*Brought to you in cooperation with Americans for Peace Now, where the Round-Up was born!
[Note: Stay tuned next week for a full Round-Up; this week there is only time to cover the bills/resolutions/letters]
Note: This weekend was the annual AIPAC Policy Conference (in which many members of Congress participated). As part of this annual exercise, thousands of AIPAC conference attendees took to the Hill to lobby members to support AIPAC-backed legislative initiatives, some of which were introduced this week, as detailed below. Others were covered in last week’s Round-Up: MORE $$ FOR MISSILES FOR ISRAEL (HR 5126); NEW IRAN SANCTIONS (HR 5132 – now highlighted on AIPAC’s website); US-ISRAEL DRONE COOPERATION (HR 5117).
(QUASHING US FREE SPEECH TO PREVENT PRESSURE ON ISRAEL) S. 720: Just in time for the AIPAC policy conference, Senators Cardin (D-MD) and Portman (R-OH) released a new version of S. 720, “Israel Anti-Boycott Act,” purportedly “softened” to address free speech concerns. In reality, the changes in the tweaked version (a) do not resolve the free speech issues, and the bill remains brazenly unconstitutional, and (b) render the bill in many ways WORSE than the original, including by adding new text that explicitly and expansively defines “boycott of Israel” to include any efforts to differentiate between Israel and settlements. For a redline analysis of the bill (taking current law and showing exactly how the new S. 720 text would change it) see here. For the ACLU’s take on the amended text, see here and here. Notably, despite a huge AIPAC push in advance of its conference, and despite this being a lobby priority for AIPAC conferees on the Hill this week, as of this writing S. 720 has gained only 3 new cosponsors this week –Rounds (R-SD), Risch, (R-ID), and Heitkamp (D-ND). This brings the total number of cosponsors to 54 (40 Republicans, 14 Democrats). S. 720 and its House companion, HR 2856, are both listed on AIPAC’s website as legislative priorities (along with S. 170 and HR 2856, the Combating BDS Act of 2017).
(WISH LIST OF VIRTUALLY EVERYTHING ANYONE COULD THINK OF FOR ISRAEL) S. 2497 & HR 5141: Introduced in the Senate 3/5 by Rubio (R-FL) and Coons (D-DE), and currently having a total off 11 cosponsors, and in the House 3/1 by Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Deutch (D-FL), the “United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2018.” Referred to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the House committees on Foreign Affairs, Armed Services, and Science, Space, and Technology. Rubio press release is here. Ros-Lehtinen press release is here. NOTE: This bill reads like a comprehensive AIPAC & IDF wish list of everything – short of mutual defense pact, or maybe a seat for Israel in the Cabinet – raising the question (if it passes into law): what will be left to ask for in next year’s AIPAC conference? The mind reels. Both bills are now listed as lobbying priorities on AIPAC’s website.
(US-ISRAEL COOPERATION IN SPAAAAAACE) S. 2504: Introduced 3/6 by Peters (D-MI) and 3 cosponsors, “ A bill to provide for continuing cooperation between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Israel Space Agency, and for other purposes,” aka, the “The U.S.-Israel Space Cooperation Act.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Peters’ press release is here.
(ATTACKING UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL, DEFENDING SETTLEMENTS) H. Res. 728: Introduced 2/7 by Wilson (R-SC) and having 1 cosponsor, “Reaffirming United States support for Israel and condemning the United Nations Human Rights Council for certain wasteful and abusive actions.” On 3/6, in an self-evident effort to take advantage of the energies around AIPAC’s policy conference, Wilson took to the House floor to deliver “introductory remarks” (on a resolution introduced a month ago. The resolution remains, for now, in the House Foreign Affairs and Financial Services committees.
(SUPPORT IRANIAN PROTESTERS) S. 2528: Introduced 3/8 by Hatch (R-UT) and 4 cosponsors, “A bill to call on the United States and its partners to continue support for the Iranian people in their fight for freedom and prosperity,” aka, the “Continued Support for the Iranian People Act of 2018.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Press release is here.
(KSA in YEMEN) S. J. Res. 55: Introduced 3/8 by Young (R-IN) and Shaheen (D-NH), “A joint resolution to require certifications regarding actions by Saudi Arabia in Yemen, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.
(NEW IRAN SANCTIONS) Corker-Menendez letter: In the context of the AIPAC policy conference, Senators Corker (R-TN) and Menendez (D-NJ) began seeking co-signers on a letter to SecState Tillerson regarding the JCPOA. The letter implies support for the U.S. pressing its transatlantic allies to agree on new Iran sanctions to be imposed as soon as the JCPOA expires (a violation of the JCPOA), as well as for other policies to target Iranian activities in the region. NOTE: the letter is now highlighted on AIPAC’s website, urging supporters to lobby senators to sign).
(TARGETING AL-JAZEERA & QATAR) Gottheimer-Zeldin letter: This week saw the release of the letter led by Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Zeldin (R-NY), first reported in the Round-Up back on February 16, targeting Al Jazeera and Qatar (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). Gottheimer’s press release is here. The letter attracted a total of 18 signers, comprised of a grab-bag of 15 mainly hardline House Republicans, 3 very junior House Democrats (2 first termers), and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX).