “Libya Stabilization Act.” Passed/agreed to in House 11/18 by a voice vote. Deutch press release is here.
(US OUT OF YEMEN) H. Con. Res. 123: Introduced 11/19 by DeFazio (D-OR), “Directing the President pursuant to section 5(c) of the War Powers Resolution to remove United States Armed Forces from unauthorized hostilities in the Republic of Yemen.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
(LABEL SETTLEMENT GOODS “MADE IN ISRAEL”) Cotten et al letter to Trump: On 11/18 Senator Cotton (R-IN) led a letter, co-signed by Senators Cruz (R-TX), Loeffler (R-GA), and Rubio (R-FL), urging President Trump “to change U.S. customs policy and guidelines to allow Israeli goods produced in Judea and Samaria [the biblical term for the West Bank] to be labeled ‘Made in Israel.’” [NOTE: The day after this letter was sent, Pomeo announced a new US policy requiring all products from Area C being exported to the US be labeled “Made in Israel”] Press release is here. Cotton tweet: “Israeli goods produced in Judea and Samaria should be allowed to be labeled ‘Made in Israel.’” Cruz tweet: “ICYMI: I joined my colleagues @SenTomCotton, @MarcoRubio, and @SenatorLoeffler in sending a letter urging POTUS to issue an EO ending any discriminatory labeling of goods produced anywhere across Israel’s territories.” Background/context:
- Comprehensive backgrounder on US vs EU labeling policy (that I wrote in 2016, when I was at APN)
- Al-Monitor explainer from 2015: America’s ‘Made in Israel’ policy that you’ve probably never heard of
- Reminder: Cotton tried to do this in 2016 with legislation (S. 2474). See the Feb. 5, 2016 edition of the Round-Up for details/discussion; Cotton’s memo to Senate colleagues promoting the bill is here.
- In 2015, Cruz (R-TX) & Gillibrand (D-NY) also engaged on this issue with a letter to EU Rep. Mogherini (w/ 34 co-signers) opposing the EU policy requiring accurate labeling of settlement products. That letter framed the requirement for accurate labeling as promoting a “de-facto boycott of Israel“
- In 2019, Zeldin (R-NY) & Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) sent their own letter to EU Rep Mogherini, condemning the European Court of Justice’s ruling that goods made in West Bank settlements cannot be labeled “made in Israel”
- Background re: inaccurate assertion in Cotton’s letter claiming that for the purposes of US trade policy, the US considers goods made in settlements Israeli goods.
- Articles: Senators urge Trump to axe ‘Made in West Bank’ settlement labels before end of term [Middle East Eye]
(CONDEMN ISRAELI DEMOLITION OF PALESTINIAN COMMUNITY) Pocan et al letter to Pompeo: On 11/17, Rep. Pocan (D-WI) led a letter, co-signed by 40 House colleagues (all Democrats) calling on SecState Pompeo to the condemn the recent demolition by Israeli authorities of the Palestinian community of Khirbet Humsah in the Jordan Valley (displacing 73 people, including 40 children —the largest demolition of Palestinian homes in a decade—and to secure a commitment from the Isreali government ending future displacement efforts. Pocan tweet announcing the letter is here. Also see: Progressive Democrats call on Pompeo to condemn Israeli demolition of Beduin village (the Hill); Democrats ask Pompeo if Israel used US equipment to destroy Palestinian village (Middle East Eye)
(HOLD TURKEY ACCOUNTABLE FOR ILLEGAL ACTIONS IN VAROSHA) Maloney/Bilirakis letter to Pompeo: On 11/16, Reps. Maloney (D-NY) and Bilirakis (R-FL), co-chairs of the House Hellenic Caucus, sent a letter – signed by 21 House colleagues – to SecState Pompeo to “express our grave concerns over President Erdogan’s attempts to permanently partition the island of Cyprus, including Turkey’s illegal reopening of the beach in Varosha. We urge you and the Administration to publicly and unequivocally condemn Turkey’s actions and hold President Erdogan accountable for blatantly violating international law and threatening the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus.” Press release is here.
