APN Legislative Round-Up: June 13, 2014

1.  Bills, Resolutions & Letters
2.  Setting the Record Straight on US Law & the New Palestinian Government
3. New Palestinian Government & Capitol Hill
4.  Hearings
5. Members on the Record  
6. From the Press/Blogs

 Of Special Note:


1. Bills, Resolutions, Letters & Confirmations

(CUT OFF AID TO PA) H Res. 622:  Introduced 6/12 by Franks (R-AZ) and an all-GOP line-up (mostly Tea Party) of 16 cosponsors “Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives regarding the national security interests of the United States and its allies and partners with respect to the Palestinian Authority.”  The resolution demands a cut-off in all U.S. aid to and cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, and for the U.S. to press its allies (apparently, including Israel) to do the same, including cutting off security cooperation.  The resolution also calls for the PLO to be re-designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization.  Referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs.  Text of the resolution was leaked to the Free Beacon, which reported on the resolution on 6/6.  Bachmann (R-MN) press release here.

(CUT OFF AID TO ENEMIES OF ISRAEL?) HR XXX:  In a 6/12 op-ed in the National Review Online, entitled “No Aid to Our Enemies,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) stated: “In April, I introduced the Stand with Israel Act of 2014, which would cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority until its government agreed to a ceasefire and recognized the right of the Jewish state to exist [for details of that bill, which was opposed by the likes of AIPAC, Jennifer Rubin, and Elliot Abrams, see the 5/9/14 edition of the Round-Up]. I believe this must happen before any lasting peace can truly be achieved. In the interest of peace and standing by our allies, I will now propose a bill called the Defense of Israel Act. This legislation will cut off arms and aid to the Syrian rebels and any other group that threatens Israel.”  Stay tuned.

(DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION - MIDEAST ELEMENTS) S. 2410:  Introduced 6/2 by Levin (D-MI), the “Carl Levin National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015.” The Committee report accompanying the bill is available here.  Middle East-Related elements are documented below (for details of the House version of the bill, see the 5/22/14 edition of the Round-Up). 


This section authorizes assistance “to provide equipment, supplies, training, and defense services to assist vetted elements of the Syrian opposition” for the purposes of “Defending the Syrian people from attacks by the Syrian regime”, “Protecting the United States, its friends and allies, and the Syrian people from the threats posed by terrorists in Syria”, and “Promoting the conditions for a negotiated settlement to end the conflict in Syria.” It lays out vetting and Congressional notification requirements for all such assistance.  It also permits assistance to third countries in providing training and equipment, subject to the same requirements.   The Committee Report accompanying S. 2410 notes that “the authority granted in this provision does not authorize the use of the United States Armed Forces on the ground in Syria for the purpose of combat operations.” The report also requires additional Congressional consultation related to the provision of any assistance under this section.


Part (e) of this section prohibits funding for military-to-military cooperation with Russia.  It permits the Secretary of Defense to waive this prohibition under a number of circumstances, including “to provide for the orderly and complete elimination of the Syrian chemical weapons program” and “to provide support to international negotiations on the nuclear program of Iran, including implementation of the Joint Plan of Action and negotiation of a long-term comprehensive agreement.”


This section bars DOD from any dealings with Rosoboronexport.  It includes a national security waiver, but that waiver can only be used if the President certifies that to the best of his knowledge “Rosoboronexport has ceased the transfer of lethal military equipment to, and the maintenance of existing lethal military equipment for, the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic”(among other things).  The section also requires a report on Rosoboronexport’s activities related to Syria, as well as a “detailed list of all existing contracts, subcontracts, memorandums of understanding, cooperative agreements, grants, loans, and loan guarantees between the Department of Defense and Rosoboronexport, including a description of transaction, signing dates, values, and quantities.”


This section highlights the threat to the U.S. homeland posed by Iran and North Korean ballistic missile capabilities. 


