FMEP Legislative Round-Up: February 16, 2018


1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters
2. Hearings
3. On the Record

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

1. Bills & Resolutions

(TAYLOR FORCE ACT) HR 1164: Introduced 2/16 by Lamborn (R-CO) and Zeldin (R-NY), the “Taylor Force Act.” This is the House version of a legislative effort that seeks to cut off all funding that directly benefits the Palestinian Authority unless/until the PA and the PLO cease providing financial support to families of Palestinians killed or imprisoned by Israel. [For background on why this approach won’t stop terrorism and is a form of collective punishment, see my op-ed in The Nation: Cutting Off Payments to Palestinian Families Won’t Stop Terrorism]. The House passed HR 1164 on 12/5/17 and it was received in the Senate on 12/7/17. After a period of quiet battles between the House and Senate over language (with lots of gossip over how the bill would move forward), it appears now that the Senate is set to move on the bill, likely with an imminent vote on HR 1164 that will involve an amendment in the nature of a substitute. For details, including text (as of this week) of the Senate amendment (which is NOT identical to S. 1697, which was passed by SFRC back in September 2017) see this report in Al-Monitor.

(SANCTIONS – LINKED TO HAMAS) HR 3542: Introduced 7/28 by Wilson (R-SC) and having 21 cosponsors, “Hamas Human Shields Prevention Act.” On 11/15/17, HR 3542 was marked up and adopted by the House Foreign Affairs Committee, by unanimous consent and with an amendment offered by Schneider (D-IL). Video of the markup is here. Chairman Royce (R-CA) press release is here; ranking member Engel (D-NY) statement is here. On 2/14/18, the bill was brought the floor under suspension of the rules and passed by a vote of 415-0. Floor consideration of the bill (statements laying out support of the measure and intent, which suggest that the target of the bill is Iran and Qatar, for support for Hamas) is here. Press releases: Wilson (R-SC) and Moulton (D-MA), Barletta (R-PA), Royce (R-CA), Cramer (R-ND).

(TARGETING HEZBOLLAH) HR 5035: Introduced 2/15 by Budd (R-NC) and Zeldin (R-NY), “ To require the President to determine whether Hezbollah should be designated as a significant foreign narcotics trafficker or a transnational criminal organization, and for other purposes.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

(SUPPORTING HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS) S. Res. 407: Introduced 2/15 by Coons (D-DE) and Tillis (R-NC), “A resolution recognizing the critical work of human rights defenders in promoting human rights, the rule of law, democracy, and good governance.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.

(NOTHING TO DO WITH MIDEAST BUT YAY – GREAT APES!) H. Res. 738: Introduced 2/14 by Peters (D-CA) and 12 cosponsors, “Expressing support for designation of February 14 as World Bonobo Day. Resolved clause: the House, “encourages the people of the United States to participate in activities that help to educate the public about the need to protect bonobos as uniquely matriarchal, loving, and endangered great apes.” Referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources.


(TILLERSON: VISIT ISRAEL) Schneider-Mast letter: On 2/13 Reps. Schneider (D-IL) and Mast (R-FL) sent a letter to SecState Tillerson urging him to make a stop in Israel during his current trip to the Middle East. The letter frames the ask in terms of “profound concerns regarding Iran’s continued presence in Syria, including the recent Iranian incursion into Israeli territory.” Press release is here.

