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.
Next week — March 2, 11am – FMEP will be holding a webinar: “Til Kingdom Come”: Evangelicals, Israel/Palestine, and Messianic Politics, ft. ‘Til Kingdom Come director & Emmy award winner Maya Zinshtein; author and journalist Sarah Posner; and FMEP President Lara Friedman (featured in the film) — in conversation with FMEP non-resident fellow Peter Beinart. Details/register here.
ICYMI, on 2/25 FMEP held a webinar – Israel-Palestine at the International Criminal Court: What Next?, ft. Katherine Gallagher (Center for Constitutional Rights), Hassan Jabareen(Adalah), Michael Kearney (Al-Haq) and Yael Stein (B’Tselem) in conversation with me (Lara Friedman, FMEP). Video is here.
*Brought to you in cooperation with Americans for Peace Now, where the Round-Up was born!
(SUPPORTING IRAN DIPLOMACY) S. 434: Introduced 2/24 by Markey (D-MA) and 10 cosponsors (9 Democrats, 1 Independent), “A bill to seek a diplomatic resolution to Iran’s nuclear program, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Press releases: Leahy (D-VT), Feinstein (D-CA)
(NO IRAN SANCTIONS RELIEF W/O CONGRESS APPROVAL) S. 488: Introduced 2/25 by Hagerty (R-TN) and 21 cosponsors (all GOP), “A bill to provide for congressional review of actions to terminate or waive sanctions imposed with respect to Iran.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Ernst (R-IA) press release – Ernst: Congress must have a say before any Iran sanction relief is granted
(NO RETURN TO JCPOA) HR 1231 (pdf): Introduced 2/23 by Gonzales (R-TX) and no cosponsors, “To prohibit the reentry of the United States into the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action unless the President makes certain certifications relating to Iran, and for other purposes,” aka, the “Constraining Human Rights Offenders in the Middle East (CHROME) Act.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Per Gonzales’ press release, the bill “would prohibit the re-entry of the United States into the Iran Deal unless President Biden certifies to Congress that any sanction relief would not benefit terrorist organizations in Iran that have engaged in the violation of human rights – including torture, the killing of peaceful protestors or the persecution of members of the LGBT community.” [Since this bill positions Gonzales as a defender of LGBT rights, some background on his last campaign: Texas Democrat responds to Trump-backed opponent’s ‘transgender agenda’ attacks: ‘You can’t teach courage, and you can’t teach class’ & Transphobic Ad Attacks U.S. House Candidate Gina Ortiz Jones; Latest Anti-LGBTQ Ad by National Republican Group]
(OPPOSING LIFTING IRAN SANCTIONS) H. Res. 157/S. Res. 72: Introduced 2/24 in the House by Gallagher (R-WI) and 19 GOP cosponsors, and in the Senate by Cotton (R-ID) and 25 GOP cosponsors, “Opposing the lifting of sanctions imposed with respect to Iran without addressing the full scope of Iran’s malign activities, including its nuclear program, ballistic and cruise missile capabilities, weapons proliferation, support for terrorism, hostage-taking, gross human rights violations, and other destabilizing activities.” In the House, referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Financial Services Committee; in the Senate referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. Press releases: Galllagher (R-WI), Cotton (R-ID), Blunt (R-MO), Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Young (R-IN), Cruz (R-TX), Hoeven (R-ND), Cramer (R-ND),
(SOLUTION FOR LIBYA) HR 1228/S. 379: Introduced 2/23 in the House by Deutch (D-FL) and 3 cosponsors (one GOP), and in the Senate by Coons (D-DE) and 3 cosponsors (2 GOP), “To advance a diplomatic solution to the conflict in Libya and support the people of Libya.” In the House, referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Committee on the Judiciary, and the Financial Services Committee; in the Senate referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Also see: Markey press release; pdf of text here.
