Legislative Round-Up: October 15, 2021

1. Bills, Resolutions, Letters
2. The Great 2021 Iron Dome Supplemental Debacle (cont.)
3. Hearings & Markups
4. On the Record

*Brought to you in cooperation with Americans for Peace Now, where the Round-Up was born!

More great FMEP programming:

1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters

None

Letters

(WADI FOQUIN) Lee et al letter to State Department: On 10/14 Rep. Lee (D-CA) issues a press release entitled, “Congresswoman Lee Urges State Department to Address Dispute in Wadi Foquin,” announcing the she, along with Reps, Price (D-NC) and 20 House colleagues asked the the State Department address the dispute in Wadi Foquin, an agricultural village of approximately 1,300 residents in the West Bank. Per the press release, the letter states: “We urge the State Department to support any such discussions that recognize the rights and claims of the Palestinian residents. We also request your assistance in working with the Israeli government to ensure that farmland is not confiscated in Wadi Foquin for the building of a road that would isolate part of the village and have detrimental impacts on the lives and livelihoods of the Palestinian residents. The United States has traditionally played a constructive role as mediator and promoter of dialogue and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. That is why we urge you as part of the Biden administration’s commitment to making real improvements in the lives of the Palestinian people to include the village of Wadi Foquin in such efforts. We would further encourage U.S. State Department personnel to visit Wadi Foquin to directly observe the situation in order to help inform U.S. government efforts.” [Note: Rep. Lee has taken up the cause of Wadi Foquin in the past, including, for example, here].

(IRAN INTERNET DISRUPTIONS) Connolly et al letter to Blinken & Yellen: On 10/8, Reps. Connolly (D-VA) and Fitzpatrick (R-PA) led a bipartisan letter – cosigned by 19 House colleagues – to SecState Blinken and Treasury Secretary Yellen, “to express concern about limitations within the legal exemptions that authorize access to information technology for the people of Iran and urge you to act swiftly to clarify allowable activities and make needed changes to enhance the free flow of information in Iran.” Press release is here.

 

2.The Great 2021 Iron Dome Supplemental Debacle (cont.)

For those who need to catch up on what has happened BEFORE this week, see:

Iron Dome Supplemental – What happened this week?

The Senate went into recess at the end of last week without passing the Iron Dome funding, thanks to a hold on the bill by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). As a result, HR 5323, the funding bill that was passed by the House on September 23rd by a vote of 420-9, remains stalled (for three weeks and counting) in the Senate.

What does this mean?

These past weeks have been enormously clarifying — demonstrating categorically that the vicious political battle that accompanied consideration of $1 billion in supplemental funding for Israel for Iron Dome in the House was never really about Iron Dome.

The latest chapter in this drama — in which Rand Paul (R-KY) has now blocked these same funds in the Senate for weeks, after the House passed the funding in a matter of days — demonstrates, irrefutably, that the battle in the House was solely about rendering support for Palestinian rights in Congress politically radioactive. 

To be clear: if outrage over what happened in the House truly reflected concerns that even the tiniest delay in providing the extra Iron Dome funding could harm Israelis/Israel’s security, Rand Paul (R-KY) would not now be enjoying near complete immunity from outrage or backlash, regardless of his reasons for blocking the funding.

But immunity from outrage/backlash is exactly what he is being granted, as for the third consecutive week, there is virtual silence* from the ranks of those, both inside and outside of Congress, who previously howled with outrage (for more than a week), accusing Democrats of antisemitism and compromising Israel’s security over a brief (less than 2-day) procedural delay in approving the funds in the House. This howling, notably, continued even after the House overwhelmingly approved the funds, abating only after the GOP-caused stall in the Senate rendered continued howling awkward, to say the least.

In other words:

  • A small number of House members objecting to or expressing concerns about the supplemental Iron Dome funding sparked more than a week of vicious grandstanding against them (and against Democrats in general) — notwithstanding the fact that it was clear from the get-go that their objections has zero chance of blocking the funding. But…
  • A Republican senator actually blocking passage of the funding for 3 weeks (and counting) for reasons unrelated to criticism of Israel has sparked…a complete loss of interest in the issue from the media, pundits, and all those members of Congress who previously were tripping over each other to explain why objecting to the funding, let alone holding up its passage for even a minute, was tantamount to joining Hamas, waving the flag of antisemitism, and directly threatening Israel’s security and the lives of Israelis.

