Resolutions & Letters
2. Dent-Price Iran Diplomacy Letter Racks Up Huge Success
3. Israel Visa Waiver Issue Heats Up Again
4. House FY14 ForOps - Committee Draft
5. Power Confirmation Hearing in the SFRC
7. From the Press/Blogs
Shameless plug) For those interested in the issue of Egypt aid and U.S. law, check out my article this week in Foreign Policy: The Egypt aid conundrum.
1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters
(FY14 FOREIGN OPS APPROPS BILL) HR XXXX: On 7/18 the House Appropriations Committee released the base text of the FY14 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill. Full analysis of the draft is in section 3, below.
(U.S.-ISRAEL MISSILE DEFENSE COOPERATION) HR 2701: Introduced 7/16 by Roskam (R-IL) and Deutch (D-FL), the "United States-Israel Missile Defense Cooperation Act of 2013." The bill consists of whereas clauses laying out the rationale for U.S.-Israel missile defense cooperation, and an operative clause stating: "The President, acting through the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State, is authorized to provide assistance, upon request of the Government of Israel, for the procurement of the Iron Dome anti-rocket defense system, as well as authorization for cooperation on the development, maintenance, enhancement, and sustainment of the David's Sling, Arrow, and Arrow 3 anti-missile defense systems, for the purposes of intercepting short-range, medium-range, and long-range rockets, missiles, and projectiles launched against Israel." Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
(U.S.-ISRAEL MISSILE DEFENSE COOPERATION) HR 2717: Introduced 7/17 by Roskam (R-IL) and Deutch (D-FL), the "United States-Israel Missile Defense Cooperation Act of 2013." This appears top be identical to HR 2701 (not clear why he introduced it twice). Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
(UN "REFORM") S. 1313: Introduced 7/17 by Rubio (R-FL) and no cosponsors, "to promote transparency, accountability, and reform within the United Nations system, and for other purposes. The short title of the bill is, the "United Nations Transparency, Accountability, and Reform Act of 2013." Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. S. 1313 is the most recent version of S. 1848, which was introduced 11/10/11 by Rubio (R-FL), along with Sens. Crapo (R-ID) and Inhofe (R-OK). That bill, in turn, was a Senate version of HR 2829, fellow Floridian Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's (R-FL) UN "reform" bill, passed by the House Foreign Affairs Committee on 10/13/11 (for bill details, see here). Rubio's press release announcing the introduction of S. 1313 is available here (his press release announcing the introduction of the previous version of the bill, S. 1848, is available here). S. 1313 is comprised of 10 titles. Five of these titles focus not on UN reform, but on the Palestinians, and another title includes a focus on ant-Semitism:
- TITLE I, "United States Policy at the United Nations." This title includes Section 110, "Anti-Semitism and the United Nations." This section states would require the withholding of $100 million in UN funding until the President certifies that "no United Nations agency or United Nations affiliated agency grants any official status, accreditation, or recognition to any organization which promotes or condones anti-Semitism, or which includes as a subsidiary or member any such organization..."
- TITLE III, "Status of Palestinian Entities at the United Nations."This title would require the U.S. to withhold funds to any UN entity "that recognizes a Palestinian state or grants full membership to the Palestinian observer mission at the United Nations, the Palestine Liberation Organization, the Palestinian Authority, or any other Palestinian administrative organization or governing entity, at that United Nations entity, prior to the achievement of complete and final peace agreement negotiated between and agreed to by Israel and the Palestinians." (Basically this is already the law)
- TITLE IV, "United Nations Human Rights Council." This title would require the U.S. to cut funding to the UN in an amount equivalent to the estimated amount of assessed UN dues that go to funding the UN Human Rights Council, unless the Secretary of State can make a far-reaching certification about the Council, including that "the United Nations Human Rights Council's agenda or programme of work does not include a permanent item with regard to the State of Israel."
- TITLE V, "Goldstone Report." This title would require the U.S. to withhold funding to the UN in an amount that "is equal to the percentage of such contribution that the Secretary determines would be or has been expended by the United Nations for any part of the Goldstone Report or its preparatory or follow-on activities."
- Title VI, "Durban Process." This section would bar any U.S. funding, under any provision of law, for anything related in any way to the Durban Process. The section goes even further, and bars any U.S. funding for ANY UN-backed "conference, meeting, or other multilateral forum, or the preparatory or follow-on activities" unless the Secretary of State can certify that far-reaching conditions have been met, to ensure that such events and activities are not "biased and compromised."
- TITLE VII, "United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Middle East." This title would condition funding for UNRWA on the Secretary of State certifying that a far-reaching list of conditions have been met with respect to UNRWA operations. In addition, this title includes a lengthy Sense of Congress that (a) calls on the U.S. to lobby other countries to put similar conditions on UNRWA funding, and (b) adopts the agenda of those who believe the Palestinian refugee issue can be re-defined out of existence, by stating that Palestinian refugees who have obtained citizenship in any country should be removed from UNRWA's jurisdiction, by stating that UNRWA's definition of a refugee should be replaced by the definition used by UNHCR, and by stating that "it should be the goal of the United States to eliminate UNRWA and give the Office of the United nations High Commissioner for Refugees full responsibility for Palestinian refugees..." [For folks who thinking handing the Palestinian refugees over to UNHCR would "resolve" the Palestinian refugee issue, check out this interview with UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness, which explodes that myth and related ones).