This section includes a Sense of Congress regarding the threat posed by the regional ballistic missile capabilities of countries such as Iran and North Korea.  Among other things, it states that “the United States should continue efforts to improve regional missile defense capabilities in the Middle East, including its close cooperation with Israel and its efforts with countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, in order to improve regional security against the growing regional missile capabilities of Iran.”  The section requires a report to Congress “setting forth the status and progress of efforts to improve United States regional missile defense capabilities in Europe, the Middle East, and in the Asia-Pacific region, including efforts and cooperation by allies and partner countries.” That report must include, among other things, “A description of the status of efforts to improve the regional missile defense capabilities of the United States and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries in the Middle East against regional missile threats from Iran, including progress toward, and benefits of, multilateral cooperation and data sharing among the Gulf Cooperation Council countries for multilateral integrated air and missile defense against threats from Iran.”


This section authorizes $350,900,000 for Israel “to procure the Iron Dome short-range rocket defense system as specified in the funding table in section 4201, including for co-production of Iron Dome parts and components in the United States by United States industry.”  It also authorizes that up to $175,000,000 of those funds may be used instead for the Arrow System Improvement Program, the Arrow-3 Upper Tier interceptor development program, and David's Sling short-range ballistic missile defense system, if Israel decides these programs have higher priority.  The section notes that Iron Dome funding “shall be available subject to the terms, conditions, and co-production targets specified for fiscal year 2015 in the ‘Agreement Between the Department of Defense of the United States of America and the Ministry of Defense of the State of Israel Concerning Iron Dome Defense System Procurement,’ signed on March 5, 2014.”  It also notes that if the funds are used instead for the other permitted programs, they are “subject to the terms and conditions of the joint United States-Israel Project Agreements governing the management and execution of these cooperative programs.”

Other stuff:

Annual Report on Iran:  The Committee Report accompanying S. 2410 calls out the Department of Defense for failing to produce this year’s required annual report on Iran’s military power (as required under pre-existing law).  The report notes: “Given this delay, upon the delivery of the report covering 2013, the committee directs the Secretary of Defense to provide to Congress a briefing on the report which--in addition to covering information from 2013--should also provide an update from the report's information cut-off date to the present on any developments within Iran's ballistic missile program...”

Yemen:  The Committee Report reiterates concerns about U.S. security assistance programs for Yemen and directs the Comptroller General of the United States to update the March 2013 report on U.S. Assistance to Yemen (GAO-13-310) and to brief the congressional defense committees on its initial findings “no later than the end of this calendar year, and that a final report be issued no later than March 31, 2015.”


(IRAN SANCTIONS RELIEF) Royce-Engel letter:  Next week, Chairman Royce and Ranking Member Engel will circulate for co-signers a letter to President Obama related to Iran.  The letter stresses the importance of consulting with Congress in advance of an Iran deal regarding potential sanctions relief that would be part of that deal (relief that by definition would necessitate Congressional action).  On 6/12, the Jerusalem Post reported on the letter under the headline: “Congress warns Obama: Nuclear deal with Iran may not be enough to lift sanctions.”  Earlier, the headline of that same article read, “Congress warns Obama: Nuclear deal with Iran not enough to lift sanctions” (it was apparently edited, perhaps to more accurately reflect the content of the letter).  Based on the Jerusalem Post’s URL for the article, it appears that the original headline of that article was supposed to be: “Congress will identify acceptable Iran deal parameters”.

(NEW PA GOVERNMENT) Deutch-Ros-Lehtinen Letter:  On 6/9, Reps. Deutch (D-FL) and Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), respectively the ranking member and chair of HFAC’s Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, sent a letter to Secretary of State Kerry expressing concerns about the new Palestinian government and concluding:  “…we request the opportunity to hear directly from the Administration at a hearing of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs as to (i) the Administration's consideration of Hamas' role in the unity government in choosing to work with that interim government, (ii) the Administration's analysis of U.S law and its decision with respect to continuing to work with the interim government, and (iii) how the Administration plans to evaluate the actions of this interim government and what benchmarks will be in place that could impact future consideration of assistance to it.”  Also see: JTA 6/10: House Mideast panel’s top lawmakers want Kerry explanation on Hamas