On 11/17, the Middle East Forum was scheduled to hold a briefing featuring Rep. Lamborn (R-CO) “to discuss his work advocating for Israel and combating anti-Semitism.” The event notice noted that Lamborn: “seeks to go beyond the Taylor Force Act by imposing sanctions on the PA. He also spearheaded efforts to ensure that universities are not misusing federal funds to promote BDS. How will these issues fare in the new Congress?” [The event did not take place and no new date has yet appeared on the MEF website].
Members Re: Shifts in US Policy on Boycotts & Settlements
Biggs (R-AZ) 11/19: Tweet – “President @realDonaldTrump continues to strengthen our alliance with Israel with these historic actions. We stand with Israel and against the global anti-Israel BDS campaign.”
Portman (R-OH) 11/19: Tweets – “I applaud the Admin’s designation of the global BDS movement as anti-Semitism so that our taxpayer $ does not go to those who discriminate against #Israel or the Jewish people.” & “I will continue to work in a bipartisan manner to combat the global BDS movement and anti-Zionism.”
Grothman (R-WI) 11/19: Tweet – “The global Boycott, Divest, Sanction (BDS) campaign was created to attack Israel and hurt its citizens. Thank you to @StateDept and @SecPompeo for officially recognizing the BDS movement as anti-Semitic and condemning this terrible practice.”
Bacon (R-NE) 11/19: Tweet – “The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign seeks to isolate and weaken Israel, and we should ensure our tax dollars do not go to organizations that promote BDS. Israel is our close ally and the only democracy in the region. We have a duty to stand by our friend.”
Cheney (R-WY) 11/19: Tweet – “I applaud this announcement. Radical Democrats who embrace the hateful BDS movement are knowingly supporting an anti-Semitic effort that seeks to delegitimize and demonize one of our closest allies. This is another key step that shows we stand unapologetically with Israel.”
Cotton (R-AR) 11/19: Tweet – “I commend the administration for heeding my call to end the discriminatory treatment of Israeli goods produced in Judea and Samaria, so they may be labeled properly, ‘Made in Israel.’”
Members in general
Schneider (D-IL) 11/19: Tweet – “After many months refusing to engage, I hope it is a promising sign that the Palestinians are resuming cooperation with Israelis. Such cooperation is good for both peoples and the region as a whole.” [linked to article: Reassured by Biden Win, Palestinians Will Resume Cooperation With Israel]
Lesko (R-AZ) 11/19: Tweet – “Thanks to @realDonaldTrump’s bold leadership and historic strides towards peace in the Middle East, @SecPompeo facilitated the first-ever official ministerial visit from Bahrain to Israel, where they formalized the Abraham Accords!”
Deutch (D-FL) 11/18 Tweet – “Trump withholding US funds for humanitarian aid and critical needs in West Bank/Gaza was a mistake. Funding for health, education & other basic services need to be restored.” [linked to 11/9 article, U.N. refugee agency for Palestinians appeals for money to pay salaries]
Pallone (D-NY) 11/18: Tweet – “Good to see that Israeli and Palestinian leadership have committed to resume security and financial cooperation. Hoping to see both sides continue on a pathway toward peace with the support of a Biden Administration.” [linked to article: Palestinians and Israel agree to resume security, financial cooperation] [Note: Pallone did NOT/NOT sign the Pocan letter expressing concern about Israel’s ongoing demolitions and displacement of Palestinians]
Cornyn (R-TX) 11/17: Floor statement on terrorism [“We have actually strengthened our relationship with allies in the region, like Israel and Jordan, and taken a tougher approach on a unified basis against enemies like Iran. And the recent Abraham Accords Peace Agreement marked a historic step in normalizing relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. There is no question in my mind that the world is safer today than it was 4 years ago because of the historic progress that we have made, not only against terrorists but to provide the foundation of peace and stability in the Middle East by encouraging Israel and its neighbors to work together where they can.”]