(Defense Approps) HR 2397: On 7/19 Rep. Massie (R-KY) issued apress release announcing that he has offered "two amendments to the House Defense Appropriations Act (H.R. 2397) requiring congressional authorization to use taxpayer funds for military or paramilitary purposes in Syria and Egypt."
(SLAMMING THE EU OVER SETTLEMENTS) Engel-Lamborn letter:On 7/18 Reps. Engel (D-NY), Lamborn (R-CO), Franks (R-AZ), and Sherman (D-CA) sent a letter to EU chief Catherine Ashton expressing "deep concern over the European Union's intention to issue new guidelines restricting European interaction with Israeli entities beyond the 1967 lines." The letter notes that the signers believe "this move is counterproductive to sincere American efforts to restart peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. The new guidelines will only serve as a disincentive for the Palestinian Authority to engage in serious final status negotiations." [Notably, the signers do not seem concerned that turning a blind eye to settlements serves as a an incentive for the Israeli government to adopt policies that undermine the very possibility of negotiations being meaningful and leading to a two-state solution]. The letter goes on to "encourage" the EU to "reconsider publication of these guidelines."
(IRAN DIPLOMACY) Dent-Price letter: Starting late last week, Reps. Dent (R-PA) and Price (D-NC) have been seeking cosigners on a letter to President Obama on Iran. The letter urges President Obama, "to pursue the potential opportunity presented by Iran's recent presidential election by reinvigorating U.S. efforts to secure a negotiated nuclear agreement." As of this morning, additional signers were reportedly still asking to be added to the letter, with the final cosigner list reportedly coming to 129 members. For more details on the Dent-Price letter, see Section 2, below.
(IRAN DIPLOMACY) Huffman-Lowenthal-Brownley letter: On 7/18, a trio of California House Democrats - Reps. Huffman, Lowenthal, and Brownley - reportedly sent their own letter to President Obama, along similar lines as the Dent-Price letter.
2. Dent-Price Iran Diplomacy Letter Racks Up Huge Success
Over the past 10 days or so, Reps. Dent (R-PA) and Price (D-NC) have been seeking cosigners on a serious, constructive letter on Iran. This bipartisan letter - which in the current political climate demonstrates real courage and leadership on the part of Dent and Price - conveys a simple message to President Obama. Without minimizing the difficulties and the potential for failure that accompany any U.S. diplomatic efforts with Iran, signers of the letter are urging the President "to pursue the potential opportunity presented by Iran's recent presidential election by reinvigorating U.S. efforts to secure a negotiated nuclear agreement." The importance of this message cannot be overstated. Too often, the only messages heard from Congress with respect to Iran are restricted to calls for more sanctions and reckless saber-rattling.
In the wake of the Iranian elections, Congress has been bombarded with messages telling them that the victory of an avowed Iranian political moderate means nothing and that rather than seeing this as an opening for diplomacy, the U.S. should respond to the election with additional sanctions and saber-rattling. The Dent-Price letter offered members of Congress a chance to send a very different message, both to President Obama and to the new Iranian president. This message says simply: We believe in giving diplomacy a chance. It is a message that clearly struck a chord.
As of this writing, the bipartisan list of cosigners stands at a remarkable 129 - nearly 1/3 of the House and without question the largest number of signers on a letter of this nature in years. This is also despite the fact that AIPAC reportedly told offices, when asked, that it preferred members didn't sign on (AIPAC did not take an official, public position on the letter).
The Dent-Price letter was actively supported by at least 23 grassroots and policy organizations, including APN (our action alert is availablehere).
For press reports on the letter, see:
US News 7/19: 'Unprecedented'
128 Congressmen Say Obama Should Give Iran's New President a Chance
ThinkProgress 7/19: Dozens Of House Members Urge Obama To Engage With Iran
JTA 7/18: More than a quarter of U.S. House urges engagement on Iran
Al-Monitor 7/18: Over 100 House members sign letter supporting U.S. diplomacy with Iran
3. Israel Visa Waiver Issue Heats Up Again
The Israel visa waiver issue is back in the news (for detailed background on the issue, please refer to the 5/10/13 edition of the Round-Up). There are growing reports of efforts in the House, led by Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Sherman (D-CA) and with the backing of AIPAC, to amend the HR 938 to make it more like the language of S. 462 - that is, to legislate Israel into the Visa Waiver Program. This, despite continued efforts to focus scrutiny on Israel's record of profiling and discriminatory entry practices targeting Muslim-Americans and Arab-Americans (for example, this new web publication from the Arab American Institute, "Snapshots: American Citizens Discriminated Against at the Israeli Border").
