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.
On March 23 Israelis go back to the polls (again) — and Jewish Currents will be hosting live coverage and analysis on election night, with Peter Beinart, Contributing Writer Elisheva Goldberg, and Assistant Editor Joshua Leifer, and “a range of guests to discuss what, in their view, is at stake, including: political analyst Michal Sella; Jaffa city councilmember Abed Abu Shehadeh; former MK Stav Shaffir; policy analysts Lara Friedman and Yousef Munayyer.”
When Israelis go to the polls next week, they will be voting on – among other things – whether to bring followers of the late Meir Kahane into the Knesset and possibly into the government (since the Kahanists are in partnership with Netanyahu), on 3/18, FMEP convened a webinar entitled, “Mainstreaming the Extreme: How Meir Kahane’s Vision of Jewish Supremacy Conquered Israeli Politics.” The webinar featured featuring Amjad Iraqi (+972 Magazine), Professor Rabbi Shaul Magid (Dartmouth College and author of the forthcoming Meir Kahane: The Public Life and Political Thought of an American Jewish Radical), and Natasha Roth-Rowland (University of Virginia) in conversation with Lara Friedman (FMEP). Video and resources shared during the webinar are here; podcast version – Spotify, Soundcloud.
(REPEAL AUMFS) HR 2014 (pdf): Introduced 3/18 by Gallagher (R-WI), Golden (D-ME), Meijer (R-MI), and Spanberger (D-VA), “To repeal certain outdated authorizations for the use of military force, and for other purposes.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Gallagher press release is here, noting: “The bill would end the 1957, 1991, and 2002 AUMFs, formally ending the Congressional authorization for the Gulf and Iraq wars, as well as an open-ended Cold War-era authorization of force in the Middle East.”
(RECOGNIZING NOWRUZ) H. Res. 237: Introduced 3/16 by Lofgren (D-CA) and now having 10 cosponsors (bipartisan), “Recognizing the cultural and historical significance of Nowruz.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
(DEMANDING ANSWERS ON IRAN STRATEGY) Hagerty letter to POTUS: On 3/17, Rep. Hagerty (R-TN) sent a letter to President Biden asking the President to answer (a) whether he will commit to giving Congress a veto over any Iran deal, including any sanctions relief; (b) on what basis he would agree to sanctions relief; and (c) explain what steps his Administration “taking or planning to take to help our allies in the Middle East defend themselves against the Iranian regime’s increasing military aggression against them.” Hagerty press release is here.
(ISRAEL MUST VACCINATE PALESTINIANS!) Pocan-Carson letter to Blinken: On 3/15, Reps. Pocan (D-WI) and Carson (D-IN) led a letter to SecState Blinken, signed by a total of 17 House Democrats, requesting “that the State Department take additional action to ensure that the Israeli government provide COVID-19 vaccines and facilitate vaccination programs for Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza.” The letter notes: “As the occupying power, Israel has a legal responsibility under the Geneva Conventions to ensure that the occupied Palestinian population is provided with adequate medical care including ‘adoption and application of the prophylactic and preventative measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics’ to ‘the fullest extent of the means available to it.’ Even though, under the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority maintains responsibility for the management of health care for Palestinian’s living in the occupied territory, this does not negate Israeli obligations under international law, nor does it lessen Israel’s control over Palestinian movement, access to medical imports, and other factors which directly impact vaccination efforts. Outside of the legal and moral obligations it should be clear that it is in Israel’s self-interest that Palestinians receive vaccines.” Press releases/Tweet: Pocan (D-WI), Pocan (D-WI), Carson (D-IN), Tlaib (D-MI), Newman (D-IL). Also see: House Democrats call for Blinken to pressure Israel to vaccinate Palestinians (The Hill)
(WV GOP LOBBIES MANCHIN TO OPPOSE BIDEN ADMIN NOMINEE) State GOP Reps’ letter to Manchin: On 3/12, Sen. Manchin (D-WV) was sent a letter, signed by 70 Republican members of the West Virginia legislature, urging him to vote against President Biden’s nominee for undersecretary of Defense, Colin Kahl. See reporting from Politico here.
ICYMI (added late to last week’s Round-Up) ==> [GET VACCINATIONS TO PALESTINIANS] Sanders-Warren et al letter to Blinken: On 3/12, Sens. Sanders (I-VT), Warren (D-MA), Carper (D-DE), Brown (D-OH) and Merkley (D-OR) sent a letter to SecState Blinken ” to ask the administration to urge the Israeli government to do more to help the Palestinians in the territories receive adequate supplies of the COVID vaccine.” Sanders Tweet is here.