(SUSPEND AID TO PA) Cardin-Collins letter:  As reported in the 5/22/14 edition of the Round-Up, Reps. Cardin (D-MD) and Collins (R-ME) have in recent weeks been circulating a letter expressing concerns about Palestinian reconciliation efforts and calling for a suspension of U.S. aid.  That letter was actively lobbied by AIPAC.  The letter was reportedly sent to President Obama on 6/11, signed by 88 senators.  From the media (notably, the letter got no coverage in the mainstream U.S. media): Senators tell Obama: Hamas is no partner for peace (Israel Hayom, 6/12) US senators raise red flag over Palestinian unity (Times of Israel, 6/12); Senators to Obama: 'Gravely concerned' over Palestinian unity (Haaretz, 6/12); Senators send concerns to Obama over Palestinian unity gov’t (JTA, 6/12); 88 Senators to Obama: Reconsider Aid to PA (Arutz Sheva, 6/12); 88 U.S. Senators Voice ‘Grave Concern’ Over Fatah-Hamas Government (Algemeiner, 6/12)

(RUSSIA-IRAN DEAL?) Royce letter:  On 6/2, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Royce (R-CA) sent a letter to Secretary of State Kerry expressing concern that “Iran is attempting to circumvent November’s interim nuclear accord through a $20 billion barter agreement with Russia.  Reports indicate that Iranian and Russian officials have discussed an illicit oil-for-goods contract that could undermine the sanctions regime and weaken American negotiating leverage.  These efforts to evade sanctions undermine Iran’s agreement with the P5+1 and cast serious doubt on Iranian intentions…”  Press release here.


(UNESCSO) NEW US PermRep Confirmed by Senate: On 6/12 the Senate voted (in a party-line vote of 52-41) to confirm Crystal Nix-Hines to be the United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).  The Senate Foreign Relations Committee considered the nomination back on 9/24/13 (Nix-Hines’ statement is here).  Taking to the Senate floor before the vote, Coats (R-IN) spoke at length in opposition to confirmation, with his objections focused on the fact that UNESCO granted membership to the Palestinians – an act that Coats believes is a terrible blow to the prospects for peace.  He followed with a long discourse on the evils of the Palestinians pursuing any recognition in international forums, and reiterated his determination to preserve the existing law (without any waiver) that requires the U.S. to cut off its own nose to spite its face with UNESCO or any other UN agency that admits the Palestinians (his press release of his statement, including the video clip of him on the floor, is here).  Coats’ take on the issue was faithfully echoed in coverage of the vote in the Hill newspaper, which headlined its story: Senate confirms Obama nominee to pro-Palestinian UN group.


2.  Setting the Record Straight on US Law & the New Palestinian Government

(posted originally on the APN website 6/3, here)

There’s a lot of talk these days – from pundits, lobbyists, members of Congress, and others – to the effect that according to U.S. law, the Obama Administration must cut off all aid to the Palestinian Authority now that a new government is in power, a government that was produced out of a PLO-Hamas reconciliation agreement.

Regrettably, most of this talk appears to be informed more by anger, opinion, or wishful thinking than a careful analysis of the actual laws in question.   And as always, while every person is entitled to his or her own opinion, there is only one set of facts.  So now it's time to set the record straight.

Congress has long had concerns about possible Palestinian unity/reconciliation efforts.  That's why Congress has put itself very clearly on the record when it comes to Hamas participation in a Palestinian government.  Of the various laws passed since the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, the most recent – HR 3547, aka the FY14 Consolidated Appropriations Act, signed into law 1/17/14 – ties then all neatly together.  That law stipulates (in Sec. 6070(f), entitled “Prohibition to Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organization,”) the following:

(1)   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 and over which Hamas exercises undue influence.

(2)   Notwithstanding the limitation of paragraph (1), assistance may be provided to a power-sharing government only if the President certifies and reports to the Committees on Appropriations 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 Act of 1961, as amended [click here to see that bill text].

