New from FMEP
- 2/7/24 – New episode of Occupied Thoughts podcast, Separation, Dehumanization, Theft of Time: A Day in the Life of Abed Salama, ft. , FMEP Fellow Dr. Yara Asi speaks with Nathan Thrall, author of the recently-released A Day in the Life of Abed Salama: Anatomy of a Jerusalem Tragedy, about the systems of separation and dehumanization in Jerusalem and the West Bank, Israeli state violence, and what has and hasn’t changed in Israel/Palestine over the last four months.
Note: On 2/6/24 the Congressional Research Services released an updated version of its report: Israel and Hamas Conflict In Brief: Overview, U.S. Policy, and Options for Congress
- (UNRWA = TERRORISM; NO $$$ FOR UNRWA) HR 7202 (text): [not covered in last week’s round-up – wasn’t posted in the Congressional Record at the time I published] Introduced 2/1/24 by Jackson (R-TX) and 7 Republican cospsonsors, “To direct the Secretary of State to submit to Congress a report on funding provided by the United States to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), and for other purposes.” aka, the “Uncovering UNRWA’s Terrorist Crimes Act.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Also see: Jackson press release – Rep. Jackson Introduces Legislation to Uncover UNRWA’s Terrorist Crimes
- (TARGETING UNRWA) H. Con. Res. 88: Introduced 2/6/24 by Burchett (R-TN), “Expressing the sense of Congress that the Secretary of State in coordination with the Secretary of the Treasury should investigate the use of cryptocurrencies by Hamas (also known as Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya), and whether any cryptocurrencies were exchanged between Hamas and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.” Referred to the Committees on Financial Services and Foreign Affairs.
Targeting Free Speech & Academia
- (TARGETING FREE SPEECH/PALESTINIAN RIGHTS ACTIVISM ON CAMPUS) HR 7231: Introduced 2/5/24 by Malliotakis (R-NY), “To prohibit Federal support for institutions of higher education that promote antisemitism, and for other purposes,” aka, the “Combatting Antisemitic Messaging & Promoting Unity in School Act (CAMPUS Act).“ Referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. Also see: press release – Malliotakis Introduces Legislation to Combat Rising Antisemitism on College Campuses
- (TARGETING STUDENTS & PALESTINIAN RIGHTS ACTIVISM ON CAMPUS) HR 7232: Introduced 2/5/24 by Malliotakis (R-NY), “To direct the Secretary of State to revoke the visas of students who have engaged in antisemitic activities, and for other purposes,” aka, the “No Visas for Antisemitic Students Act.” Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary. Also see: press release – Malliotakis Introduces Legislation to Combat Rising Antisemitism on College Campuses
- (NO DEFENSE EXPORTS TO TURKIYE) S. J. Res. 60: Introduced 2/5/24 by Paul (R-KY), “A joint resolution providing for congressional disapproval of the proposed foreign military sale to the Government of Turkiye of certain defense articles and services.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. (All Actions)
Keeping on eye on
(TARGETING SOUTH AFRICA) HR 7256: Introduced 2/6/24 by James (R-MI) and Moskowitz
(D-FL), “To require a full review of the bilateral relationship
between the United States and South Africa.” Referred to the
House Committee on Foreign Affairs. NOTE: there’s no text available as of this writing, and neither
James nor Moskowitz have issued a press release, but it seems there is a good chance this legislation is
linked to South Africa’s case at the ICJ accusing Israel of engaging in genocide against Palestinians in
- (POSSIBLY TARGETING CRITICISM OF ISRAEL) HR 7277: Introduced 2/7/24 by D’Esposito (R-NY) and 3 bipartisan cosponsors, “To amend title 18, United States Code, to increase the time of imprisonment for an additional offense involving actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin.” Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary. NOTE: there’s no text available as of this writing, and nobody involved has issued a press release, so it’s not clear what this is about…but in the current climate, definitely worth watching…
- [NO US $$ UNRWA] ICYMI: Issa, House Conservatives Demand End to U.S. Funding for UNRWA [letter text] Also see: Rep. Darrell Issa asks Congress to cut off future US funding for UNRWA (New York Post 2/9/24)
- [FIRE UN & UNRWA HEADS, PUT UNRWA UNDER G7] 2/7/24: Gottheimer Leads Bipartisan Letter Urging State Department to Call on UN & UNRWA Officials (UN Secretary General & UNRWA Commission General) to Resign – Calls for G7 oversight of future UNRWA funding [letter text] — excerpt — “…We have lost all confidence in Secretary-General António Guterres’ ability to ensure that the U.N. is not actively supporting terrorism or giving refuge to known terrorists. Therefore, we ask you to demand that Secretary-General Guterres and UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini immediately resign from their posts. They can no longer be entrusted to maintain international peace and security, protect all nations, and uphold international law. We also ask you to work with our global partners in the G-7 to investigate Hamas’s involvement in UNRWA, and conduct strict ongoing oversight over the organization. We must ensure not a dollar more of aid for innocent civilians ends up in the hands of terrorists. UNRWA should also immediately replace all senior leadership….”
- [FIRE UNRWA HEAD] 2/2/24: Rubio, Collins demand the Resignation of Pro-Hamas UNRWA Commissioner [letter text] NOTE: the headline is mislead – the letter, addressed to the UN Secretary General, opens with a demand that he “immediately dismiss the commissioner of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Philippe Lazzarini” and closes with: “We urge you to immediately terminate Lazzarini’s employment.”
Targeting Academia & Civil Society
- [INTL CRISIS GROUP IS FOREIGN AGENT OF IRAN!!!] ICYMI: Banks, Stefanik, Waltz Request DOJ Investigate Iran-Linked NGO [letter text] [“Reps. Jim Banks (IN-03), Elise Stefanik (NY-21), and Michael Waltz (FL-06) sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland requesting the U.S. Department of Justice open an investigation to determine if the International Crisis Group (ICG), a non-governmental organization based in Brussels, acted as an unregistered agent for the government of Iran.“]
- [HARVARD: SHOWS US THE EVIDENCE PROVING YOUR ANTISEMITISM, OR ELSE!] 2/7/24: Foxx Threatens Subpoena if Harvard Defies Final Warning in Antisemitism Probe [letter text] Also see: House Education Committee threatens to subpoena Harvard for antisemitism docs – Rep. Virginia Foxx said Harvard is stonewalling its investigation while Sen. Lindsey Graham is alleging Rutgers is platforming terrorist sympathize (Jewish Insider 2/7/24)
- [RUTGERS CENTER <hearts> ANTISEMITISM & TERRORISM; NAME/SHAME LAW FIRM THAT SUPPORTS IT!] 2/7/24: Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans Probe Rutgers University Center that Promotes Terrorist Sympathizers and Anti-Semitism [letter text]. NOTE: “In a second letter, the Senators sought information from New York City law firm Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP which committee records indicate donated at least $13,000 to the Rutgers Center’s Law Fellows Program over the past three years, with donations increasing each year from $2,000 in 2021 to $6,000 in 2023. A cornerstone of the Law Fellows Program is a ‘one-on-one mentorship’ with the Center’s Director, Professor Sahar Aziz, who regularly and publicly espouses ‘vile anti-Semitic propaganda.’ As part of the congressional oversight process, Judiciary Committee staff requested an informal, non-public discussion with Patterson Belknap on this topic, but the firm declined.” — letter to Patterson Belknap]
- [USG MUST INVESTIGATE OUR ALLEGATION – WITH NO PROOF – THAT CAMPUSES ACTIVISM ON GAZA IS FUNDED BY AUTHORITARIAN REGIMES AND FTOs] 2/5/24: “U.S. Representatives Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) and Congressman Don Bacon (NE-2) wrote to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, urging them to coordinate with the Department of Justice and Department of Education to investigate whether $13 billion in contributions from foreign authoritarian regimes — which American colleges and universities illegally withheld and failed to report information on — have funded antisemitic protest groups on our college and university campuses.” [letter text] — “We are writing to urge you to marshal U.S. Department of Treasury’s policy, enforcement, regulatory, and intelligence functions and to work in coordination with the Department of Justice and the Department of Education to investigate American colleges and universities that illegally withheld and failed to report information to the Department of Education on approximately $13 billion in undisclosed contributions from foreign regimes, many of which are authoritarian, and to determine whether any of the donors contributed to the funding of antisemitic protest groups on our college and university campuses…There is a well-documented history of FTOs operating within American borders under the guise of “independent human rights groups.” For example, in 2001, the Department of Justice (DOJ) dismantled the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development after it was discovered they had provided material assistance to Hamas. We also know that staff members for the Islamic Association for Palestine — a major propaganda arm for Hamas — formed the American Muslims for Palestine, a group that has been instrumental in the founding of antisemitic campus organizations…”
Targeting…Woke USG Regulations (seriously)
- [IT’S LIKE THE ONION IS WRITING THESE LETTERS…] 2/7/24: Rubio, Colleagues to Blinken: Wokeness is Undermining U.S. Foreign Assistance [letter text] [Excerpt: “We are further concerned with the proposed waiver requirement for religious organizations to employ individuals of their own faith or to carry out foreign assistance activities in a manner consistent with their sincerely held beliefs. This would place a substantial burden upon faith-based groups and allow State Department a veto on questions of whether Jewish organizations can bar pro-Hamas individuals from employment, or whether Muslim organizations are allowed to only distribute halal food assistance. Accordingly, we request responses to the following questions about the proposed regulations: Will the State Department require a waiver from Jewish organizations that refuse to employ a pro-Hamas, or other extremist group member, who advocates for the destruction of Israel?“]
- [TARGETING THE HOUTHIS] FoxNews 2/7/24 – 50+ House Republicans call for Biden admin to ‘immediately’ designate Houthis a Foreign Terrorist Organization [letter text]
- [GET MORE AID INTO TO GAZA!!!] 2/2/24: Murphy, Van Hollen, Coons, Merkley, 21 Colleagues Urge Biden Administration to Work with Israel to Take 5 Steps to Get More Humanitarian Aid into Gaza [letter text] Also see: 25 Senate Democrats push Biden, Israel to increase humanitarian aid to Gaza (Jewish Insider 2/5/24)
This week both the House and Senate took up legislation that would have provided massive supplemental funding for Israel.