This week AIPAC launched its 2021 lobbying blitz. Where normally this would take place as the last part of AIPAC’s annual Policy Conference in Washington, this year the whole thing is virtual. JTA reports that AIPAC was expecting “900 activists to convene online for its National Council and replicate the last day of the typical policy conference when thousands of activists knock on doors on the Hill promoting three requests. There are almost 500 congressional meetings scheduled.” For more details see: JTA 3/15: No AIPAC conference? No problem. We’re meeting for coffee on Zoom. & Jewish Insider 3/16: AIPAC hosts virtual gathering, previews policy agenda
2021 Lobbying Agenda
This week also saw the unveiling of AIPAC’s 2021 lobbying agenda, which boils down to three priorities:
–>Supporting continued aid to Israel at current levels & opposing any conditions
Senate vehicle: Unknown
–>Supporting Abraham Accords and further normalization between Israel and Arab states/peoples
Senate vehicle: A new version of last year’s Portman (R-OH)-Booker (D-NJ) bill (as predicted in the March 5 edition of the Round-Up) [LATE ADDITION TO THE ROUND-UP – pdf of text of Portman-Booker normalization bill]
House vehicle: A companion text to the Booker-Portman bill, reportedly to be introduced in the House by Schneider (D-IL).
–>Opposing return to JCPOA without improvements/additional concessions by Iran
House vehicle: There have already been 2 bipartisan letters on Iran (here and here), the latter one aggressively backed by AIPAC and drawing 140 signers. There is no indication there will be yet another.
Members on AIPAC
Numerous members of Congress (almost all Republicans) tweeted about their meetings with AIPAC this week (and in their tweets explicitly expressed support for all or some of the initiatives above), including:
Rice (D-NY) 3/19: “Proud to meet with my friends at @AIPAC to discuss US security assistance to Israel, preventing a nuclear Iran, and supporting the historic Abraham Accords. America’s relationship with Israel is essential, and I am committed to supporting & strengthening our alliance.”
Cheney (R-WY) 3/18: “Our relationship with Israel is essential, and we must continue to stand firmly with our ally. I enjoyed meeting with @AIPAC members from Wyoming this afternoon to discuss the importance of preventing a nuclear Iran, and supporting Israel, as well as the recent Abraham Accords.”
Young (R-IN) 3/18: “Yesterday afternoon, I met with Hoosier members of @AIPAC to discuss United States support of Israel, as well as my efforts to build upon the success of the #AbrahamAccords and encourage other countries to normalize relations with Israel.”
Tenney (R-NJ) 3/18: “Thank you to @AIPAC for meeting with me today. We discussed important issues like preventing a nuclear Iran & addressing the regimes destabilizing behavior, U.S. security assistance to Israel, and continued support to back Israel-Arab normalization efforts.”
Steil (R-WI) 3/18: “Thanks to our Wisconsin @AIPAC representatives for taking the time to chat with me today! Israel is our strongest and most reliable partner in the Middle East. I am committed to strengthening and supporting the U.S.-Israel partnership!”
Bacon (R-NE) 3/18, retweeted this tweet from an AIPAC member who met with him: “Thank you to @RepDonBacon for taking a moment out of his busy schedule to visit with @AIPAC to discuss important issues relating to the US-Israel relationship. Rep. Bacon’s championship is a source of pride and deep appreciation for us.”
Grothman (R-WI) 3/18: “I was happy to sit down with @AIPAC and discuss ways to strengthen the US-Israel relationship and promote future Israel-Arab peace efforts.”
Schweikert (R-AZ) 3/18: “I had a great meeting yesterday with @AIPAC to discuss the importance of the US-Israel relationship! Thank you for taking the time to talk.”
Pallone (D-NJ) 3/17: “Met with @AIPAC today to discuss US security assistance to Israel, prospects for Israeli-Arab cooperation and the need for a long-term plan to preventing a nuclear Iran. We agreed that Congress must continue to support a strong US-Israel partnership rooted in our shared values.”
Gonzalez (R-PR) 3/17: “Met with @aipac advocates about ways to strengthen the strategic US-Israel alliance, prevent #Iran’s nuclear influence in the region, and support the Jewish State’s peace agreements with Arab nations.”
Kustoff (R-TN) 3/17: “I sat down with members of @AIPAC to discuss ways in which we can continue supporting the strong U.S.-Israel relationship. We must also ensure that Iran does not pave a pathway to obtaining nuclear weapons. Thank you all for talking with me!”
Granger (R-TX) 3/17: “Today, I met virtually with @AIPAC representatives to discuss preventing a nuclear Iran, security assistance for Israel, & progress towards Mideast peace. America’s strong relationship with Israel is key as we continue to encourage peace throughout the region & across the globe.”
Stefanick (R-NY) 3/16: “Thank you to @AIPAC members today for the opportunity to discuss the importance of our US-Israel relationship, security assistance, and countering Iran. The U.S. must continue to stand strongly with our ally and friend, Israel”
March 24: The The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations will hold a business meeting to deal with a number of pieces of legislation, including: S. 615 ( to establish an interagency program to assist countries in North Africa and West Africa to improve immediate and long-term capabilities to counter terrorist threats, and for other purposes), S. Res. 99 (a resolution observing the 10th anniversary of the uprising in Syria), and an as-yet mysterious resolution that may or may not be about Israel and some Middle East countries, S. Res. __, (“Reaffirming the importance of United States alliances and partnerships”).