(3)   The President may exercise the authority in section 620K(e) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as added by the Palestine Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006 (Public Law 109-446) with respect to this subsection. [click here to see that bill text].

(4)   Whenever the certification pursuant to paragraph (2) is exercised, the Secretary of State shall submit a report to the Committees on Appropriations within 120 days of the certification and every quarter thereafter on whether such government, including all of its ministers or such equivalent are continuing to comply with the principles contained in section 620K(b)(1) (A) and (B) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended: Provided, That the report shall also detail the amount, purposes and delivery mechanisms for any assistance provided pursuant to the abovementioned certification and a full accounting of any direct support of such government.

(5)   None of the funds appropriated under titles III through VI of this Act may be obligated for assistance for the Palestine Liberation Organization.

What does this mean in the current situation with respect to the legality of continued U.S. assistance to the PA?  Simply stated, one three possible scenarios applies:

  1.  Scenario 1:  Under (1), above, if the U.S. concludes that the new PA government is one that is not controlled by Hamas, and is one in which Hamas is not itself a member of, and is one over which Hamas does not exercise "undue influence," there is no prohibition under US law to US assistance to it.
  2. Scenario 2: Under (2), above, if the US concludes that what the new government is a power-sharing government with Hamas over which Hamas exercises undue influence, then the question becomes: what is the character of the government and its members.  Under this paragraph, if the President can certify that every minister and minister equivalent has accepted and is complying with the Quartet conditions (this is the reference to 620K of the earlier law - law that was written to apply if Hamas is actually controlling a "ministry or instrumentality" of the PA but under this paragraph is now required in this case of lesser Hamas involvement), there is no prohibition under US law to US assistance to it.   If he cannot make this certification, then aid must be cut off.
  3. Scenario 3:  Under (3), above, if the US concludes that the new government is a power-sharing government with Hamas over which Hamas exercises undue influence, and cannot certify that every minister or minister equivalent meets the Quartet conditions, then the President can still waive the prohibition on funding to this new PA, but only for certain categories of assistance -- aid for the office of the PA president; aid to help the President of the PA fulfill specified duties (related to security, promoting the peace process, promoting democracy and rule of law; aid to the Palestinian Judiciary "and other entities") and only if he can certify, among other things, that the funds are not going to an individual or entity associated with or controlled by Hamas or any other terrorist organization.

Those are the three potential scenarios under current US law. So where are we today?

As things look today, it seems clear that, objectively speaking, Scenario 1 applies: the new PA is an apolitical, technocratic government over which Hamas has no undue influence, at least as anyone has seen thus far.  This means that there is no legal requirement to cut off aid to the PA.

Others may argue that Scenario 2 applies, that is, that the new PA by definition is unduly influenced by Hamas, since Hamas agreed to its formation.  If this argument is accepted, the question is then: does the new PA meets the conditions set forth in U.S. law, as discussed above? Based on the assurances of PA President Abbas and PA Prime Minister Hamdallah, the answer today appears to be an emphatic “yes.” This means that as of now, there is no legal requirement to cut off aid to the PA, and that there will be no such requirement so long as the new PA’s policies and behavior comport with these assurances.

As for Scenario 3, it is difficult to see how anyone could suggest that this scenario applies.  There are no members of the new government who are affiliated directly with Hamas; as noted above, it is hard to make a serious case (at least so far) of undue Hamas influence; and even if the case were made of undue Hamas influence, the new PA (so far) explicitly accepts and has committed to abiding by the principles stipulated in U.S. law.  Given all of this, there is no legal requirement to cut off aid in the first place, and thus no requirement to seek a waiver in order to continue any part of it.

What does this mean in terms of what Congress will do? In short, it comes down to a simple question: Will Congress be willing to take “yes” for an answer from the Palestinians, when it comes to the Palestinians meeting the detailed conditions set out by Congress previously in U.S. law?  As of this writing, the likely answer, regrettably, appears to be “no.”