(COMMEMORATING 1ST GULF WAR) H. Res. 161: Introduced 2/24 by Stefanik (R-NY) and 38 cosponsors (all GOP + Crow, D-CO), “Commemorating the 30th anniversary of Operation Desert Storm’s ground campaign and honoring the legacy of America’s Desert Storm veterans and their example of strength and courage.” Referred to the Committee on Armed Services, and the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
(GET THE ICC TO LAY OFF OF ISRAEL!) Senate letter to Blinken: As of this writing, a letter is being circulated in the Senate for co-signers by Sens. Cardin (D-MD) and Portman (R-OH). The letter urges SecState Blinken to “continue your strong support of Israel by forcefully denouncing the recent decision by the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) Pre-Trial Chamber to authorize an investigation for alleged crimes in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem” suggesting that “the Court’s recent actions regarding the ‘Situation in Palestine’ have inappropriately infused politics into the judicial process.” The letter goes on to assert that “The ICC does not have legitimate territorial jurisdiction in this case” given that Israel is not a signatory to the Rome Statute, and argues that “ICC rules prohibit it from prosecuting cases against the citizens of a country with a robust judicial system willing and able to prosecute atrocity crimes committed by its personnel and officials. The ICC’s mandate should not supersede Israel’s robust judicial system, including its military justice system.” The letter alleges that the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber’s decision “unfairly targets Israel, biases any subsequent investigation or trial, and hinders the path towards regional peace” and “constitutes a dangerous politicization of the Court and distorts the purposes for which the Court was established.” The letter says the US “should stand in full force against” the decision and urges Blinken to “issue a more forceful condemnation of the Court’s actions. We also urge you to work with like-minded international partners to steer the ICC away from further actions that could damage the Court’s credibility by giving the appearance of political bias. We ask that you give this matter your full attention and that you continue to defend Israel against discriminatory attacks in all international fora.” Haaretz article on the letter is here. NOTE: This is not the first time Cardin and Portman have led a letter on this subject — a reminder from the May 15, 2020 Round-Up:
(POMPEO – STOP THE ICC FROM ATTACKING ISRAEL!!) AIPAC-backed House &Senate letters: This week, letters were sent to Secretary of State Pompeo – from both the House and Senate – demanding that the U.S. work to block an ICC investigation of Israel for its actions against the Palestinians (the letters are not identical). The House was led by Luria (D-VA) and Gallagher (R-WI), and signed by 262 representatives. The Senate letter was led by Cardin (D-MD) and Portman (R-OH), and signed by 69 senators. The House letter suggests that the current investigation is “politically motivated,” that the ICC has no jurisdiction, and that those pursuing it are doing so “in place of a negotiation process between Israelis and Palestinians” [notwithstanding the fact that the “negotiation process” has been replaced by unilateral actions by the Trump Administration (on Jerusalem, settlements, etc) and Israel (which is on the brink of formally annexing much of the West Bank, with U.S. approval)]. The Senate letter argues that the ICC does not have jurisdiction, that the prosecutor’s recommendation for an investigation “constitutes a dangerous politicization of the Court and distorts the purposes for which the court was established,” and that what is being contemplated is a “biased investigation of Israel.”
(COMBAT FOREIGN INFLUENCE CAMPAIGNS) Klobuchar-Reed-Peters letter to Biden officials: On 2/25, Sen. Klobuchar (D-MN), Reed (D-RI), and Peters (D-MI) sent a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, urging them to take steps to counter foreign influence campaigns. As noted in the press release, the letter “highlights warnings of ongoing malign influence campaigns from Russia, China, and Iran, and other foreign adversaries seeking to undermine the U.S. and our allies from U.S. intelligence officials and independent researchers.”
(SUPPORT ENDING US MILITARY ENGAGEMENT IN YEMEN) De Fazio letter to Biden: On 2/24, Reps. DeFazio (D-OR), Khanna (D-CA), and Dingell (D-MI) led a letter, signed by 41 House members, urging transparency from the Biden Administration regarding U.S. involvement in the Saudi/UAE-led coalition’s war in Yemen as the U.S. ends its support for ‘offensive’ operations. Press release here; also see: Democrats Pressure Biden on U.S. Backing for Saudi War in Yemen (The Intercept)
(PRESS KSA TO DROP BOGUS CHARGES AGAINST VIRGINIANS & PERSECUTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS) Kaine-Connolly letter to Blinken: On 2/24, Sen. Kaine (D-VA) and Rep. Connolly (D-VA) led a letter to SecState Blinken, co-signed by Bennet (D-CO), Feinstein (D-CA), Hickenlooper (D-CO), Markey (D-MA), Warner (D-VA) and Warren (D-MA). As summarized in a press release, the signers of the letter are urging the State Department “to press Saudi Arabia to drop false charges against two Virginians and other Americans in the Kingdom. In their letter, the lawmakers highlight cases of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs) who are facing unfair trials on March 8 or subject to Saudi travel bans due to their peaceful advocacy for social reforms. The lawmakers ask that the State Department advocate for a fair trial and the lifting of travel bans and asset freezes for these Virginians and other Americans.” Other press releases: Kaine (D-VA), Feinstein (D-CA), Bennet (D-CO)
(DEAR KSA: PLEASE HELP YEMEN AID EFFORT) Young-Murphy letter to Saudi Ambassador: On 2/23, Sens. Young (R-IN) and Murphy (D-CT) sent a letter to the Saudi ambassador to the US, “regarding the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Yemen and current funding shortfalls facing the relief effort.” Per their press release, ahead of the upcoming UN pledging conference for aid to Yemen (on March 1), the Senators “urged Ambassador Reema bint Bandar Al Saud to ensure Saudi Arabia considers making a similar contribution to their pledges in 2018 and 2019, and highlighted the urgency of the situation as critical programs that provide food, water, sanitation, fuel and medicine have been shut down due to lack of donor support in 2020.”