On June 4, a group of House members sent a letter to Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren asking for specific clarifications about Israel's policies. The letter, and Ambassador Oren's response, were discussed in detail recently in articles by AP and the JTA.
AAI blog, 7/17: Israel Shouldn't Get its Own
Israel Hayom 7/16: Vis-à-vis US visas
Times of Israel 7/15: White House unsure plan to waive visas for Israelis will fly
Arutz Sheva 7/15: Likely Soon: U.S. Visa Requirement to be Waived for Israelis
4. House FY14 ForOps - Committee Draft
On 7/18 the House Appropriations Committee released the base text of the FY14 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, prior to its markup of the bill on 7/19. It should be noted that, consistent with the growing dysfunction in Congress, the last time Congress managed to pass a freestanding ForOps appropriations bill was in November 2005 (to fund FY06 programs). Since then, successive ForOps bills have either been rolled into eleventh hour consolidated appropriations bills or the relevant programs have been funded under Continuing Resolutions.
The Middle East-related elements in the draft House text (pre-markup) are laid out in detail below. POMED has also prepared an excellent summary of the bill, available here. The Committee summary/press release on the text is available here.
TITLE I - THE Department of State and Related Agencies
International Broadcasting Operations
The bill earmarks $691,578,000:"For necessary expenses to enable the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), as authorized, to carry out international communication activities, and to make and supervise grants for radio and television broadcasting to the Middle East".
Center for Middle Eastern-Western Dialogue
The bill includes a perennial provision making available interest and earnings accruing to the Fund on or before the end of the fiscal year available until expended, "For necessary expenses of the Center for Middle Eastern-Western Dialogue Trust Fund."
Israeli Arab Scholarship Program
The bill includes a perennial provision making all interest and earnings accruing to the Fund on or before the end of the fiscal year available until expended, "for necessary expenses of the Israeli Arab Scholarship Program as authorized by section 214 of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1992 and 1993 (22 U.S.C. 2452)."
TITLE III - BILATERAL ECONOMIC ASSISTANCE
Economic Support Funds (ESF)
In place of the normal language with earmarks for specific countries, the bill simply earmarks 1,367,717,000, "for necessary expenses to carry out the provisions of chapter 4 of part II of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961."
Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA)
The bill stipulates that $15 million "of the funds under appropriated under this heading in this Act, or in prior Acts making appropriations for the Department of State, foreign operations, and related programs, shall be made available for refugees resettling in Israel."
Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCA)
The bill text stipulates that, "none of the funds appropriated under this heading in this Act, or in prior Acts making appropriations for the Department of State, foreign operations, and related programs, may be made available for assistance for Tunisia."
TITLE IV - INTERNATIONAL SECURITY ASSISTANCE
International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INCLE)
This section stipulates that "the reporting requirements contained in section 1404 of Public law 110-252 shall apply to funds made available by this Act, including a description of modifications, if any, to the security strategy of the Palestinian Authority."
Nonproliferation, Anti-Terrorism, Demining and Related Programs (NADR)
This section includes perennial language stipulating that that funds appropriated under this heading may be made available for the International Atomic Energy Agency only if the Secretary of State (and reports to Congress) that Israel is not being denied its right to participate in the activities of that Agency.
Peacekeeping Operations (PKO)
This section earmarks up to $34 million for the U.S. contribution to the Multinational Force and Observers mission in the Sinai.
Foreign Military Financing (FMF) - total for the entire program: $5,096,059,000
ISRAEL: The bill earmarks not less than $3.1 billion in FMF for Israel, to be disbursed within 30 days of the enactment of this Act. The bill stipulates that to the extent that the Government of Israel requests and as agreed by Israel and the U.S., these funds shall be made available for advanced weapons systems, of which not less than $815,300,000 shall be made available for procurement of articles and services in Israel, including research and development.
NOTE: As noted previously in the Round-Up, these little-remarked stipulations - early disbursal and permission for (not less than) almost $1 billion of FMF to be spent inside Israel - are unique to Israel's aid program. Both significantly increase the value of the assistance to Israel - and the cost of the assistance to the U.S. In all other cases, FMF is disbursed by the U.S. on an as-used basis, meaning that the U.S. either keeps the money in the U.S. Treasury until it is needed (where it earns interest) or if the money is not in the U.S. Treasury, the U.S. does not have to borrow it until it is needed (meaning less interest paid). In the case of Israel, the entire $3.1 billion is handed over in a lump sum within 30 days of the law passing, meaning that Israel can bank the money and earn interest on it (which it can spend however it likes). In addition, in all other cases, FMF must be spent inside the U.S. (unless a specific exemption is granted). The logic behind this is that FMF is not just a "gift" to a foreign country but is actually a form of investment in the U.S. economy. In Israel's case, however, almost $1 billion of FMF is, in fact, a cash gift that benefits the military industry in Israel, not the U.S.