Deutch (D-FL) 11/17: Tweet – “This decision to resume cooperation is good news for Palestinians, for Israelis, and for the United States.” [linked to article: Reassured by Biden Win, Palestinians Will Resume Cooperation With Israel] [Note: Deutch did NOT/NOT sign the Pocan letter expressing concern about Israel’s ongoing demolitions and displacement of Palestinians]
Lowenthal (D-CA) 11/17: Tweet – “I welcome the resumption of security coordination between Israel and the Palestinian authority. This is another important step away from the brink of disaster. I look forward to working to advance the cause of peace and justice in the coming years.” [linked to article: Reassured by Biden Win, Palestinians Will Resume Cooperation With Israel] [Note: Lowenthal DID/DID sign the Pocan letter expressing concern about Israel’s ongoing demolitions and displacement of Palestinians]
Lankford (R-OK) 11/17: Tweet – “I secured language in the Senate SFOPS bill to ensure the UAE protects our F-35 program from actors like Russia and #CommunistChina. President @realdonaldtrump has made great progress in the Middle East, but we must continue to protect Israel & ourselves.” [linked to article: In F-35 sale to UAE, Senate seeks State Dept. guarantee for US technology and Israel]
Reed (D-RI) 11/17: Reed: Don’t Let U.S. National Security Become a Casualty of Trump’s Wounded Ego
Feinstein (D-CA) 11/17: Feinstein: President Trump Threatening National Security on Way Out
Bacon (R-NE) 11/16: Tweet – “We owe Israel a debt of gratitude for destroying the nuclear weapons programs of Iraq & Syria, and significantly disrupting Iran’s. These nuclear programs pose existential threats to #Israel, but also serious threats to America’s national interests.” [linked to article: “How Israel Keeps Saving the World”]
Israel in the Spotlight in GA Run-Off
Alan Dershowitz/Jerusalem Post 11/19: Will a candidate with anti-Israel views determine who controls the Senate?
Rubio (R-FL) 11/19: Tweet – “In 2019 Warnock issued a joint statement comparing #Israel to apartheid South Africa & accusing the Jewish state of tactics “borrowed & perfected from other previous oppressive regimes” In 2020 he wants to be a U.S. Senator from #GEORGIA”
Articles and Reports Related to the Hill
Elections/Campaigns – general
Jewish Insider 11/18: Eliot Engel looks back [“‘I said when I ran that I would be the best friend that Israel ever had in Congress, and I think that I have kept up that bargain,’ he told JI, adding his belief that the U.S.-Israel relationship is in better shape than ever. ‘It’s no longer built on security and cultural ties, but on economic ties and cooperation in every sector, supported not just by Jewish Americans but by all Americans, or many Americans, and Israel is a strategic partner in every sense of the word.’ The recent normalization deals between Israel and Sudan, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, according to Engel, have positively changed the geopolitical calculus in the Middle East. ‘It used to be where the Palestinians blocked everything,’ he said. ‘They complained and whined and cried that they weren’t being treated fairly, and then when we tried to get together to treat them fairly, they rejected everything we did.’ ‘The old fights are really antiquated,’ Engel said. ‘I would always talk to the Arab leaders and say, ‘You and Israel sound very much alike, why do you continue to be enemies?’And I think that the Arabs are finally realizing this, and that’s why you’re having diplomatic relations with all these different [Arab] countries.’”]
Times of Israel/Yehuda Kurtzer 11/17: In Georgia, a scary partisan push to pit Blacks vs. Jews [“Although Israel is not exclusively an electoral issue for Jews in America – it is a driver of evangelical politics and a flashpoint for some in the pro-Palestinian left – it often feels like a means of trafficking in legitimacy vis-à-vis the Jewish people. Loeffler was staking a claim not just to political terrain but to Jews as allies in a way that inevitably tests Jewish reciprocity. This move is also inseparable from the politics of racial justice. In fact, Loeffler has explicitly condemned Black Lives Matter for being, in her words, ‘anti-Semitic.’ Thus the incumbent was positioning herself as the arbiter of what was or wasn’t anti-Semitic – taking away agency from Black Americans and from Jewish Americans at the same time.”]
Bloomberg 11/16: The Pro-Israel Progressive Movement Notches a Win [“Whereas many progressive Democrats are wary of bucking their party’s left flank on Israel, Torres is not. ‘The progressive position is to promote a Jewish state and a Palestinian state, not to end the existence of Israel as a Jewish state,’ he told me.”]
Jewish News Syndicate 11/16: New York’s Nicole Malliotakis seeks to be a conservative counterweight to ‘The Squad’ [“Malliotakis has called for forming a ‘freedom squad’ to counter fellow New Yorker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her allies in Congress. She touted her own record of voting for resolutions condemning BDS, calling out anti-Semitism and being critical of members of Congress such as ‘Squad’ member Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) for making anti-Semitic remarks.”]
News – General