But you don’t need to take my word for it…

A crystal-clear illustration of the fact that this entire political drama has nothing to do with funding Iron Dome, and everything to do with trying to eradicate support in Congress for Palestinian rights, can be found in two articles this week related to the Iron Dome funding:

  • The right-wing Jewish News Syndicate’s (JNS) Jonathan Tobin on 10/10 published a piece entitled, Comparing Rand Paul to the Squad Is Unfair. He Doesn’t Hate Israel. The title pretty much gives away the gist, but the final paragraph puts a cherry on it: Rather than seeking to pretend that the actions of two neo-isolationist libertarians [referring both the Paul and to the one House Republican who voted against the $1 billion Israel supplemental] who are allergic to spending taxpayer money on anything are just as bad as the anti-Zionism and antisemitism that has found a home on the left, Jewish Democrats need to follow Deutch’s example [referring to when Deutch joined Republicans on the House floor  on 9/23 in attacking Rep. D-MN, for her criticism of Israel] and concentrate their efforts on winning back their party from an increasingly influential faction that makes no secret about its disdain for Israel.”
  • Jewish Insider published a reported piece, Kentucky Jews frustrated, caught off guard by Rand Paul’s Iron Dome objections. In addition to reporting about how Paul’s move to block the aid has left Jews in Kentucky feeling “hurt,” the piece cites various members of the Kentucky Jewish community explaining why Paul’s move is not analogous to what Democrats did in the House: e.g., “Rabbi Shlomo Litvin, who is well-connected and active in Jewish and pro-Israel politics in the state and serves as chairman of the Kentucky Jewish Council, said he was not surprised that Paul opposes Israel aid. But in the context of what Litvin called ‘blatantly antisemitic’ moves by some House Democrats to strip Iron Dome aid out of a larger government funding bill last month, Paul’s opposition to the Iron Dome support ‘felt different’ to pro-Israel activists.’”

Notably, the above-mentioned articles also stand out because media appetite for the Iron Dome story – which was seemingly insatiable back when the story’s framing was the sensationalized battle between Israel’s security and allegedly anti-Israel, antisemitic women of color in the House – has now all but disappeared, now that is merely the story of one white, Republican senator blocking the funds in an act that by all appearances is pretty non-controversial.

*NOTE: When I say “silence” from members of Congress, I mean, for the period of 10/8-10/15, ZERO Tweets that I could find from members of Congress mentioning Iron Dome, and ZERO mentions of Iron Dome that I could find in statements posted on members’ websites. And with respect to voices outside of Congress, I mean the extraordinarily muted expressions of criticism/concern that have come from the likes of AIPAC (which hasn’t tweeted about Iron Dome since October 8th, and even then didn’t actually mention Rand Paul by name or directly criticize his actions. To the extent that AIPAC and other Jewish American groups did criticize Paul, it was limited to a few comments/tweets almost 2 weeks ago),

 

3. Hearings & Markups

October 27: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “The State of the State Department and State Department Authorization.” The sole scheduled witness (as of now) is Brian McKeon Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources.

October 14: The House Committee on Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa and Global Counterterrorism held a hearing entitled, “Tunisia: Examining the State of Democracy and Next Steps for U.S. Policy.” Witnesses were: Elie Abouaoun, USIP (statement); Amna Guellali, Amnesty International (statement); Alexis Arief, Congressional Research Service (statement); and Eddy Acevedo, The Wilson Center (statement). Video of the hearing is here.

 

4. On the Record

Lapid in DC [Shhhh…. Don’t mention the Palestinians!]

Lapid (Alt Israeli PM) 10/13: Tweet – “Great to see @SenTomCotton again today. We discussed the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program and malign activities in the region. Israel is grateful for your leadership and commitment to strengthening the alliance between our two countries.” With pic of the two of them together. [Re-tweeted by Cotton, R-AR]

Schneider (D-IL) 10/14: Twitter thread,  “It was an honor to meet with His Excellency Yair Lapid, Speaker Pelosi, Leader Hoyer, and our bipartisan delegation. We had an excellent discussion of the special relationship between the United States and Israel, bipartisan support for preserving Israel’s security (including Iron Dome missile defense system funding), and our shared commitment to ensuring Iran never gets a nuclear weapon. Israel’s new government — probably the most diverse in the history of any parliament – is a testament to what can be accomplished through determined coalition building. It is critical that the United States continue to support Israel, particularly building on the historic success of the Abraham Accords, which holds prospects for a new, peaceful future for the region.

Deutch (D-FL) 10/13: Tweet – “It’s always great seeing my good friend, Israeli FM @yairlapid. We discussed the need to stand together to prevent a nuclear Iran, life-saving Iron Dome, and the incredible opportunities for the region presented by the #AbrahamAccords.

Pelosi (D-CA) 10/12: Pelosi Remarks at Photo Opportunity With His Excellency Yair Lapid, Alternate Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, State of Israel

Pelosi (D-CA) 10/12: Tweet – “Join His Excellency@YairLapid, Alternate Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Israel, and me at the U. S. Capitol ahead of a bipartisan leadership meeting.

Pelosi (D-CA) 10/12: Tweet – “As House Speaker, it is my official honor to welcome His Excellency @YairLapid, Alternate Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Israel, to the United States Capitol today ahead of a bipartisan leadership meeting.”