EGYPT: The bill states that not less than $1.3 billion shall be made available for grants for Egypt, "including for counterterrorism programs, border security programs and activities in the Sinai." The bill also includes a perennial provision under which estimated current year outlays for Egypt shall be placed in an interest-bearing account within 30 days of the enactment of this Act (a provision added more than a decade ago to establish some semblance of parity with Israel's early disbursal provisions, enabling Egypt to earn interest on a portion of its annual aid).
JORDAN: The bill earmarks not less than $300 million in FMF for Jordan, with no conditions or stipulations.
TITLE VII - GENERAL PROVISIONS
Sec. 7007: Prohibition Against Direct Funding for Certain Countries
This is perennial bill language banning aid to Cuba, North Korea, Iran, and Syria, extending to loans, credits, insurance, and guarantees of the Export-Import Bank or its agents.
Sec. 7008: Coups d'Etat
This is the language that is causing Congress and the Obama Administration a headache when it comes to funding for Egypt. This perennial provision explicitly bars U.S. funding to the government of any country "whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup d'etat or decree or, after the date of the enactment of this Act, a coup d'etat or decree in which the military plays a decisive role." The section includes the perennial language permitting the assistance to be resumed "if the President determines...that subsequent to the termination of assistance a democratically elected government has taken office." It also includes perennial language stipulating that the provisions of this section "shall not apply to assistance to promote democratic elections or public participation in democratic processes."
Sec. 7013: Prohibition on Taxation of United States Assistance
This is a perennial provision barring taxation of U.S. assistance. While this provision appears generic, the only recipient explicitly identified is the West Bank and Gaza. This reflects the genesis of the provision - the allegation in a previous year that the Palestinian Authority (PA) was taxing U.S. assistance provided to NGOs (and recall that under existing law direct aid to the PA is prohibited), thereby indirectly benefiting from US assistance designed specifically to bypass the PA.
Sec. 7015 (f): Reprogramming Notification Requirements.
This section states that no funds appropriated under titles III through VI of this Act (pretty much all funds in the bill) may be obligated or expended for assistance to a laundry list of countries, "except as provided through regular notification procedures of the Committees on Appropriations." From the Middle East the list includes (this year): Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Tunisia, and Yemen.
Sec. 7021: Prohibition on assistance to governments supporting international terrorism
Perennial bill language (a) banning assistance to governments that export lethal military equipment to countries supporting international terrorism, including a Presidential national security waiver, and (b) prohibiting aid to any country which the President determines grants sanctuary to any individual or group that has committed an act of international terrorism, or any country that the President determines otherwise supports international terrorism, also including a national security waiver for the President.
Sec. 7032: Democracy Programs
This lengthy stipulates, among other things, that funds appropriated by this Act that are made available for democracy programs shall be made available to support freedom of religion, including in the Middle East and North Africa.
Sec. 7035: Arab League Boycott of Israel
Perennial bill language expressing the Sense of the Congress opposing the Arab League Boycott of Israel, and articulating what Arab League states and the U.S. should be doing to end the boycott.
Sec. 7036: Palestinian Statehood
Perennial bill language (a relic of history, having originated years ago when Yasser Arafat was threatening to unilaterally declare a state) stipulating that no funds appropriated in this Act may be used to support a Palestinian state unless the Secretary of State certifies the state has met a list of requirements related to fighting terror, democratic reform, and commitment to peace. As in the previous year, the President is granted the authority to waive these requirements for reasons of national security.
Sec. 7037: Restrictions Concerning the Palestinian Authority
Perennial bill language stipulating that no funds appropriated in this Act may be used to create any new U.S. government office in Jerusalem to conduct business with the Palestinian Authority or any successor Palestinian governing entity. This language dates back to the early days of the Oslo process when there were concerns that governments might open embassies to Palestine in East Jerusalem (something that has not happened).
Sec. 7038: Prohibition on Assistance to the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation
Perennial bill language stipulating that no funds appropriated in this Act may be used to assist the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation. Like many Palestinian-related provisions in this bill, this section dates back to the early 1990s and Congressional outrage at the time over PBC programming.
Sec. 7039: Assistance for the West Bank and Gaza
This is the perennial provision setting out the extensive conditions and restrictions on, and vetting, reporting and audit requirements for, the West Bank and Gaza program (requirements that seem to expand every year).
Sec. 7040: Limitation on Assistance to the Palestinian Authority
This perennial section is probably the most glaring example of the extent to which the ForOps bill, when it comes to the Palestinians, has over the years become an exercise in piling on ever-more conditions and restrictions. Part (a) of this section bars any aid to the PA, period. Part (b) provides the president the authority to waive that ban if he deems it important for U.S. national interests. Parts (c), (d), and (e) then lay out the extensive conditions the President must fulfill if he decides to use the waiver (including conditions that are, in effect, limitations on when he can use the waiver, U.S. interests notwithstanding).