3.  New Palestinian Government & Capitol Hill

The above realities of U.S. law notwithstanding, Members of Congress have been scrambling to denounce the new Palestinian Authority and to demand that aid be cut off or at least suspended pending a review and Congressional oversight.  Implicit in many of the statements (and in the letters discussed in Section 1, above), is the threat that if the Obama Administration seeks to continue funding the PA, Congress will block it (funding for the PA must be “notified” to relevant Congressional committees in advance, permitting members to place “holds” on Administration funding plans to which they object.  While such holds are informal and not legally binding, it is extremely rare that an Administration would ignore such a hold).  A selection of such statements is included here.

Reid (D-NV) 6/3: ““Yesterday’s action by the Palestinian Authority is a gigantic step backward. Hamas is a terrorist organization and its leaders continue to pursue the destruction of the state of Israel.  I stand with Israel and condemn the Palestinians’ decision to form this new government, which is clearly backed by Hamas. We all hope that we will be able to have peace in the region, with stability and security for Israel. But the Palestinian Authority’s actions have only moved us further away from that goal.”

Hoyer (D-MD) 6/2: “I am disappointed that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has invited Hamas, a terrorist organization responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent people, to join a new unity government.  Until Hamas renounces violence, recognizes the Jewish State of Israel, and accepts previous agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, it should not be permitted a role in governing.  Since taking control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, Hamas has embraced its sponsorship by Iran and fired thousands of rockets into Southern Israel, terrorizing border communities and killing and wounding civilians.  I have been to S’derot and seen the physical and psychological toll of Hamas rockets firsthand. This move does not advance the cause of peace or the final status negotiations President Abbas has so desperately sought, and it places in jeopardy the millions of dollars in foreign assistance the United States provides to the Palestinian Authority each year.”    


Kirk (R-IL) & Rubio (R-FL) 6/2: Joint statement, “…Now that the President Abbas [sic] has announced the new government, consistent with existing U.S. law, we believe that U.S. assistance should be halted and reviewed. Unless Hamas publicly accepts Israel’s right to exist and ceases its support for terrorism, U.S. aid should be suspended to any Palestinian government over which Hamas exercises influence. The administration's initial reaction to continue aid is troubling and runs counter to existing law. We call on the Obama administration to enforce the law. U.S. credibility as well as Israel’s security are at stake.”

Royce (R-CA) 6/2: “It’s hard to see a  government that embraces Hamas getting us closer to peace, much less helping its people.  While the ‘unity government’ hides behind the facade of nonpartisan bureaucrats, it was only born out of support from Hamas – a terrorist organization that continues to call for Israel’s annihilation.  Hamas is no partner for peace; nor a legitimate recipient of aid.”

Engel (D-NY) 6/2: “With today’s announcement of a Palestinian government that depends on Hamas’s support, the Palestinian Authority is casting serious doubt on their commitment to a two-state solution and threatening future American assistance. The United States is under no obligation to give a dime to the PA as it reconciles with a known terrorist group. The path toward a two-state solution does not go through Hamas or the United Nations; a lasting and secure peace can only be reached through a negotiated and mutually accepted agreement by the Palestinians—free from the influence of terrorists—and the Israeli government.”

Deutch (D-FL) 6/2: “Today’s decision by President Abbas to swear in a unity government backed by Hamas is a deeply disturbing step away from the pursuit of peace. Hamas is a designated terrorist group that has consistently refused to accept the international Quartet conditions of recognizing Israel, renouncing violence, and accepting all previous negotiated diplomatic agreements. Since reconciliation talks were announced in April, Hamas' leaders have continued to declare they will never recognize Israel. Unfortunately, this decision to unite with Hamas only further diminishes the prospects for peace.”

Cantor (R-VA) 6/2: “…the burden lies with this new unity government to demonstrate in words and actions that it is truly independent of Hamas, that it rejects terrorism, and that it is committed to a peaceful two-state solution, including recognizing Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state.  The laws of the United States prohibit assistance to terrorist organizations. The Administration, in consultation with Congress, should initiate an immediate review of this new government. Until such time that it is determined that assistance to this so-called technocratic government is consistent with our own interests, principles, and laws it is incumbent on the Administration to suspend U.S. assistance.”