Supplemental Emergency Aid for Israel — Action in the House
Background: Back on 11/2/23, the House passed a bill
to provide massive emergency funding and military resources to Israel: HR 6126 (covered in detail in the 11/3/24 edition of the Round-Up).
That bill passed with 12 Democrat joining 214 Republicans in voting YES, and 2
Republicans joining 194 Democrats in voting NO. It was also dead-on-arrival in the
Senate, because (a) it includes funding ONLY for Israel – while the Biden Administration has made
clear it wants emergency supplemental legislation to include funding for Ukraine, new border security
legislation, and a modicum of humanitarian aid – and (b) it made the funding for Israel conditional on
offsets, in the form of cuts in funding to the IRS (notably, this Republican-drafted, -led, -supported
legislation, represents the first time in history that the House has passed legislation imposing a concrete
condition on aid to Israel – a point pro-Israel advocacy forces have, fascinatingly, chosen to ignore). As a
reminder, in late October then new-House speaker Johnson (R-LA), explicitly stated that any emergency supplemental funding would be have to be
paid for by cuts in funding to other programs.
This week: On 2/3/24 – and in the context of efforts
in the Senate to craft a bipartisan compromise covering supplemental funding and border legislation – Speaker
Johnson circulated a letter announcing his plans to introduce/pass a“clean” bill providing emergency supplemental aid for Israel (a “clean” bill is one that
includes no extraneous provisions, including conditions). On 2/5/24, that bill was introduced
as HR 7217 (press release). Like its predecessor (HR 6216), HR 7217 provides funding
ONLY for Israel. But unlike HR 6216, this bill does not make the Israel funding conditional on cuts in
funding to the IRS or anything else (no offsets). Also see: House to vote on clean Israel aid bill this week: Johnson (Jewish Insider
2/3/24); New Israel supplemental readied in House, without offsets [Package
intended to pressure Senate as it prepares broader bill] (Roll Call 2/3/24); House GOP plans new Israel package in blow to Senate talks (Axios
What’s in HR 7217? HR 7217 would provide massive funding and military resources to Israel, as follows:
- The bill includes $9.7 billion in direct aid to Israel: $4 billion for Iron Dome and David’s Sling; $1.2 billion for Iron Beam; $3.5 billion in Foreign Military Financing (cash to buy stuff); and $1 billion “to enhance production and development of artillery and critical munitions.” As an extra bonus, the bill allows for the FULL $3.5 billion in FMF to be spent in Israel (as opposed to in the US, as is the standard requirement with FMF – and as a reminder, defenders of the massive annual US aid package to Israel are always quick to argue that the funds are not a hand-out to Israel, but rather are an investment in the U.S. economy – an argument that this bill shut down). The bill also authorizes SecState to waive congressional notification requirements (it’s Israel – who needs oversight?)
- For 2024, the bill removes all limits on Israel taking defense articles from US stockpiles (which explains why the bill also includes $4.4 billion “to replenish defense articles and defense services provided to Israel” — in effect making clear that this is another $4.4 billion worth of aid for Israel. Also, the fact that Congress seems unconcerned about the national security implications of the US allowing Israel to substantially deplete if not empty US military stockpiles is remarkable, to say the least).