Part (f) of this section deals with Hamas and the PLO, stipulating that"None of the funds appropriated in titles III through VI of this Act may be obligated for salaries of personnel of the Palestinian Authority located in Gaza or may be obligated or expended for assistance to Hamas or any entity effectively controlled by Hamas, any power-sharing government of which Hamas is a member or that results from an agreement with Hamas." Last year, the House version of this bill included the same language with respect to Hamas - language written to effectively scuttle not only a unity government that includes Hamas members, but also any technocratic government that includes no Hamas members but would be agreeable to both Fatah and Hamas. The final wording of the section, as eventually passed into law as part of the Consolidated Appropriations bill, added the words "over which Hamas exercises undue influence" at the end of the last sentence, appearing to leave some room open for U.S. support for a genuine technocratic government. This year the House has opted to once again go the "no Palestinian compromise will be tolerated" route.
The subsequent paragraphs (now perennial language) qualify this ban further, permitting assistance to a power-sharing government if the President certifies that "such government, including all of its ministers or such equivalent, has publicly accepted and is complying with the principles contained in section 620K(b)(1)(A) and (B) of the Foreign Assistance 19 Act of 1961, as amended" - the referenced section of law essentially being the Quartet Conditions (text below).The next paragraph states the president "may exercise the authority in section 620K(e) of the Foreign Assistance Act as added by the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006 (Public Law 109-446) with respect to this subsection" - the referenced text giving the president the authority to waive the ban on aid to a power-sharing government for specific purposes and only after jumping through a number of significant hoops (including certifying that doing so serves U.S. national security interests) (text below).
Finally, the last paragraph of this section reiterates the longstanding U.S. ban on any aid to the PLO.
For the sake of completeness, Section 620K(b)(1)(A) and (B) of the Foreign Assistance 19 Act of 1961, as amended, reads as follows:
(b) Certification.--A certification described in subsection (a) is a certification transmitted by the President to Congress that contains a determination of the President that--
(1) no ministry, agency, or instrumentality of the Palestinian Authority is effectively controlled by Hamas, unless the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority has--
(A) publicly acknowledged the Jewish state of Israel's right to exist; and
(B) committed itself and is adhering to all previous agreements and understandings with the United States Government, with the Government of Israel, and with the international community, including agreements and understandings pursuant to the Performance-Based Roadmap to a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (commonly referred to as the `Roadmap').
And 620K(e) reads as follows:
(e) National Security Waiver.--
(1) In general.--Subject to paragraph (2), the President may waive subsection (a) with respect to--
(A) the administrative and personal security costs of the Office of the President of the Palestinian Authority;
(B) the activities of the President of the Palestinian Authority to fulfill his or her duties as President, including to maintain control of the management and security of border crossings, to foster the Middle East peace process, and to promote democracy and the rule of law; and
(C) assistance for the judiciary branch of the Palestinian Authority and other entities.
(2) Certification.--The President may only exercise the waiver authority under paragraph (1) after--
(A) consulting with, and submitting a written policy justification to, the appropriate congressional committees; and
(B) certifying to the appropriate congressional committees that--
(i) it is in the national security interest of the United States to provide assistance otherwise prohibited under subsection (a); and
(ii) the individual or entity for which assistance is proposed to be provided is not a member of, or effectively controlled by (as the case may be), Hamas or any other foreign terrorist organization.
(3) Report.--Not later than 10 days after exercising the waiver authority under paragraph (1), the President shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report describing how the funds provided pursuant to such waiver will be spent and detailing the accounting procedures that are in place to ensure proper oversight and accountability.
(4) Treatment of certification as notification of program change.--For purposes of this subsection, the certification required under paragraph (2)(B) shall be deemed to be a notification under section 634A and shall be considered in accordance with the procedures applicable to notifications submitted pursuant to that section.
Sec. 7041: Limitations
This innocuously named new section bars any economic assistance to the Palestinian Authority if "the Palestinians obtain the same standing as member states or full membership as a state in the United Nations or any specialized agency thereof outside an agreement negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians," or if "the Palestinians request, petition, apply, refer, or actively support an investigation or prosecution of Israeli nationals before the International Criminal Court."
In addition, this section stipulates that the President may waive the longstanding ban on the PLO maintaining an office in the U.S., ONLY if he determines and certifies in writing that the Palestinians "have not, after the date of enactment of this Act, obtained in the United Nations or any specialized agency thereof the same standing as member states or full membership as a state outside an agreement negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians." The section additionally states that if the President is unable to make that certification (meaning the PLO office would be ejected from Washington), after 90 days have passed if he can then certify that the Palestinians have entered into "direct and meaningful negotiations" with Israel [it is not stipulated what "meaningful" means], the President may waive the ban and let the PLO back into the U.S. The section includes NO authority for the president to waive the restriction based on the national interests of the United States.