Bachmann (R-MN) 6/12: Bachmann authored (or at least signed) an op-ed in the Hill newspaper, entitled “Nightmare for Middle East peace process.” The op-ed calls for the immediate suspension of all aid to the PA and demands that for aid to be resumed, the U.S. must require the following: “The PA must immediately dissolve the unity government with Hamas, recognize Israel’s right to exist, promise to abide by all previous agreements, renounce all forms of terrorism, cease paying salaries to convicted terrorists, end its statehood process at the United Nations, immediately hold free and fair elections, establish protections for religious expression at all holy sites and places of worship, and abide by all applicable U.S. laws on foreign assistance.”

Gohmert (R-TX) 6/2: "The Palestinian unity of both the Fatah and Hamas governments is more than troubling; it has very deadly implications for any Israeli who simply wants to live in peace. This unity of these two Palestinian rival groups will eliminate a distraction from the hatred of Israelis and the desire to wipe them off the globe. When two groups would love to see genocide of the Jewish people, those two groups distracting each other from that goal has been helpful.  At a time when the U.S. government has betrayed Israeli secrets and pressured Israel to take steps that are harmful to Israel, this new union between Fatah and Hamas is not good news. As Benjamin Netanyahu said of this agreement, ‘President Mahmoud Abbas said yes to terrorism and no to peace.’ It is distressing that any group would make an agreement with a known and recognized terrorist organization such as Hamas, who does not even acknowledge the existence of Israel.  It is my prayer that the United States will rally around our strong ally, Israel, in the near certain difficulties ahead. The United States’ bond with Israel has existed since that nation’s founding and remains strong. For anyone who believes that those who bless Israel will be blessed, this is not a healthy development when the current Obama administration seems to embrace it.”

Graham (R-SC) 6/3: “I'm extremely disappointed to hear that President Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian Authority, has decided to form a unity government with Hamas, a violent terrorist organization. This decision undercuts any hope of a viable peace process. I do not believe it is in our national security interest to begin a dialogue with a government that includes a terrorist organization committed to the destruction of the state of Israel.  Secretary Kerry's statement that the Obama Administration will continue to work with this new government is very disturbing and inappropriate. I will be joining Democrats and Republicans in efforts to suspend all aid to the Palestinian Authority as long as they continue this unity government or until Hamas recognizes the state of Israel and rejects terrorism.  For our country to be supporting this new unity government sends the worst possible signal to terrorist organizations and is incredibly insensitive to the people of Israel."

Stockman (R-TX) 6/3: Headline of statement (speaks for itself) “Stockman challenges Congress to stop illegal Obama cash to terrorists”

Schneider (D-IL) 6/2:  “I remain deeply concerned that the Palestinian Authority continues to move forward with a reconciliation government that includes the internationally-recognized terrorist group Hamas. Hamas continues to advocate violent action against Israel, and its political leadership refuses to recognize Israel.  Hamas’ participation in a unity government raises serious doubts as to the Palestinians’ commitment to a negotiated peace with Israel and raises significant questions regarding future U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority. 
 While I support efforts by the Palestinian Authority to form government institutions capable of representing the Palestinian people, a unity government with Hamas, without Hamas agreeing to the ‘Quartet Conditions,’ which includes renouncing violence, recognizing Israel and honoring past agreements, will hinder the peace process and will not result in a future Palestinian state. President Abbas must understand the two-state agreement can only be achieved through good faith negotiation with Israel. I hope he and his government will take the steps to further the prospects for peace for his people and the region.”

Meadows (R-NC) 6/3: “I find it gravely disturbing that the U.S. State Department has completely gone against federal law and its own word by choosing to embrace the newly-formed Unity government between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Hamas, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization…The United States should not give a penny to the Palestinian Authority as long as it continues to embrace this dangerous terrorist organization that threatens our great ally Israel. The U.S. must send a strong and clear message that we will not tolerate any government that has terrorists in its ranks.”