- In addition, the bill provides $3.3 billion “for current U.S. military operations in the region in response to the October 7th attack“; $150 million for enhanced embassy security and protection for U.S. personnel; and $50 million for emergency evacuations of American citizens.
- The bill does not include $1 of aid for Palestinians in Gaza, or any acknowledgement that nearly the entire population of Gaza has been displaced, with tens of thousands injured, and the entire population beginning to starve to death and die from lack of medical care.
- And finally, the bill (of course) includes not a
single word about oversight/reporting/conditions/concerns/limits on how Israel uses US weapons, or Israel’s
policies/intentions in Gaza or WB, etc.
Where folks stood on HR 7217:
- House GOP — HR 7217 was immediately attacked by some Republicans. On 2/4/24, the Freedom Caucus (House Republicans issued a statement opposing HR 7217 due to the lack of offsetting cuts to domestic programs — Support Israel without Bankrupting America [“Congress can pay for Israel aid by cutting funding for the United Nations, repealing the IRS expansion, rescinding the Department of Commerce ‘slush fund,’ or ending leftist climate change tax credits.”]) Also see: House Freedom Caucus ‘extremely disappointed’ with Speaker Johnson’s stand-alone Israel aid bill (Washington Examiner 2/4/24).
- White House — On 2/5/24, the White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy opposing HR 7217 and promising to veto it if it made it to the president’s desk.
- House Democrats — On 2/6/24, House Democratic leaders published a Joint Leadership Dear Colleague on H.R. 7217, stating (among other things), “We are prepared to support any serious, bipartisan effort in connection with the special relationship between the United States and Israel, our closest ally in the Middle East. Unfortunately, the standalone legislation introduced by House Republicans over the weekend, at the eleventh hour without notice or consultation, is not being offered in good faith. Rather, it is a nakedly obvious and cynical attempt by MAGA extremists to undermine the possibility of a comprehensive, bipartisan funding package that addresses America’s national security challenges in the Middle East, Ukraine, the Indo-Pacific region and throughout the world.” The letter closes: “…the time has come for House Republicans to end the political stunts and come together in support of a comprehensive approach to our national security priorities. For the aforementioned reasons, and those powerfully articulated by President Joe Biden in the Statement of Administration Policy, we will vote NO on H.R. 7217.” Overall, reactions of House Democrats were mixed, with some clearly focused on rationalizing casting a vote in support of Israel aid, despite opposition from Democratic leadership and the White House. Also see: House Democrats in “tough spot” with GOP’s new Israel bill (Axios 2/3/24); House Democrats open to supporting GOP’s stand-alone Israel aid bill (The Forward 2/5/24); Democratic leaders oppose Israel aid bill, imperiling its odds (Roll Call 2/6/24)
HR 7217 FAILS in the House: On 2/6/24 HR 7217 was brought to the House floor under suspension of the rules. By bringing the bill to the floor via this route (skipping the normal process in which a bill is first referred to the committee(s) of jurisdiction, where there would be markups and opportunities for amendments, and only then the bill would be brought to the floor under an agreed-on rule allowing for additional amendments), the bill (a) was not subject to any amendments, and (b) required a 2/3 majority to pass (rather than the simple majority required for bills brought to the floor under normal rules). As a result, the House vote on HR 7217 – 250 in favor and 180 against – meant that the bill FAILED to pass. Forty-six Democrats defied the White House to support HR 7217, and 14 Republicans defied their leadership to oppose it.
Further reading: House GOP fails to pass Israel package as congressional impasse continues (Washington Post), Israel aid bill sinks in House with 166 Democrats, 14 Republicans against (Fox News), House fails to pass standalone Israel aid bill (Politico), House torpedoes stand-alone Israel aid bill (The Hill), House fails to pass Israel aid amid Ukraine standoff with Biden (Defense News), Congress scrambles for backup plan on Ukraine and Israel aid (Axios), Aid package for Israel fails in the House, dealing another setback to GOP leaders (AP), US House rejects Republican-led effort to pass Israel-only aid bill (Reuters), GOP stand-alone Israel aid bill rejected in the House (Roll Call), Biden and Dem Leaders Reject Stand-Alone Aid Bill for Israel
More Israel Aid Legislation in the House: HR 7217 is clearly not the end of this saga. Two more Israel aid bills were intro’d in the House this week:
- HR 7271: Introduced 2/7/24 by Biggs (R-AZ), “Making emergency supplemental appropriations to respond to the attacks in Israel for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2024, and for other purposes.” Per Biggs’s press release: “Today, Congressman Andy Biggs (R-AZ) introduced the Fiscally Responsible Israel Supplemental Act, 2024—legislation that would provide $17.6 billion in military and security assistance to Israel and pay for that spending by repealing the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA)’s Department of Commerce and IRS “slush fund” created during debt ceiling negotiations last summer. This assistance includes funding to reinforce Israel’s defense systems, replenish U.S. military operations in the region, and protect U.S. personnel and citizens in Israel. On October 7th, Hamas terrorists infiltrated Israel and massacred more than 1,400 Israelis, while taking hundreds more hostage over the month. Yesterday, the House of Representatives voted against a security supplemental for Israel as the package offered no spending offsets to fund the aid.”]