Background: For years, the ForOps bill included a provision, buried in the "Special Provisions" section, providing the President the authority, on the basis of U.S. national interests, to waive a piece of anti-Palestinian legislation that dates back to 1988 (when the PLO was still a US- designated FTO; it was removed from the list in 1991) and that is still on the books. This situation reflects the fact that members of Congress never expend political capital repealing anti-Palestinian legislation, no matter how archaic or anachronistic it may be. The anti-Palestinian legislation in question is Section 1003 of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, fiscal years 1988 and 1989 (22 U.S.C. 5202). It dates back to the earliest days of the peace process, when Congress was actively trying to block Administration moves to seriously engage - for the first time - the Palestinians. That section of law reads as follows:
§ 5202. Prohibitions regarding PLO
It shall be unlawful, if the purpose be to further the interests of the Palestine Liberation Organization or any of its constituent groups, any successor to any of those, or any agents thereof, on or after the effective date of this chapter -
(1) to receive anything of value except informational material from the PLO or any of its constituent groups, any successor thereto, or any agents thereof;
(2) to expend funds from the PLO or any of its constituent groups, any successor thereto, or any agents thereof; or
(3) notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, to establish or maintain an office headquarters, premises, or other facilities or establishments within the jurisdiction of the United States at the behest or direction of, or with funds provided by the Palestine Liberation Organization or any of its constituent groups, any successor to any of those, or any agents thereof.
When the peace process got going in the early 1990s (backed by Israel), Congress eventually provided the president (limited) authority to suspend this and other anti-Palestinian legislation, through a piece of legislation known as the Middle East Peace Facilitation Act (Public Law 104-107, Title VI). In 1997, with Congress' enthusiasm for the peace process waning, Congress decided to let MEPFA expire. However, Congress at that time still apparently recognized the importance to U.S. national security interests of having official Palestinian interlocutors in Washington, and starting in 1997, Congress quietly began a perennial exercise of including a provision in the ForOps bill giving the president the (unconditioned, unencumbered) authority to waive, for reasons of U.S. national security interests, the piece of law cited above. That waiver was unchallenged from 1997 until last 2012 (including after the collapse of Camp David and during the post-Camp David "there is no partner for peace" era). As we have seen, when it comes to dealing with the Palestinians, many in Congress apparently believe that U.S. national security interests are not relevant (nor is the fact that the PLO has not been on the FTO list for more 20 years).
Sec.7042: Near East
This section includes earmarks and conditions on aid to a number of Middle East countries - in addition to conditions included previously in the bill, as follows:
---- Sec. 7042(a) EGYPT
This section places two conditions on all U.S. assistance (ESF and FMF) to the government of Egypt:
Israel-Egypt peace treaty: "None of the funds appropriated under titles III and IV of this Act and in prior Acts making appropriations for the Department of State, foreign operations, and related programs may be made available for assistance for the central Government of Egypt unless the Secretary of State certifies to the Committees on Appropriations that such government is meeting its obligations under the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty."
Democracy: Last year, this section (as passed into law) focused on the Government of Egypt's support for "the transition to civilian government." That language is absent in the House draft text, replaced by the following:
"Prior to the obligation of funds appropriated by this Act under the headings "Economic Support Fund" and "`Foreign Military Financing Program'', for assistance to the central Government of Egypt, the Secretary of State shall certify to the Committees on Appropriations that the Government of Egypt is:
(i) demonstrating a commitment to pluralistic and inclusive democracy, including by---
(I) planning for and conducting free and fair elections;
(II) protecting freedom of expression, association, religion, and due process of law; and
(III) respecting the rights of civil society organizations to operate without harassment and interference, and
(ii) taking action to eliminate smuggling networks between Egypt and Gaza and to combat terrorism, including in the Sinai.
In addition, the text also states that the Secretary of State shall consult with the Committees on Appropriations prior to the transfer of FMF funds to an interest-bearing account for Egypt [giving Appropriators the opportunity to place a hold on such transfer]
Last year's bill granted the Secretary of State the authority to waive the stated conditions on assistance to Egypt for national security reasons.This current House text includes no such waiver provision.
---- Sec. 7042(b) IRAN
This section sets out U.S policy as being "to seek to prevent Iran from achieving the capability to produce or otherwise manufacture nuclear weapons, including by supporting international diplomatic efforts to halt Iran's uranium enrichment program, and the President should fully implement and enforce the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996, as amended (Public Law 104-172) as a means of encouraging foreign governments to require state-owned and private entities to cease all investment in, and support of, Iran's energy sector and all exports of refined petroleum products to Iran." The section goes on to bar the use of U.S. funding to Ex-Im Bank "to provide any new financing (including loans, guarantees, other credits, insurance, and reinsurance) to any person that is subject to sanctions under paragraph (2) or (3) of section 5(a) of the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 (Public Law 104- 172." The section also requires extensive reporting to Congress on the status of bilateral and multilateral sanctions efforts, current and planned.
---- Sec. 7042(c) IRAQ
This section details conditions on Iraq assistance.