McKinley (R-WV) 6/3:  “The inclusion of Hamas in the new Palestinian government is a threat to the security of Israel and a blow to prospects for long term peace. This action will only serve to raise tension and instability in the region. By joining with Hamas, President Abbas is making it clear the Palestinian Authority is not a willing partner for peace.  There is no question Hamas is a terrorist organization with the ultimate goal of destroying the State of Israel. United States law prohibits financial assistance to terrorist organizations. Therefore the Obama Administration should immediately suspend U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority until further review.”

Peters (D-MI) 6/3:  “I continue to be deeply disappointed by the decision of the Palestinian Authority to form a unity government with Hamas, a terrorist organization that seeks Israel’s destruction.  It is a threat to the peace process and jeopardizes America’s trust as well as future aid and assistance from the United States.  I believe the United States has a critical role to play in promoting the peace process, but the basis of the process is acceptance of the Quartet principles, mutual recognition and direct negotiation between the parties—all of which have been severely compromised by the formation of this unity government.” 

Garcia (D-FL) 6/3:  “…U.S. law makes clear that no U.S. funds can go to a Palestinian government in which Hamas has a role.  It is now up to Congress to review our existing aid to ensure it not only complies with the law but also does not compromise our national interests.  Moving forward, we must insist on the recognition of Israel’s right to exist, the acceptance of all previous Israel-Palestinian agreements, and most importantly, the rejection of violence.  However, public declarations mean nothing without actions, and little has been done to affirm us of the new government’s genuine commitment to peace and security.”

From the press:

Jerusalem Post 6/12: Unified Senate sends Obama message on Palestinian unity

JTA 6/10: Palestinians avoid U.S. aid cutoff, but what happens when Hamas runs in elections?

Jerusalem Post 6/10:  Menendez vows response from Congress to Palestinian unity government

Times of Israel 6/9: Senior senator (Menendez): ‘Short window’ for Palestinian unity in DC

Washington Free Beacon 6/6: Congress Seeks to Designate New Palestinian Gov’t as a Terror Org

POMED 6/3: Congress Members React to Continuing U.S. Assistance to P.A.

Al Monitor 6/2: Congress to Obama: Cut aid to Palestinians

4. Hearings

6/19: The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “P5+1 Negotiations over Iran’s Nuclear Program and Its Implications for United States Defense.”  Scheduled witnesses are:  Thomas Pickering, Brookings; Michael Singh, WINEP, and William Tobey, Harvard Kennedy School.

6/17:  The Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs will hold a markup of the FY15 ForOps bill.

6/12: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing entitled, “Regional Implications of a Nuclear Deal with Iran.”  Witnesses were Dennis Ross, WINEP (testimony); Scott Modell, CSIS (testimony); Frederick Kagan, AEI (testimony).  Video of hearing here.  Menendez (D-NJ) opening statement is here.  From the media:  GOP Senators Wonder If Int’l Coalition On Iran Sanctions Will Hold Absent A Nuke Deal (ThinkProgress, 6/13); Former US Diplomat: Consider Giving Israel Bunker-Busters to Hedge Against Nefarious Iran (Defense News, 6/12)

6/11: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa held a hearing entitled, “Assessing Energy Priorities in the Middle East and North Africa.”  The sole witness was Amos Hochstein, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Diplomacy (statement).  Video of the hearing is available here.  Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) statement here.