- HR 7245: Introduced 2/6/24 by Goldman (D-NY) and 4 Democratic cosponsors, “To provide supplemental appropriations for fiscal year 2024, and for other purposes.” Text is not yet available but best guess is that this is similar or identical to the Senate text currently under consideration (discussed below), which of course means it has zero chance of going anywhere in the House.
Supplemental Emergency Aid for Israel — Action in the Senate
On 2/4/24 Senate Democrats unveiled their BIPARTISAN Emergency National Security Supplemental legislation, including both massive funding/equipment for Israel and a cut-off of aid to UNRWA (press release; text; summary). Appropriations Chair Murry (D-WA) stated in her press release: “I never believed we should link policy demands to emergency aid for our allies, but Republicans insisted—so Democrats negotiated in good faith over many weeks and now there is a bipartisan deal on border policy legislation. Ukraine’s fate and so much more hangs in the balance—it’s time for Congress to act.” Israel and related provisions of the bill are as follows:
- DOD funding/programs: The bill provides $10.6 billion in Department of Defense funding for Israel, of which $801.400 million is for ammunition; $5.2 billion is for Iron Dome, David’s Sling, and Iron Beam; and the balance is included in Israel/Ukraine joint line items
- SFOPS funding/programs: The bill provides $3.5 billion in Foreign Military Financing (cash) for Israel to buy weapons/military supplies. Normally FMF has to be spent in the US (FMF for Israeli is always defended as not a handout to Israel but an investment in the US economy!), but under this bill, Israel has full authorization to spend $769.3 million in Israel, and has further authorization to spend the rest in Israel, “if agreed by the United States and Israel, following consultation with the Committees on Appropriations.” In addition, the bill authorizes the Secretary of State to skip Congressional notification of arms sales under this FMF (Congressional oversight of massive arms sales to Israel while it is carrying out ethnic cleansing/genocide in Gaza? Totally not necessary!).
- Emptying US Weapons Stockpiles: Sections 602-606 of the bill would amend U.S. law governing use of US weapons stockpiles (for 2024 only) to massively increase the amounts of U.S. stockpiled weapons (which are stockpiled around the world ostensibly to ensure U.S. readiness in the event of a military crisis) the President can give to Israel. For example, Section 602 increases a cap on the value of weapons available to Israel from stockpiles from $100 million to $7.8 billion. The bill would also waive congressional notification requirements with respect to Israel taking weapons from US stockpiles in 2024.
- What about the Palestinians? The bill provides a total of $9.2 billion in humanitarian aid, including “to address humanitarian needs in response to the situations in Israel and Ukraine for Ukraine,” but does not earmark a single dollar specifically for Palestinians. Yet, the bill does explicitly bar any funding to UNRWA, including funds approved in prior laws but not yet disbursed (Section 614) and adds multiple new layers of oversight/conditions/monitoring/reporting on any funds that the administration might decide to use for Palestinians (in Section 615) – layers on top of what was already the most overseen/conditioned/monitored/reported on US aid program in the world. In short, this utterly surreal bill embraces the conflation of the entire Palestinian population of the West Bank and Gaza Strip – more than 2 million of whom currently being subjected to ethnic cleansing and genocide by Israel in Gaza – with terrorism, and the linkage of the provision of aid to Palestinians — currently being displaced, wounded, deliberately starved and denied medical care by Israel — with support for terror.