March 23: The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “Reclaiming Congressional War Powers.” Scheduled witnesses are: Oona A. Hathaway (Former Special Counsel to the General Counsel, U.S. Department of Defense); Bob Bauer (Former White House Counsel); and Jack Goldsmith (Former Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel, U.S. Department of Justice).
March 22: The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations will receive a closed briefing on the Understanding the Policy and Legal Rationale of U.S. Airstrikes in Syria. Briefers will be: Joey Hood, NEA Acting Assistant Secretary of State; an unnamed “official briefer” described as the Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Iran (named in the original event announcement as Alissa Moghtaderi); Dana Stroul, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense; and Lt. Gen. James Mingus, Director of Operations – Joint Chiefs of Staff. [NOTE: This appears to be the briefing that was scheduled for 3/15 – that event still shows up on the SFRC’s schedule with no indication that it didn’t take place or was rescheduled, but it now also shows up – same title & briefers – on 3/22)
March 18: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Middle East, North Africa and Global Counterterrorism held a hearing entitled, “Assessing the Human Rights Situation in Saudi Arabia.” Witnesses were: Suzanne Nossel, PEN America (statement), Hala Aldosari, Scholar in Women’s Health and Activist from Saudi Arabia (statement), and Kirsten Fontenrose, Atlantic Council (statement). Video is here.
Members On The Record…
Hagerty (R-TN) 3/19: Tweet – “The Israeli-American relationship is of vast importance. I stand with our ally.”
Grassley (R-IA) 3/18: Grassley on Growing Threats to our National Security (floor speech on China and Iran)
Hill (R-AR) 3/18: Tweet – “.@DavidM_Friedman, former U.S. Ambassador to Israel, secured peaceful relationships for Israel in the Middle East, and was influential in moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. I thank Mr. Friedman for his service to our country and wish him success in his future endeavors.”
Murphy (D-FL) 3/18: Tweet – “Met with Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. Our alliance is rooted in shared interests, common values, & a deep historical connection. We spoke about the threat from Iran & Hezbollah, the historic Abraham Accords, & the need to oppose efforts to cut or condition U.S. aid to Israel.”
Leahy (D-VT) 3/17: Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy: The United States And Cuba [“…The Saudi Crown Prince orchestrated the gruesome murder of a respected journalist. Egypt, a military dictatorship that receives billions of dollars in U.S. aid, has imprisoned tens of thousands of people for their political beliefs. They should be held accountable, but no one is suggesting that we impose an economic embargo against those countries or demanding that they hold free and fair elections if they want to remain allies of the United States.”]
Risch (R-ID) 3/15: ICYMI: Ranking Member Risch: Assad’s Decade of Torture Against Syrians Must End (statement + video)
Portman (R-OH) 3/14: Tweet – “This week, Senator Cardin & I led a contingent of 58 US Senators is calling for President Biden’s State Department to stand with our ally #Israel against politically motivated discrimination from the International Criminal Court.” [re: letter sent last week – apparently he wants more credit for it…]
Pressley (D-MA) 3/13: Tweet – “Israel’s failure to provide enough vaccines for all Palestinians while sending doses to far away countries is deeply troubling. Not only does this violate international law, it’s bad public health policy. The vaccine must be made available to all — not just a privileged few.” Linked to article, Palestinian Authority faces criticism over vaccine rollout (AP)
Articles and Reports Related to the Hill
Jewish Insider 3/18: A year later, Senate letter against ICC drops to 57 signatures
Jerusalem Post 3/16: Rep. Gottheimer to ‘Post’: ‘We shouldn’t allow Iran to threaten the US’
Jewish Insider 3/16: Haaland confirmation sets off mad scramble to claim her seat in Congress [“In interviews with JI, the candidates were eager to highlight their progressive policy agendas on issues like universal healthcare, climate change and the $15 minimum wage hike in a race where it is politically expedient to lean left, given the partisan makeup of the district. But their views on foreign policy, particularly around Israel, are less predictable — and illustrate a growing tension between progressives who are supportive of the Jewish state and those who are more critical of the longstanding U.S.-Israel relationship…Pro-Israel groups, including Democratic Majority for Israel and the Jewish Democratic Council of America, have yet to make endorsements in the race. But Jeff Mendelsohn, executive director of Pro-Israel America, told JI that he was watching with interest. ‘Pro-Israel America is paying close attention to the upcoming special elections, including the expected race in NM-1 to replace Rep. Deb Haaland,’ he said. ‘While we don’t get involved in every race, we will continue to support candidates who understand and value the U.S.-Israel relationship, particularly when running against candidates who would weaken our strategic alliance.’”]
Mondoweiss 3/16: GOP Rep wants Biden to target BDS movement over false terror links
Jewish Insider 3/15: Congressional Republicans push barrage of Iran legislation
The New Arab (Mitchell Plitnick) 3/15: US lawmaker Gregory Meeks shows his true colours on Palestine
Daily Caller 3/14: Congressman Asks Attorney General, Secretary Of Treasury To Investigate Funds Raised By Left-Wing Charity Platform, Citing Terror Concerns [linked to BDS]