6/11: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing to consider the nomination of the next U.S. Ambassador to Iraq (Stuart Jones, Testimony); Egypt (Robert Stephen Beecroft, Testimony);  and Qatar (Dana Shell Smith, Testimony).  Chairman Menendez’s (D-NJ) opening statement is available here.  Video of the hearing is available here.  From the press: Sen. Corker: Qatar has played 'unhealthy' role in Syria (Al Monitor 6/11)

6/10: The House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing entitled, “Verifying Iran's Nuclear Compliance.”  Witnesses were: Stephen Rademaker, Bipartisan Policy Center/JINSA (statement);  John Lauder, 20twenty Strategic Consulting (statement); Olli Heinonen, Harvard University (statement); and Joseph DeTrani, Intelligence and National Security Alliance (statement).  Chairman Royce’s (R-CA) opening statement is here; ranking member Engel’s (D-NY) opening statement is here.  Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) statement here.   Engel (D-NY) opening statement here.  According to Chairman Royce’s press release announcing the hearing, it is the first in a series of hearings on Iran that he will be holding – stay tuned.  For a report on the 6/10 hearing, see:  US to Iran: No sanctions relief without nuclear transparency (Al Monitor, 6/10); Two Points of View From Today’s House Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing (The Nation, 6/10)


5. Members on the Record

Rubio (R-FL) 6/12: On the deteriorating situation in Syria and Iraq, and calling for U.S. air strikes.  Arguing (among other things), that:  “If, in fact, they are able to hold on to this territory, Jordan, an extraordinary ally of the United States in the region and an ally of Israel, is directly threatened. They are the next country--right next door. Already Jordan is facing tremendous challenges because of the conflict in Syria. Beyond Jordan, you can foresee where Israel could be threatened by the existence of the safe haven for a terrorist organization right next door--but ultimately us here in the United States.”

Graham (R-SC) 6/12: On the deteriorating situation in Syria and Iraq and the threat it poses across the Middle East, arguing, among other things, “I worry about the King of Jordan. I worry about Lebanon being next. God knows, if we lose the King of Jordan, the last moderate force in the Middle East surrounding Israel, what a calamity that would be.”  Making the case for U.S. military action (but not necessarily “boots on the ground”).

Ryan (R-WI) 6/11: Laying out his “Strategy for Renewal,” including the following: “… the president has recognized a new Palestinian Authority government that includes Hamas, an unapologetic terrorist organization. We’ve undermined our ally Israel on a key issue, and that makes them only less likely to trust us. If we want to strengthen our allies, the first thing we need to do is strengthen their trust…”

Fortenberry (R-NE) 6/10:  Fortenberry Offers Amendment (to Defense Approps bill) Preventing U.S. Weapons to Syrian Rebels

Hoyer (D-MD) 6/10: Hoyer Statement on the Election of Reuven Rivlin as Next President of Israel

Corker (R-TN) 6/5: Assad Exploits Unfulfilled Chemical Weapons Agreement to Retain Power in Syria

Rubio (R-FL) 6/4:  Rubio, Ambassador of Jordan Discuss Crisis in Syria, new PA

Menendez (D-NJ) 6/3: Menendez Calls Presidential Election in Syria a “Shameful Mockery”

6. From the Press/Blogs

Al Jazeera America 6/12: Advocacy groups woo US lawmakers amid fervor over prayer at Temple Mount (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED READING)

Washington Free Beacon 6/12: Leahy Holds Up Egypt’s Apache Attack Helicopters

Jewish Times 6/12: Pushing for Israel - Presumptive GOP presidential candidate Cruz makes his case for the Jewish vote

The Hill 6/11: Dems face dilemma on Iran delay...

Times of Israel 6/11: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor loses primary

The Tower 6/11: House Leaders Take Stand on Iran Talks, Setting Red Lines Against Sanctions Relief

Haaretz 6/11: U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz: Israel could strike Iran within months

Haaretz 6/10: As Israel cuts defense budget, U.S. senators question aid

Daily Caller 6/10: Cruz: Israel Strike Against Iran ‘Could Happen In A Matter Of Months’

AFP 6/7: Wary US unlikely to restore full Egypt aid soon [Leahy hold]

Al Monitor 6/5: Defense bill sparks concerns about US counterterrorism strategy [Leahy hold]

Al Monitor 6/4: Congress to press administration on Iran nuclear deal

JNS.org 6/3: N.Y. legislator Grace Meng an emerging pro-Jewish voice in Congress

Al Monitor 6/3: Obama administration holding up Apache helicopters to Egypt [Leahy hold]