---- Sec. 7042(d) Jordan
This section earmarks not less than $360 million in ESF and not less than $300 million in FMF for Jordan. It also states that "from amounts appropriated for Overseas Contingency Operations/Global War on Terrorism, $340,000,000 above the levels included in the Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and Jordan shall be made available for the extraordinary costs related to instability in the region." This section also stipulates that ESF funding in the bill may be used for costs of loan guarantees for Jordan, and that such cost "shall not be considered 'assistance' for the purposes of provision of law limited assistance to a country."
---- Sec. 7042(e) LEBANON
This section states that no FMF in this bill may be made available for Lebanon unless the Secretary of State certifies that, "the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) is not headed, controlled by, or closely collaborating with Hezbollah or any other foreign terrorist organization." It also stipulates that such assistance will be used only to "(i) professionalize the LAF; (ii) strengthen border security and combat terrorism, including training and equipping the LAF to secure Lebanon's borders against infiltration, interdicting arms shipments, and preventing the use of Lebanon as a safe haven for terrorist groups; and (iii) implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701." The section states that if the required certification is made by the Secretary of State, the Secretary must submit "a detailed spend plan" to the Committees on Appropriations before obligating funds for Lebanon, and "regularly consult with the Committees on Appropriations on the activities of the LAF and assistance provided by the United States." In addition, the section requires that "not later than 90 days after enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State shall submit a report to the Committees on Appropriations detailing the actions taken to ensure that equipment provided to the LAF is used for intended purposes."
---- Sec. 7042(f) LIBYA
This section states that no funds may be made available for the government of Libya unless the Secretary of State certifies that the government "is cooperating with United States Government. efforts to investigate and bring to justice those responsible for the attack on the United States facilities and personnel in Benghazi in September 2012." The section goes on to add that this limitation does not apply to funds provided "for the purpose of protecting United States Government facilities or personnel."
---- Sec. 7042(g) MOROCCO
This section states that funding for Morocco "shall be made available for any region or territory administered by Morocco, including the Western Sahara."
---- Sec. 7042(h) SYRIA
This section states that simply: "Prior to the obligation of funds made available by this Act for assistance for Syria, the Secretary of State shall consult with the Committees on Appropriations: Provided, that such funds shall be subject to the regular notification procedures of the Committees on Appropriations."
---- Sec. 7042(i) YEMEN
This section stipulates that no FMF may be used for Yemen until the Secretary of State reports to Congress that the Armed Forces of Yemen,"(1) are controlled by a foreign terrorist organization, as defined by section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act" and (2) are cooperating with the United States on counterterrorism efforts against Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations."
Sec. 7049: LIMITATIONS ON THE UNITED NATIONS
Section 7049(a) conditions U.S. funding to the UN on transparency and accountability requirements.
Section 7049(b) bars U.S. funding to pay expenses for any U.S. delegation to any UN agency, body, or commission that is chaired by a country whose government supports international terrorism. It also bars U.S. contributions to any UN organization, agency, or program that is chaired or presided over by a country whose government has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.
Section 7049(c) bars U.S, funding of the UN Human Rights Council unless the Secretary of State determines that "participation in the Council is in the national security interest of the United States and that the Council is taking steps to remove Israel as a permanent agenda item" - and justifies this determination in a report to Congress.
Section 7049(d) bars U.S. funding under the MRA account for UNRWA until the Secretary of State determines and reports to Congress that UNRWA has met a list of conditions.
Section 7049(f) states that the restrictions imposed in subsections (a)-(d) "may be waived on a case-by-case basis by the Secretary of State if the Secretary determines ad report to the Committees on Appropriations that such waiver is necessary to avert a humanitarian crisis."
Finally, during the 7/18 State Department Press Briefing, the State Department spokesperson was asked about cuts House Republican want to make to U.S. foreign operations. In her response, the spokeswoman noted that "the bill zeroes out voluntary funding for our contributions to UN organizations, including organizations like UNICEF." Later, during the Q&A, she was asked what this might mean for UNRWA. She responded, "I don't have all the specifics. All I know is that the bill would zero out all voluntary funding for our contributions to UN organizations. So anything that falls under that would fall into that category." COMMENT: It is not clear what the State Department spokeswoman is referring to. If there is language in this draft of the bill that would zero out such funding, it seems to be hidden. Alternatively, it may be included in the committee report that will accompany the bill - language that has not yet been released. This is something that bears watching.
Sec. 7054: LANDMINES AND CLUSTER MUNITIONS
This section states that demining equipment used in support of the clearance of landmines and unexploded ordnance for humanitarian purposes "may be disposed of on a grant basis to foreign countries..." This section also lays out limitations on the provision of military assistance for cluster munitions, the issuance of defense export license for cluster munitions, and the sale or transfer of cluster munitions or cluster munitions technology.
Sec. 7069: COMMERCIAL LEASING OF DEFENSE ARTICLES
This section provides for financing "to Israel, Egypt and NATO and major non-NATO allies for the procurement by leasing (including leasing with an option to purchase) of defense articles from United States commercial suppliers, not including Major Defense Equipment (other than helicopters and other types of aircraft having possible civilian application), if the President determines that there are compelling foreign policy or national security reasons for those defense articles being provided by commercial lease rather than by government-to-government sale under such Act."
Sec. 7072: RUSSIAN FEDERATION
This section bars funding under Title III of this act to the Russian Government. It also requires a report to Congress from the Secretary of State describing the Russian Government's support for, among other things, "the Government of Syria, including arms sales and the use of such arms against civilian populations" and "the Government of Iran, including support for research, cooperation, and sanctions."
5. Power Confirmation Hearing in the SFRC
This week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing to consider the nomination of longtime Obama advisor Samantha Power as the next U.S. ambassador to the UN (full video of the hearing is availablehere) - and it seemed clear that Power and the Obama Administration were determined to not have a re-run of the Hagel confirmation hearings. In what appears to have been a preemptive strike against those ready to impugn Power's pro-Israel credentials, Power brought Rabbi Shmuely Boteach to the hearing as her personal guest; then, in her testimony, she took the rather extraordinary step of listing the defense of Israel as her top priority if she becomes the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. In Power's own words:
"The list of our challenges in New York is of course long, but let me highlight three key priorities. First, the UN must be fair. The UN cannot focus disproportionate attention on a few, while giving a pass to others flouting their international obligations. There cannot be one standard for one country and another standard for all others. The United States has no greater friend in the world than the State of Israel. Israel is a country with whom we share security interests and, even more fundamentally, with whom we share core values-the values of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. America has a special relationship with Israel. And yet the General Assembly and Human Rights Council continue to pass one-sided resolutions condemning Israel above all others. Israel -not Iran, not Sudan, not North Korea-is the one country with a fixed place on the Human Rights Council's agenda. Israel's legitimacy should be beyond dispute, and its security must be beyond doubt. Just as I have done the last four years as President Obama's UN adviser at the White House, I will stand up for Israel and work tirelessly to defend it."
Power also responded to questions related to Israel during the hearing. As reported by Josh Rogin:
Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) asked Power directly if she would work to support Israel's bid for a seat on the U.N. Security Council, which contains five permanent members and 10 rotating seats assigned by region. Israel, which has never sat on the Security Council, wants to be admitted as a representative of the Western European group of countries, due to its poor relations with its Middle Eastern neighbors.
"Absolutely, sir," Power responded. "The Security Council seat is one that has eluded Israel, despite its many contributions across the years, and I commit to you wholeheartedly to go on offense, as well as playing defense on the legitimation of Israel, and we'll make every effort to secure greater integration of Israeli public servants in the U.N. system."
She also promised to vigorously oppose any and all efforts by the Palestinian Authority to seek greater recognition in U.N. bodies, something the Palestinian leadership has pledged to continue doing.
"We need to deter the Palestinians in any way we can--and we need to get their attention," Power said.
The headlines from the hearing tell the story:
YNet 7/18: Samantha Power: US will push
for Israeli seat on UNSC
Reuters 7/17: Obama's UN nominee Samantha Power highlights Syria and Israel
Bloomberg 7/17: Obama's UN Envoy Nominee Power Pledges to Defend Israel
Reuters 7/17: Samantha Power Vows To Defend Israel at U.N.
Free Beacon 7/17: Samantha Power Pledges to Fight Anti-Israel Sentiment at U.N. if Confirmed
Jerusalem Post 7/17: Obama's UN nominee Power sees 'unacceptable bias' against Israel at UN
7/25: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing entitled, "Crisis in Egypt." Scheduled witness are: Dan Kurtzer (Princeton University), Dennis Ross (WINEP), and Michele Dunne (Atlantic Council).
7/23: The Senate Appropriations Committee's State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee will meet to mark up the FY14 ForOps bill (Senate text not available as of this writing).
7/19: The House Appropriations Committee's State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee met to mark up the FY14 ForOps bill (base text discussed above). Opening statement from subcommittee chair Granger (R-TX) is here.
7/17: The House Armed Services Committee held a hearing entitled "The Security Situation in the Syrian Arab Republic--Implications for U.S. National Security and U.S. Policy Options." Witnesses were Elliott Abrams, CFR (statement); Fred Hof, Atlantic Council (statement) and Mona Yacoubian, Stimson Center (statement).
7/16: The Senate Armed Services Committee received a closed briefing on the situation in Syria from Admiral James A. Winnefeld Jr., USN, Vice Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and James N. Miller, Under Secretary for Policy, both of the Department of Defense.
Gannett 7/18: Graham:
Congress Should Approve Military Strike Against Iran
WAFA 7/16: PLO Concerned Over US Congress Reception of an Israeli Settler Leader
Times of Israel 7/21: US cuts military aid to Israel by five percent
Roll Call 7/12: Weekend Trip to Paris for Members of Congress (to event sponsored by the Organization of Iranian American Communities and 17 other groups).