Wilson (R-SC) 10/12: Tweet – Grateful to be with Alternate Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yair Lapid of Israel (center) at this morning’s bipartisan leadership meeting. Pictured here is also my colleague Rep. Brad Schneider.”

Jerusalem Post 10/12: Pelosi reaffirms support for Israel in meeting with Lapid

Normalization [Shhhh… Don’t mention the Palestinians!]

[Most of these tweets are linked to an article, Officials from Israel, six Arab countries hold first multilateral meeting of its kind (Jewish Insider)]

Bacon (R-NE) 10/15: Tweet – “It is very positive development to see multilateral talks between Israel and six Arab states. Building on the Abraham Accords and creating trust between these nations are important for long term regional stability.

Brown (D-MD) 10/15: Tweet – “The forward progress for the normalization of relations between Israel and six Arab nations should inspire hope for lasting peace, mutual respect and cooperation This is the first of hopefully many more multilateral meetings to strengthen diplomacy and create a safer Middle East

McCaul (R-TX) 10/15: Tweet – LR @RepMcCaul: “I am thrilled to see this multilateral meeting between Israel and Arab countries as they work together to benefit all people of the Middle East. The Abraham Accords and similar agreements are game-changing.

Torres (D-NY) 10/15: Tweet – “The progress toward normalizing relations between Israel and the Arab world is one of the most improbable yet inspiring breakthroughs in the history of diplomacy. The ‘N7’ convening of Israel & six Arab countries represents a decisive paradigm shift in favor of peace.

Portman (R-OH), Cardin (D-MD), Booker (D-NJ), and Young (R-IN) 10/14: press release – Portman, Cardin, Booker and Young Urge More Countries to Engage with Israel Following Historic Face-to-Face Meetings with UAE [also see Portman tweet, Young tweet]

Schneider (D-IL) 10/14: Excerpt from Twitter thread,  “…It is critical that the United States continue to support Israel, particularly building on the historic success of the Abraham Accords, which holds prospects for a new, peaceful future for the region.”

Miscellaneous

Levin (D-MI) 10/15: Tweet – “Meaningful steps to ensure peaceful coexistence between Israelis & Palestinians will not happen on their own. We must pursue them. That’s why I introduced my Two-State Solution Act to accelerate progress towards a two-state solution & discourage steps that push one out of reach.

Risch (R-ID) 10/14: Press release – Risch: Rejoining the UNHRC is a Disgrace

Portman (R-OH) 10/14: Tweet – “The UNHRC has a history of discrimination against our ally #Israel and has some of the worst offenders of human rights as its members. The Biden admin’s decision to rejoin the @UNHumanRights Council is a mistake. The US must not become complicit in discriminatory decisions.”

Cohen (R-TN) 10/13: Tweet – “I abhor this type of political invective and beseech reasonable minds here and in Israel to condemn this extreme and hateful language as harmful to peace in the Middle East.” Linked to article, Arabs ‘Are Here by Mistake, Because Ben-Gurion Didn’t Finish the Job,’ Far-right Leader Tells Lawmakers (Haaretz) [NOTE: As far as I can tell, this was the ONLY comment by any member of Congress regarding a member of the Knesset, speaking in the Knesset, literally gloating about the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1948 and lamenting that the presence of Palestinians as citizens of Israel was a mistake that showed the job of ethnic cleansing had not been properly completed.]

Jewish Insider 10/13:  In the Florida 20 special election, one candidate declares opposition to Iron Dome funding

Garcia (D-TX) 10/13: Tweet – “Thank you @IsraelinHouston for hosting us and inviting us to celebrate #HispanicHeritageMonth. I enjoyed sharing the evening with an excellent panel of Latinas who work hard every day to uplift our Houston communities!

Deutch (D-FL) 10/13: Tweet – “Fantastic meeting w/ Greek FM @NikosDendias . We talked about the importance of the US-Greece relationship, opportunities to use the “3+1” to strengthen relations b/w #Cyprus, #Greece, #Israel and the US, and shared challenges and opportunities in the #EasternMediterranean.

Cardin (D-MD) 10/13: Tweet – “American hostage Siamak Namazi marks his 6th year in captivity today and will be spending his 50th birthday behind bars this week in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison. Iran must immediately unconditionally release Siamak and his ailing father Baquer.  #FreetheNamazis

Detroit Jewish News 10/11: Two-State Solution is Best Path to Peace (by Rep. Levin)

Detroit Jewish News 10/11: Centrist Dems [DMFI] Say Two-State Bill Is ‘One-Sided’ and ‘Blames Israel’ [includes editorial comment – “Editor’s Note: The news story below counters some of the points made by Rep. Levin regarding his Two-State Solution Act. Also note that this article is actually a re-purposing of a Times of israel article that ran under the much less tendentious headline, Progressive Dems introduce bill they say aims at keeping 2-state solution alive]