Members On The Record…
…on Israel/Palestine-related matters
Scott (R-SC) 2/24: Tweet – “I was honored to host Israeli Ambassador Erdan in South Carolina last week. He was eager to learn about the rich history of Charleston and how we celebrate #BlackHistoryMonth! The United States will always stand with our close ally, Israel.” Linked article: Israeli ambassador visits Charleston for Black History Month (Live5News); also see In first US tour, Israel envoy embarks on ‘personal journey’ along civil-rights trail (Jewish News Syndicate)
Sanders (I-VT) 2/24: Tweet – “As the occupying power, Israel is responsible for the health of all the people under its control. It is outrageous that Netanyahu would use spare vaccines to reward his foreign allies while so many Palestinians in the occupied territories are still waiting.” Linked to article: Israel Gives Vaccine to Far-Off Allies, as Palestinians Wait (New York Times)
Tlaib (D-MI) 2/24: Tweet – “My Palestinian family loves Amo Bernie and you can see why. He truly sees the injustice and speaks truth with no hesitation.” Linked to Sanders tweet re COVID vaccinations.
Pelosi (D-CA) 2/24: Tweet – “Today, I spoke w/ @IsraeliPM to reaffirm the unbreakable bond between our nations & Congress’s unwavering support for a safe & secure Israel. We discussed COVID response & our shared hope for regional peace, including a just, stable & enduring 2-state solution.”
Barasso (R-WY) 2/22: Tweet – “Nearly four weeks into his administration, President Biden has finally spoken with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. While this is great news, it should not have taken this long. America will always stand with Israel.” Linked to FoxNews article – Biden, Israeli PM Netanyahu have ‘warm and friendly’ talkPocan (D-WI) 2/25: Tweet – “Palestinian people are living under Israeli occupation. Israel should be giving Palestinian people the vaccines they need, just like they’ve given them to Israeli people. Giving vaccines to other countries before Palestinians is inhumane.” Linked to article: Israel Gives Vaccine to Far-Off Allies, as Palestinians Wait (New York Times)
Scott (R-SC) 2/22: Tweet – “It was great to have Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. & U.N., @GiladErdan1, in Charleston this weekend for a #BlackHistoryMonth visit! I am proud to share the rich history of the Palmetto State & the important lessons we’ve learned. I look forward to working w/ Amb. Erdan soon!”
…on the UN Human Rights Council
Risch (R-ID) 2/24: Ranking Member Risch: Rejoining UN Human Rights Council Without Reforms is a Mistake
Wilson (R-SC) 2/19: Tweet – “Obama’s lead-from-behind policies in the Middle East only created a legacy of chaos, instability, and destruction in the region that threatened Israel. Read my piece on how failed Obama-era Iran policy must not be repeated in @InsideSourcesDC” Linked to 2/16 article – Failed Obama-Era Iran Policy Must Not Be Repeated
…on Iran-related issues
Waltz (R-FL) 2/25: Op-ed in Newsweek (co-authored with Jamil Jaffer) – “Negotiating Against Ourselves on Iran”Cole (R-OK) 2/19: Cole Statement on President Biden’s Planned Nuclear Negotiations with Iran
Zeldin (R-NJ) 2/19: Rep. Zeldin: Biden Administration Reentering JCPOA As Is Would Be Massive Foreign Policy Blunder
….on Saudi Arabia/Yemen/Gulf
Murphy (D-CT) 2/25: Murphy On Msnbc’s Andrea Mitchell Reports: We Need A Complete Reevaluation Of Our Relationship With Saudi Arabia
Murphy (D-CT) 2/24: Murphy Proposes Path Forward For U.S. Gulf Policy In Address At Council On Foreign Relations
McCaul (R-TX) 2/22: McCaul Statement on Houthi Assault on Marib
Khanna (D-CA) 2/20: Tweet – “Our support for the war in Yemen is costing us our morality.”
