1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters
2. Hagel Confirmation Hearing Focuses on...Israel and Iran
3. Upcoming Hearings
4. Members on the Record
5. From the Press
Welcomes Kerry Confirmation; Reiterates Call for Urgent Mideast Engagement, 1/30
Event 2/6: Jerusalem - Pulling the City Back From the Brink(Seidemann/Avni)
1. Bills, Resolutions, & Letters
(EGYPT) HR 416: Introduced 1/25/13 by Ros-Lehtinen and having no cosponsors, "To condition security assistance and economic assistance to the Government of Egypt in order to advance United States national security interests in Egypt, including encouraging the advancement of political, economic, and religious freedom in Egypt" - aka "The Egypt Accountability and Democracy Promotion Act." Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. On 1/31/13 Ros-Lehtinen circulated aDear Colleague seeking cosponsors on the bill. The text of the bill is not in Thomas as of this writing, but the Dear Colleague stipulates that the bill requires a certification that Egypt is not controlled by a foreign terrorist organization; transitioning to a free-market democratic government; adopting and implementing legal reforms that protect the rights of all citizens; fully implementing the Israel-Egypt peace treaty, and destroying the smuggling network between Egypt and Gaza.
(EGYPT) S. 201: Introduced 1/31/13 by Sen. Paul (R-KY) and no cosponsors, "A bill to prohibit the sale, lease, transfer, retransfer, or delivery of F-16 aircraft, M1 tanks, or certain other defense articles or services to the Government of Egypt." Placed on Senate Legislative Calendar under Read the First Time. For more, see two items that follow.
(EGYPT) S. 207: Introduced 1/31/13 by Sen. Inhofe (R-OK) and 4 cosponsors, "A bill to prohibit the sale, lease, transfer, retransfer, or delivery of F-16 aircraft, M1 tanks, or certain other defense articles or services to the Government of Egypt." Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. This appears to be identical to S. 201, above. It is not clear why Sen. Inhofe elected to introduce Paul's language on his own.
(EGYPT) S. Amdt. 9 to HR 325: This was an effort 1/31/13 by Paul (R-KY), along with Sen. Lee (R-UT) to use HR 325 as the latest vehicle for his to block U.S. funding to Egypt (in addition to S. 201, discussed above). HR 325 has nothing to do with Egypt or foreign affairs funding (HR 325: "To ensure the complete and timely payment of the obligations of the United States Government until May 19, 2013, and for other purposes"). The amendment seeks to prohibit virtually all U.S. military sales to Egypt. It includes no conditions, no exceptions, no waivers, and no sunset provision. Rand defended his provision on the Senate floor, provoking a fierce response from Sen. McCain (R-AZ), who argued that the amendment goes against Israel's interests. Rand dismissed this argument as "specious." The amendment was effectively defeated by avote of 79-19 (the vote by which the Senate voted to table the amendment). Read more here and here.
(IRON DOME) HR XXX: On 1/24/13 Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) circulated a Dear Colleague seeking cosponsors on a bill she plans to introduce, "the Iron Dome Support Act." This appears to be a re-introduction of a bill introduced last year by the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Berman (D-CA), HR 4229. That bill died in committee.
2. Hagel Confirmation Hearing Focuses on...Israel and Iran
On 1/31/13 the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing to consider the nomination of former Nebraska GOP Senator Chuck Hagel as the next Secretary of Defense. The full transcript is not available online at this time (except to paid subscribers of FNS). The full video is available here.
If those watching the hearing came away with the impression that the main topics of questions/grandstanding were Israel and Iran - as opposed to, say, Afghanistan (where the U.S. has troops on the ground), or suicides in the military, or LGBT issues in the military, or jobs for troops returning home, or resources for the military, or Department of Defense budgets, or drones, or the wide range of other issues/challenges directly related to the job of being Secretary of Defense - they wouldn't be wrong.
Over at Buzzfeed, journalists took the hearing transcript and produced a "word cloud" - showing graphically the outsize frequency with which the word "Israel" was mentioned (according to Buzzfeed mentioned 166 times, second only to the word "Hagel"), followed closely by "Iran" (144 times). The word "Afghanistan," in contrast, reportedly came up only 20 times in the nearly 9-hour hearing. The word "drone" didn't come up once. The issue of troop suicides was mentioned twice. Sexual assault in the military came up a whopping 5 times. Mali came up exactly once (mentioned by Hagel).