- Messages of this bill: Like the House bill detailed above, the Senate bill includes not a single condition, no does it require even a single report on how Israel is using US weapons in Gaza. This is of course in line with all past appropriations bills for Israel – no conditions, no restrictions, no special oversight, etc.. But what is different today is that in the context of Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip (and the West Bank) since October 7, 2023, a significant number of Senate Democrats have come out DEMANDING conditions on aid to Israel (and also urging strong support for humanitarian aid for Palestinians). Their demands were simply ignored by Senate leaders negotiating this bipartisan bill, while those same leaders chose to heed demands of Republican senators to de-fund UNRWA (for more on this last point see this excellent X-thread from the Middle East Democracy Center’s Seth Binder). The bottom line, loud-and-clear messages of this bill: (1) there is zero interest/concern in what Israel does with US weapons, or intends to do with respect to Gaza, the two-state solution, or what Netanyahu or his fellow officials do or say with respect to ethnic cleansing/genocide of Palestinians; (2) to the extent that there is any concern about the humanitarian catastrophe facing Palestinians in Gaza, it is entirely offset by deference to Israeli efforts to undermine UNRWA, to paint every Palestininian in Gaza as a terrorist or a terrorist sympathizer, and to stall, obstruct, control, and politicize any efforts to provide aid to Palestinians; and (3) that it is a bipartisan article of fate that it’s always good politics to sh*t on Palestinians – even Palestinians who literally starving to death as the Senate debates this bill, and even when we are talking about the bodies of Palestinians who are dead or dying due to Israeli policies of ethnic cleansing and genocide.
How did this bill get introduced/come to the floor? Under the arcane rules of Congress, appropriations bills (including supplementals) must be initiated by the House (the Senate initiates authorization bills). As a result, rather than introduce the Israel et al supplemental as a new Senate bill, Senate leaders are using an existing House bill as their vehicle (akin to a hermit crab moving into an available shell). The vehicle chosen by Senate leadership for its Israel et al emergency supplement is HR 815, a bill previously passed by the House and currently pending in the Senate. Repurposing HR 815 started on 2/7/24, when Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Murray (D-WA) proposed S. Amdt. 1388 to HR 815 – an amendment in the nature of a substitute (aka, an ANS) that would delete the full text of HR 815 and replace it with the Israel et al emergency supplemental appropriations legislation. Other senators have subsequently introduced (so far – they can and almost certainly will keep introducing more) 64 amendments to Murray’s amendment, including
- an amendment from Lee (R-UT) to bar all funding not just to UNRWA but “to any other organ, specialized agency, commission, or other formally affiliated body of the United Nations that provides funding or otherwise operates in Gaza“;
- an amendment from Van Hollen (D-MD) and 18 cosponsors, to add in a section entitled, “SAFEGUARDS AND ACCOUNTABILITY WITH RESPECT TO TRANSFERRED DEFENSE ARTICLES AND DEFENSE SERVICES”, which among other things would require a report to Congress regarding use of U.S. provided defense articles and services, including an assessment of “the extent to which the use of such defense articles or defense services is consistent with United States practices and mechanisms for minimizing civilian casualties.“
- an amendment from Shatz (D-HI) and 48 cosponsors, adding in a provision reading: “It is the policy of the United States– (1) to support a negotiated comprehensive solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resulting in two states with Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in peace, security, dignity, and mutual recognition; and (2) that such a solution must ensure the state of Israel’s survival as a secure, democratic, and Jewish state, and fulfill the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for a state of their own.“
- an amendment from Merkley (D-MA) and 9 cosponsors, to add a section stipulating that (among other things), “None of the amounts appropriated or otherwise made available by this division may be obligated or expended to facilitate the commercial export, foreign military sale, transfer, or delivery of any firearms, including pistols and semi-automatic and fully automatic rifles, to Israel, unless the Secretary of State certifies to Congress that the Secretary has received written assurance from the Government of Israel that– (1) such firearms– (A) will be used only by active duty members of the Israel Defense Forces and the Israel National Police; and (B) will not be transferred to civilians; (2) any such firearms used by activated reserves of the Israel Defense Forces or the Israel National Police will be returned to the Israel Defense Forces or the Israel National Police once those reserves have been deactivated; and (3) such firearms will be used in accordance with United States law and the United States Conventional Arms Transfer Policy.”
- an amendment from Ernst (R-IA) barring any/all aid for the West Bank and Gaza until “(1) All citizens and permanent residents of the United States are released from captivity in Gaza to the United States, Israel, or another country of the individual’s choice. (2) The remains of all citizens and permanent residents of the United States are returned to their families.” [i.e., embracing collective punishment of more than 2 million Palestinians currently being starved to death by Israel]
- an amendment from Budd (R-NC) barring any/all aid for the West Bank and Gaza “until all citizens of the United States held hostage by Hamas have been released.” [i.e., embracing collective punishment of more than 2 million Palestinians currently being starved to death by Israel]
- an amendment from Warren (D-MA) and 4 cosponsors to add a section entitled “IMPLEMENTATION OF THE CIVILIAN HARM INCIDENT RESPONSE GUIDANCE.”
- an amendment from Kaine (D-VA) and 27 cosponsors, to (as explained in his press release) “maintain the congressional notification requirement for all U.S. assistance to foreign militaries. Specifically, the amendment would strike a provision in the proposed national security supplemental funding bill that waives oversight requirements for U.S. funding for Israel under the Foreign Military Financing Program. If passed, the amendment would preserve the congressional notification process for Israel, just as congressional notifications are required for all other nations.” Also see: PBS 2/6/24: Senate Democrats push to require that Biden consult Congress on weapons sales to Israel; Kaine 2/8/24: VIDEO: Kaine Delivers Floor Speech on Amendment to Maintain Congressional Oversight of Foreign Military Assistance
- An amendment from Sanders (I-VT) and one cosponsor to (as explained in his press release) “remove $10.1 billion in offensive weaponry funding for Netanyahu’s right-wing government. The amendment preserves funding for defensive systems that will protect Israeli civilians against incoming missile and rocket attacks.“
- An amendment from Sanders (I-VT) to delete the provision in the bill barring aid to UNRWA.
- Also note: X-post by journalist from the DC Examiner 2/7/24: “Senate Rs want open amendment process on Ukraine package. Here’s Cornyn, who I asked about humanitarian aid: ‘I don’t want to see so-called humanitarian assistance go to Hamas. And so, there’s a number of things that we’ll be suggesting by way of amendment or further debate.‘”
What Happened this week to the Israel et al supplemental in the Senate? This week saw 3 procedural votes in the Senate related to HR 815. On 2/7/23, following lengthy statements/grandstanding, a group of Senate Democrats called for a vote on “cloture motion” – a motion to bring to a close the discussion on whether or not HR 815 could be brought up for debate (passing the cloture motion would enable debate on HR 815 – starting with Murray’s ANS, to start). That motion FAILED by a vote of 49-50, with 4 Republicans voting “yes” and 5 Democrats plus Sanders (I-VT) voting “no.” Sen. Schumer (D-NY) immediately followed up this defeat by calling for a vote on a motion to “reconsider” the previous vote (as in, to agree to continue debate and try again for cloture another time). This motion PASSED by a vote of 58-41. Subsequently on 2/8/24, a group of Senate Democrats again called for a vote on another cloture motion. This motion PASSED by a vote of 67-32, opening the door for debate on the actual bill to begin.
So what happens next? In line with the Senate’s incredibly arcane and convoluted procedures, at any minute the Senate can/will start debating HR 815, which will kick off with another procedural “motion to proceed” with Murray’s ANS, S. Amdt. 1388. Assuming that passes, Senate leaders will be faced with a deluge of amendments (both on Israel and on other issues), and intense pressure to allow a large number of amendments to be heard and voted on (including from senators who are looking to run out the legislative clock in order to kill the bill). It’s not clear at this point how that will work out. At some point Schumer will try to end that debate (another cloture motion) to open the way for a final vote on S. Amdt. 1388 (as amended by anything that the Senate has managed to pass), and after that a final vote on the bill. And just to make things more complicated: note that cloture votes need at least 60 votes to pass, while other votes need a simple majority. For more details on how this is expected to play out, see this explainer from Punchbowl news. Also see: Senate votes to begin deliberations on Israel aid bill – The Senate voted 67-32 to open debate on a bill supporting Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan but likely has long days of deliberations ahead (Jewish Insider 2/9/24) Also note that there is a “Plan B” already in play (raised on the Senate floor 2/7/24) – Senate aims for slimmed-down foreign aid package without border policy deal -Senators are negotiating to take up an Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan aid bill with negotiated border policy provisions stripped out (Jewish Insider 2/8/24)
February 15, 2024: The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing entitled, The Agents of Antisemitism in Latin America. The sole announced witness (so far) is Aaron Keyak, State Department Deputy Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism.
February 14, 2024: The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “Iran’s Proxy in Yemen: The Houthi Threat to Middle East Stability, Global Shipping, and U.S. Servicemembers.” Scheduled witnesses will be: Simone Ledeen, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East; Kenneth Pollack, Former CIA Analyst and NSC Director for the Persian Gulf; and Jon Alterman, Center for Strategic and International Studies.