Murphy (D-CT) 2/19: Foreign Affairs article – America’s Middle East Policy Is Outdated and Dangerous
Articles and Reports Related to the Hill
Of special note: on 2/22, Rep. Omar (D-MN) tweeted out happy 18th birthday to her daughter. In a response that could be instructive in understanding the mindset of those implementing occupation in the West Bank, Maurice Hirsch — who previously served as Head of the Military Prosecution for Judea and Samaria, replied “Do you know who her father is? Is it your brother or your lover?” Since leaving the IDF, Hirsh has been associated with NGO Monitor and now with Palestinian Media Watch – see his backgrond here; read more about him here, including on his home built illegaly – under Israel law – on Palestinian land.
Feb 2021 – Washington Institute for Near East Policy – Asset Test 2021: How the U.S. Can Keep Benefiting from Its Alliance with Israel [a useful guide (including explicit recommendations) to the kinds of things that are likely to show up in legislation in the coming months and years]
Jewish Insider 2/25: Colin Kahl likely to face tough confirmation over past stances on Iran and Israel
Times of Israel 2/25: Newly elected Jewish Democrat wants Biden to take tougher line on Iran nuke deal [read the whole thing for her views on a range of other issues, incl settlements – e.g. “On settlements, she took a more nuanced stance than many of her Democratic colleagues. On the one hand, Manning said, ‘I would like to see Israel not take steps that make it more difficult for the Palestinians to come back to the negotiation table. I’d hate to see them do annexations, particularly in areas that haven’t always been contemplated to be areas of negotiation.’ However, the congresswoman gave a nod to construction ‘in the major settlements that Israel is unlikely ever to relinquish,’ saying, ‘I don’t think that’s such a disaster.’”]
Jerusalem Post 2/25: Sanders slams Israel for not sending COVID vaccines to Palestinians
Arutz Sheva 2/25: Sanders: ‘Outrageous’ that Israel isn’t vaccinating Palestinians
Middle East Monitor 2/24: Top US lawmaker links Palestinians to antisemitism and hate crimes
Haaretz 2/24: Top Democratic Lawmaker: I’m Against Annexation, but U.S. Aid to Israel Is Nonnegotiable
Times of Israel 2/24: Netanyahu speaks with Pelosi about 2-state solution, pandemic
Jewish Telegraphic Agency 2/24: Netanyahu calls Pelosi to discuss Israel’s COVID response as some Democrats offer criticism
Haaretz 2/23: The Latest Jewish Newcomer to Congress Believes Biden Can Get a Better Iran Deal [In addition to adopting a position that in effect attacks the Obama Administration for the JCPOA (and implicitly attacks Obama with a comment about how Biden “understands in his kishkes…the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship”. Read the whole thing for her views on lots of fun topics, including why she thinks it is wrong to criticize Israel for its failure to provide vaccines to Palestinians under occupation. Re HFAC and her role as vice-chair of the Middle East Subcommittee: “She doesn’t expect her subcommittee to play a key role in advancing Israeli-Palestinian relations ‘unless there are issues that we should be addressing. In terms of the Middle East, you will probably see more focus on the Iran deal, on fostering normalization, and making sure that the Abraham Accords can flourish. Perhaps there’ll be other countries that will engage in normalization with Israel, and I think that that is so important for the region. I suspect that’s where we’ll see more focus of the committee.’” ]
Israel Hayom 2/22: American Jewry can no longer afford to be silent [attacking Reps. Omar and Tlaib, and Democrats for tolerating/defending them]
Middle East Monitor 2/20: Biden administration to release report on Khashoggi assassination[“The Washington Post disclosed that in early 2019, Congress passed legislation giving Trump’s administration 30 days to present an unclassified report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to reveal the names and roles of all current and former Saudi officials linked to Khashoggi’s murder. However, Trump ignored this order.]