With the Senate being a body known for its carefully maintained collegiality (or semblance thereof), there were some points in the hearing that will go down in history for their outright hostility and open disrespect toward an ex-Senator, including with respect to Israel and Iran. Prominent among them was the moment in the hearing where Inhofe asked Hagel to explain why he thinks it is that "the Iranian Foreign Ministry so strongly supports your nomination" [reminiscent of a guilt-by-unsolicited-endorsement tacit employed by anti-Obama activists in 2008]. Another one is when Graham asked Hagel if he agreed that "the sum total of all of your votes...all that together, that the image you've created is one of sending the worst possible signal to our enemies and friends at one of the most critical times in world history?"
In addition, Senators Wicker (R-MS) and Graham (R-SC) scored what appeared to be rather blatant own-goals with respect to questioning related to outside groups lobbying Congress on issues related to Israel. Their over-the-top, belligerent questioning/berating of Hagel was clearly designed to compel Hagel to admit that he was wrong about the so-called Israel Lobby (or Jewish lobby, or pro-Israel lobby, etc...) and that in fact there is NO outside influence on anyone in Congress on issues related to Israel (and anyone who might think to suggest otherwise might do well to study his experience over the past couple of months as an object lesson in why doing so is not a good idea). These exchanges were so strange that they deserve reading and re-reading, in full:
Wicker versus Hagel re: Jewish Lobby [starting at 03:02:10]
Wicker: What you said was the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here. This was in a book -- an interview that you gave to Aaron David Miller. And you said, "I've always argued against some of the dumb things they do, because I don't think it's in the interest of Israel." Here's my problem with -- with your position at this point. You have corrected the term "Jewish lobby." And I assume now the correct term would be "Israel lobby" or "Israeli lobby."
Do you still stand by your statement that they succeed in this town because of intimidation, and that it amounts to causing us to do dumb things? Because I want to say this, Senator, you -- you are here today as a potential secretary of defense, and it would seem to me that however you characterize them, you have suggested that there is an effective lobby out there, whether you call them the "Jewish lobby," the "Israeli lobby" or the "Israel lobby," and that they succeed in doing dumb things through intimidation, and that U.S. policy has been the wrong approach because the intimidation has worked.
So when you talked about the Jewish lobby, were you talking about AIPAC? Were you talking about NORPAC? Were you talking about Christians United for Israel? And do you still believe that their success in this town is because of intimidation and that they are, as you stated, "urging upon our government that we do dumb things"?
Hagel: ...I've already said I regret referencing the Jewish lobby. I should have said "pro-Israel lobby." I think it's the only time on the record that I've ever said that. Now, you all have done a lot of work with my record, and yes, it's appropriate, by the way. Any nominee's record, what he or she thinks, says, done, absolutely. I was on your side of the dais for 12 years, so I understand that and that responsibility. So, I don't have any problem with that. So I've already noted that I -- that I should have used another term and I'm sorry and I regret it.
On the use of "intimidation," I should have used "influence," I think would have been more appropriate. We were talking about in that book, and you've evidently read it, Aaron David Miller's book. And by the way, it's a book, "The Much Too Promised Land." He has spoken out directly over the last few weeks, written an op-ed about my position because it's gotten some attention, as you've noted, and been quite favorable to me, and said much of that was taken out of context, and he was "offended by it." Those were his -- his words. Those of you who know something about Aaron David Miller know that he is Jewish. He is a highly respected individual who was counsel to presidents and secretaries of state. He also says in that interview, which is a fairly short interview, he mentioned that I am a strong supporter of Israel. That's in the interview.
So, I think that says something. I -- I should not have said "dumb" or "stupid," because I understand, appreciate there are different views on these things. We were talking about Israel. We were talking about the Middle East. We weren't talking about Armenia or Turkey or the banking influence or Chamber of Commerce -- Commerce influence. That was what the context of my comments were about...
Graham vs. Hagel re: Jewish Lobby [starting at 04:17:20]
Graham: ... You said "the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here. I am not an Israeli senator. I am a United States senator. This pressure makes us to do dumb things at times." You said the Jewish lobby should not have been -- that term shouldn't have been used; it should've been some other term. Name one person in your opinion who's intimidated by the Israeli lobby in United States Senate?
Hagel: Well, first...