- HR 6603, the “No Technology for Terror Act,” aka, “To apply foreign-direct product rules to Iran.“
- HR 6046, “To designate Ansarallah as a foreign terrorist organization and impose certain sanctions on Ansarallah, and for other purposes” [as noted in the 10/27/23 edition of the Round-Up, Congress does not have the legal authority to designate groups as FTOs…]; and
- HR 7122, “To prohibit aid that will benefit Hamas, and for other purposes.” As covered in last week’s Round-Up — (DEATH TO UNRWA! NO MORE PALESTINE REFUGEES!) HR 7122 (text): Introduced 1/29/24 by Smith (R-NJ) and 3 Republican cosponsors, the “Stop Support for UNRWA Act of 2024“, aka, “To prohibit aid that will benefit Hamas, and for other purposes.” This bill states: “The United States may not make any voluntary or involuntary contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (referred to in this Act as ‘‘UNRWA’’), to any successor or related entity, or to the regular budget of the United Nations for the support of UNRWA or a successor entity.
Politics & Elex
- Jewish Insider 2/9/24: Pro-Israel groups ally against Dave Min in contentious California primary
- New York Times 2/7/24: How Oct. 7 Drove a Wedge Into the Democratic Party [“Members of Congress, and candidates for their seats, have been drawn into bitter political clashes over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.“]
- Free Beacon 2/7/24: Summer Lee Praises Carnegie Mellon Professor Who Likened Israel to Nazi Germany
- Free Beacon 2/7/24: They Endorsed Hamas Terrorism. Then They Hosted a Big-Ticket Fundraiser for Jamaal Bowman and Cori Bush.
- The 19th Hour 2/6/24: As the ‘Squad’ called for a ceasefire in Gaza, their campaigns got an influx of donations [“Rep. Rashida Tlaib led the group by raising $3.6 million in the last quarter of 2023 as some of the progressive House members drew primary challengers.“]
- Jewish News Syndicate 2/6/24: Once a ‘blank slate,’ Ritchie Torres is one of Israel’s best fighters in Congress [“Visiting Israel in 2014 was ‘one of the most formative and transformative experiences’ in the N.Y. Democrat’s life, he told JNS.”]
- Free Beacon 2/6/24: Bernie Sanders Accuses Israel of War Crimes and Slams AIPAC Financial Influence on Congress
- Jewish Insider 2/5/24: Tom Suozzi and Mazi Pilip focus on Jewish outreach as special election nears [“The Long Island-based district has one of the largest Jewish constituencies in the country“]
Israel’s War on Gaza, UNRWA, Civil Society, Free Speech
- Times of Israel 2/8/24: US intelligence officials reportedly tell Congress that Israel not close to defeating Hamas
- NY 1 2/7/24: Congress members vow to bring home Israeli hostages as relatives tell of grief
- Jewish Insider 2/7/24: Lawmakers could pressure Qatar, other U.S. partners through government funding to secure hostage release
- The Hill 2/4/24: Democrats warn Israel risks eroding support in Congress
- The Intercept 2/2/24: Republicans Move to One-Up Biden and Permanently Defund UNRWA [“The bill defunding the U.N. agency that distributes humanitarian aid to Palestinian refugees could be on the House floor in under two weeks.”]
- Jewish Insider 2/2/24: Trone speaks at Washington JCRC’s second Qatar Embassy event [‘We’ve got to get these hostages back and we’ve got to all stand together and implore Qatar to step up, use their political muscle and do the right thing,’ the Maryland Senate candidate said on Friday]
Targeting Free Speech & Civil Society
- LA Times 2/8/24: Opinion: Before the feds surveil Americans for Gaza protests, rein in warrantless spying [“In the United States, a political leader’s disagreement with the views of a protest movement does not give the government license to investigate those protesters. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) ought to know that. Nevertheless, she recently went on CNN and, without citing any evidence, accused protesters advocating for a cease-fire in Gaza of having ties to Russia and called on the Federal Bureau of Investigation to research the financing behind these protests. When outrage over that proposed abuse of power erupted a few days later, she doubled down.”]
- Jewish Insider 2/5/24: Bipartisan group of House lawmakers presses administration on pro-Palestinian charities in the U.S. [letter covered in last week’s Round-Up]
- Jewish News Syndicate 2/4/24: More than 400 activists lobby for Antisemitism Awareness Act, aid to Israel [“The group, organized by the Jewish Federations of North America, also spoke to congressional representatives about security for faith-based nonprofits.”]
Targeting Biden Admin Policy on Israel/Settlements
- Jewish News Syndicate 2/3/24: ‘Irrational, anti-Israel’: Congressman slams Biden executive order [“Joe Biden’s fallacious executive order against our ally Israel is another foreign policy failure by the Biden administration,” said Jeff Duncan of South Carolina.]