(TARGETING AL-JAZEERA & QATAR) Gottheimer-Zeldin letter: Right-wing media reports this week reported on a Dear Colleague letter (not available as of this writing) being circulated in the House by Gottheimer (D-NJ) seeking signers on a letter urging the Trump Administration to compel the Al Jazeera news network to register as a foreign agent (of the government of Qatar) under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). As noted by the Free Beacon, the effort “is being fueled by Al Jazeera’s effort to secretly record American Jews and Israel supporters, according to sources who familiar with the letter. As part of the upcoming documentary, a mole paid for by Al Jazeera infiltrated these organizations and recorded pro-Israel advocates discussing efforts to combat anti-Semitism and boycotts of Israel.” According to a 2/13 report in Tablet, “‘Congress needs clarification as to whether additional foreign principals [other than RT] should also be required to register under FARA, including Qatar’s Al Jazeera, which the U.S. State Department has indicated is state-controlled,’ the letter says, before citing ‘Al Jazeera’s record of radical anti-American, anti-Semitic, and anti-Israel broadcasts.’” Back on 1/26, Gottheimer told the Jewish News Syndicate: “We know that the Qataris have been playing all sides for years, financing heinous terrorist groups and giving sanctuary to the leaders of Hamas and the Taliban with hardly any consequences from Washington…No public relations campaign will cover up the truth: Qatar uses its state-controlled propaganda arm, Al Jazeera, to incite violence, glorify murderers of Jews as ‘martyrs,’ and broadcast virulent anti-Semitism,” and “should be investigated by the [U.S.] Justice Department.” [NOTE: On 2/21 the Free Beacon posted another article on the letter, this time with a link to the text. This Round-Up has been updated to include that text].


2. Hearings

February 14, 2018: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa held a hearing entitled, “Israel, the Palestinians, & the Administration’s Peace Plan.” Witnesses, covering a typically wide, wide range of views on the issue, were: Clifford May, Foundation for Defense of Democracies (testimony); Ghaith al-Omari, Washington Institute for Near East Policy (testimony); and Daniel Shapiro, Institute for National Security Studies (Israel) and Former United States Ambassador to Israel (testimony). Video of the hearing is here. AND…congrats HFAC, on convening yet another all-white, all-male panel!


3. On the Record

Wilson (R-SC) 2/14: Floor statement: “No More ‘Strategic Patience’ with Iran” [on the detention of Amcit Morad Tahbaz, and bashing Obama administration for having “caved to the dangerous ransom deals with Iran, but ‘strategic patience’ only emboldened them to subjugate the brave citizens of Iran.”

Pittinger (R-NC) 2/13: America Must Support Israel’s Right To Defend Itself

Casey (D-PA) 2/13: Statement on Iranian Attack [“This weekend, Iran launched a drone into Israeli airspace from Syria; an F-16 fighter jet was destroyed and one pilot retained serious injuries. This violation of Israeli sovereignty exemplifies Iran’s growing regional influence, as well as the threat that its dominance in Syria poses to Israel…”]

Menendez (D-NJ) 2/12: Statement on Downing of Israeli Jet after Striking Iranian Targets in Syria [“I will always support Israel’s right to take necessary action to defend its security, which is exactly what happened when Iran sent a drone into Israeli territory from Syria and Israel responded...”]

Ellison (D-MN) 2/12: Ellison on UNGA Meeting [“As part of the 2013 U.N. General Assembly, and as negotiations were under way for what would become the Iran deal, I attended a meeting with President Rouhani and nearly 50 American Muslim leaders. This was not a private dinner, I didn’t know in advance who else would be there, and my decision to attend was not an endorsement of the political views of other attendees. I attended the meeting to advocate for a peaceful resolution to the Iranian nuclear issue and to press President Rouhani face-to-face for the release of former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati, who was illegally detained and tortured by the Iranian regime. As always, I disavow anti-Semitism and bigotry in all of its forms.”]

Cruz (R-TX) 2/11: Statement on Iran’s Attack on Israel [“This weekend, Iran committed an unprecedented, blatant act of aggression against our close friend and ally, Israel. Previously, Iranian proxies like Hezbollah and Hamas have used Iranian-provided resources to target Israel, but this escalation was a direct operation by the Iranian military against Israeli territory. This is utterly unacceptable. America stands with Israel, and resolutely against Iran’s unprovoked act of war.”]

Hoyer (D-MD) 2/11: Hoyer Statement on Recent Events at the Israeli-Syrian Border