Graham: Name one.
Hagel: I do not know.
Graham: Well why would you say it?
Hagel: I didn't have in mind a specific person.
Graham: Do you agree that it is a provocative statement - that I can't think of a more provocative thing to say about the relationship between the United States and Israel, and the Senate or the Congress than what you said. Name one dumb thing we have been goaded into doing because of the pressure from the Israeli or Jewish lobby?
Hagel: I have already stated that I regret the terminology...
Graham: But you said, back then, it makes us do dumb things. You can't name one senator intimidated, now give me one example of the dumb things that we're pressure to do up here.
Hagel: We were talking in that interview about the Middle East, about positions, about Israel...
Graham: So give me an example of where we have been intimidated by the Israeli-Jewish lobby to do something dumb regarding the Middle East, Israel, or anywhere else.
Hagel: I cannot give you an example.
Graham: Thank you.
Do you agree with me you shouldn't have said something like that?
Hagel: Yes I do, I've already said that.
Finally, one small note: in his opening statement, Senator Inhofe (R-OK) bashed Hagel for a numbered of alleged sins, in particular with respect to Israel and Iran. With respect to Israel, Inhofe stated in his written testimony, "In 2000, when an overwhelming majority of Senators sent a letter to President Clinton affirming American solidarity with Israel in the face of Palestinian aggression, Senator Hagel was one of just four who refused to sign [emphasis added]." In his testimony (as delivered, he went even further: "In 2000, an overwhelming majority of senators sent a letter to President Clinton reaffirming our solidarity with Israel. I was one of them who carried that letter around. I remember it well. And Senator Hagel is one of just four who refused to sign that letter..."
The text of that letter in question is available here. Inhofe brought this same accusation up during the first round of questioning (01:37:18). Sen. Graham (R-SC) picked up the ball during his questioning of Hagel, expressing his outrage over this alleged refusal to sign the letter (starting at 04:24:40 in the hearing). The original source of this accusation against Hagel seems to go back, ironically, to a March 12, 2007 anti-Hagel post on the blog of the National Jewish Democratic Council in 2007 (the post has been taken down but still appears briefly when you click the link).
However, according to a press release issued by AIPAC at the time the letter in question was sent to the president, Hagel didn't refuse to sign. A scanned copy of the AIPAC press release lauding the letter, dated October 13, 2000 (from APN's files) is available here. That press release opens with the following:
[18 October update: The final number of signatories is 96. Senators Hagel (NE) and Gregg (NH) could not be reached by last Friday's deadline and they have not requested to be added to it. Abraham (MI) and Byrd (WV) were the only Senators who chose not to sign.]
A slightly different version of this same press release, circulated a couple of days earlier, is still available online here, with Hagel's non-signature characterized in the same way.
The American Prospect (Matt Duss) 2/1: The Senate-Hearing Circus Is in Session
MSNBC 1/31: McCaskill: If Hagel was a threat to Israel, AIPAC would be swarming. They're not.
3. Upcoming Hearings
With new subcommittee chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) at the helm, the House Foreign Affairs' Committee's Middle East Subcommittee is starting off with a bang, taking on what Ros-Lehtinen apparently believes is the biggest threat to peace. Settlements? No. The growing consensus that the door will close, soon, on the two-state solution? No. E-1? No. On 2/5/13, the subcommittee will convene a hearing on: The Fatah-Hamas Reconciliation: Threatening Peace Prospects. At this hearing, subcommittee members will hear from: Matthew Levitt, WINEP; Michael Rubin, AEI, and David Makovsky, WINEP.
4. Members on the Record
Coats (R-IN) 1/31: Bashing Hagel on Senate floor, 1/31, including over Israel-Palestine and IranHoeven (R-ND), 1/30: Citing Middle East instability as argument in favor of Keystone XL PipelineCornyn (R-TX)1/30: bashing Hagel on Senate floor 1/30, in large part over Israel
5. From the Press
Note: The Republican Jewish Coalition is holding its "Spring Leadership Meeting" in Las Vegas April 19-21. Featured Congressional speakers confirmed thus far are: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Royce (R-CA), and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA).
Israel Prime Minister's Office 1/28: PM Netanyahu Meets
with Delegation of US Congressmen
Breitbart.com 1/24: Rand Paul: 'Any Attack On Israel Will Be Treated As An Attack On The United States'