FMEP Legislative Round-Up: August 31, 2023 (recess edition)


1.Bills, Resolutions & Letters
2. Members of Congress’ Most Excellent Recess Adventures in the Middle East
3. Israel & AIPAC in the 2024 Election Cycle (things are heating up)
4. Media & Reports
5. Members on the Record

1. Bills, Resolutions & letters

(AZ WATER FOR AZ, NOT KSA) HR XXXX (pdf): On 8/29/23 Rep. Gallego (D-AZ) published a press release announcing the introduction of the “Domestic Water Protection Act of 2023,” reportedly cosponsored by Grijalva (D-AZ). As of this writing (8/31/23, noon EST) the bill does not yet show up in the Congressional Record. Excerpt from that press release: “‘Arizona’s water and crops belong in Arizona–not Saudi Arabia,’ said Rep. Ruben Gallego. ‘No longer should foreign governments and companies be given sweetheart deals that leave Arizonans worse off. I’m proud to lead the Domestic Water Protection Act to stop these entities from stealing our state’s water.’”]


(NEXT US AMB MUST ALIGN ISRAELI/GOP POLITICAL VIEWS) Tenney et al letter to Biden: On 8/31/23, Rep. Tenney (R-NY) and eight fellow House Republicans sent a letter to President Biden urging him to not nominate Jack Lew to be the next US Ambassador to Israel. Per the letter, Lew’s disqualifying sins include having been “one of the chief architects of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Iran nuclear deal” which the letter characterizes as “one of the greatest U.S. foreign policy disasters of the 21st century [seriously].” The letter goes on: “Despite the harm he has caused to American and Israeli national security, Lew is apparently being rewarded with an important ambassadorship.” Another allegedly disqualifying sin is Lew having a “history of casting unwarranted blame on the Prime Minister,” and specifically having “frequently criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and placed significant blame on Prime Minister Netanyahu for the well-documented poor relationship between former President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu.” And finally, Lew is allegedly guilty of a mega-sin for having “repeatedly supported President Obama’s decision not to veto UNSC 2334 (2016), which condemned Israeli settlement constructions in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria.” The letter closes: “We urge you only to move forward with the nomination of a candidate who has demonstrated an ability to work collaboratively with and strengthen the critical relationship between our two nations” — which appears to be code for “only name an ambassador whose views/agenda when it comes to Iran, settlements, and US-Israel relations align with Netanyahu and the Evangelical/Greater Israel right-wing in the U.S.” — i.e., someone like… David Friedman. Also see: Tenney press release/X-Post

(SUBPEONA KUSHNER RE FIRM’S SAUDI TIES) Raskin letter to Rep. Comer:  On 8/31/23, The Hill published an article headlined, “Raskin asks Comer to subpoena Kushner for information on firm’s Saudi ties.” The article states: “House Oversight and Accountability Committee ranking member Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) asked panel Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) to subpoena Jared Kushner to produce documents about money his investment firm has received from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies. In a Thursday letter to Comer, Raskin referenced Comer’s recent public comments expressing skepticism about the post-Trump administration activities of Kushner, the son-in-law of former President Trump who was a top White House aide. Raskin asked Comer to join the Democrats’ probe into Kushner’s firm, Affinity Partners.” The article cites from the letter: ““I am encouraged by your recent acknowledgement that ‘what Kushner did crossed the line of ethics’ and your repeated assertions that our Committee is ‘investigating foreign nationals’ attempts to target and coerce high-ranking U.S. officials’ family members by providing money or other benefits in exchange for certain actions,’” Raskin said in the letter” and “In light of these concerns, I urge you to pursue a serious and objective investigation by issuing a subpoena to Affinity and requiring the firm to comply with my February 15, 2023, request for documents regarding its receipt of billions of dollars from Gulf monarchies shortly after Mr. Kushner left a senior White House position he used to reshape U.S. foreign policy toward Saudi Arabia and the Middle East in Saudi Arabia’s favor — a request you have thus far allowed Mr. Kushner to ignore and defy…”

(RELEASE FUNDING FOR UNRWA!) Bicameral Democrats’ Letter to Risch: On 8/29/23, Rep. Carson (D-IN) and Sen. Sanders (I-VT) led a letter, cosigned by 61 fellow House and Senate Democrats, to Senator Risch (R-ID), who for months has put a hold on US funding for food assistance for Palestinians via UNRWA [the letter was previously previewed in the 7/28/23 edition of the Round-Up]. The letter states: “We write to respectfully request that you release the hold placed on the $75 million in previously appropriated congressional funding in the FY2023 State, Foreign Operations appropriations bill, which is designated for the provision of food assistance to Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza administered by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). If these funds are not obligated shortly the UNRWA food pipeline could break and over a million Palestinian refugees in Gaza, including almost half a million children, could go hungry. This will create a humanitarian tragedy and poses a huge risk to regional security. In Gaza, Palestinian refugees and vulnerable populations rely on food assistance from UNRWA or the World Food Programme (WFP). Despite this assistance, severe food insecurity continues to rise now over 40% people in Gaza are severely food insecure. Food insecurity in Gaza is already at a tipping point following the WFP’s decision to reduce assistance from 300,000 Gazans down to 100,000 necessitated by that agency’s overall funding shortage. Helping to assure the provision of food assistance to refugees in need is yet another reflection of American values as well as in diplomatic and security interests of the United States

Also see:

(OBLIGATE FUNDING FOR UNRWA!) DeLauro letter to SecState Blinken: On 7/26/23 (not previously reported in the Round-Up) Rep. DeLauro (D-CT) sent a letter to SecState Blinken urging his “immediate action to obligate the funding provided through the International Organizations and Programs account of the fiscal year 2023 State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs bill.” Noting the impact of the Ukranian conflict on global food security, the letter goes on: “The voluntary contributions provided by this account are critically needed to sustain programs, but none more so than the $75 million provided by the fiscal year 2023 appropriations bill to provide additional food support to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). UNRWA provides food assistance to 1.2 million Palestinians, 40% of which are children. Three out of four Gazans are rely on external food assistance through UNRWA or the World Food Programme, who has also recently announced cuts. The situation is urgent...” DeLauro adds it was in recognition of the urgency of the current needs that Congress took the extraordinary step of providing these resources through UNRWA specifically tomaintain food assistance to vulnerable Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza in response to rising food and transport costs’ in the fiscal year 2023 Appropriations Act.” She also notes that  “These funds are only available for obligation until the end of September and, if received after September 1, will likely lead to a pipeline break of commodities to the Gaza Strip.” She closes: “The recent breakdown of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, and the immediate increase in global food prices, makes the situation even more urgent. There are real consequences to any further delay and I urgently request that the State Department make this contribution as soon as possible as required by the fiscal year 2023 Appropriations Act…


2. Members’ of Congress’ Most Excellent Recess Adventures in the Middle East




3. Israel & AIPAC  in the 2024 Election Cycle (things are heating up)

  • Mondoweiss 8/31/23: The Shift: Ehud Barak vs. AIPAC [“…This tension isn’t going away. Nearly 20 U.S. Jewish organizations are circulating an open letter urging congressional members to back a resolution that expresses support for protest movement and condemns Netanyahu reforms. Those include USA for Israeli Democracy and J Street, along with Ameinu, Americans for Peace Now, Israel Policy Forum, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Jewish Democratic Council of America, National Council of Jewish Women, New Israel Fund, New York Jewish Agenda, Partners for Progressive Israel, Rabbinical Assembly, Reconstructing Judaism, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, Union for Reform Judaism, and UnXeptable. It’s already backed by 47 Democrats.AIPAC is heading into the 2024 elections with a lot of money, but how long can they hold off a reckoning on the Democratic side of the aisle?”]
  • Fox News 8/31/23: Top House Dem ‘vigorously’ endorses Ilhan Omar for re-election amid pro-Israel PAC criticism
  • Politico 8/30/23: Jeffries endorses Ilhan Omar amid AIPAC primary threat [“Democratic leadership is sending a message to progressives who are worried about primary challenges from the pro-Israel group: Caucus leaders plan to support all incumbents.“]
  • Star Tribune 8/30/23: Facing another primary challenge, Rep. Ilhan Omar endorsed by top U.S. House Democrats [“The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group that has clashed with Omar, is reportedly looking at the race and talking with potential challengers.“]
  • Jewish Insider 8/30/23: Rhode Island lieutenant governor promotes her support for Israel in closing week of congressional campaign [“Sabina Matos has positioned herself as the most stalwart backer of Israel in a field that includes a Bernie Sanders-backed progressive“]
  • Jewish Journal 8/29/23: GOP Tension Over Israel [“…suppose that Ramaswamy’s sense of rank and file Republicans is accurate? What if he is correct in believing that the growing isolationism among conservatives no longer automatically exempts Israel? If he is right, then Israel and its supporters will soon be facing bastions of anti-Zionism at the ideological far left and right, with pockets of anti-Israel votes on both sides of the aisle in Congress. If that’s where we are headed, then many of the 70 Republican votes against increased aid to Ukraine this summer could manifest themselves against Israel as well, joining with a comparable number of Democrats in opposition to funding, military support and other expressions of American solidarity for Israel.”]
  • Baltimore Sun 8/27/23: Chris Roemer: Tolerating antisemitism is not the way for Democrats to get moral authority back [attacking as “antisemitic” Reps. Omar (D-MN),  Tlaib (D-MI), Jayapal (D-WA), Pressley (D-MA), and Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and attacking Democrats of suppporting/tolerating antisemitism for failing to sufficiently call out/ostracize/punish their progressive colleagues (the author really, really hates progressives in general].
  • Cincy Jewfolk 8/25/23: Landsman Seeks To Be Pragmatic Leader In Extreme Times [“To Landsman, the US-Israel relationship is now more important than ever. ‘Israel has always been a strategic partner,’ said Landsman. ‘It is a critical relationship for our security and theirs. It’s something I care deeply about, and we need pragmatic thoughtful leaders, not the flame throwers, who are the folks who kick up dust and go on Twitter and cable news and frankly make things worse in the region by raising the temperature.’”]

4. Media & Reports

Queens Jewish Link 8/30/23: Congresswoman Grace Meng Speaks For The Young Israel Of Kew Gardens Hills [“Addresses Anti-Semitism, Israel, Mail Issues”]

Mid Hudson News 8/30/23: House members join Lawler’s effort to enforce economic sanctions

Jewish Insider 8/30/23: Riverdale event to celebrate legacy of MLK speechwriter Clarence Jones [“‘We are all bound together in the struggle against hate and extremism,’ said Torres, a pro-Israel progressive and the only openly gay Black man in Congress. ‘An America shaped in the image of Clarence Jones is an ideal we’re striving for and celebrating. Celebrate we will in Riverdale.’”]

Jewish News Syndicate 8/30/23: ‘Sensitive’ State Dept. document runs in Tehran paper, as Foggy Bottom rebuffs Congress [“‘The Tehran Times’ presents a ‘sensitive but unclassified’ memorandum, apparently acquired before U.S. legislators saw it.“]

DAWN 8/30/23: U.S.: Former Legislative Assistant Rashid Hallaway Sportswashing Saudi Abuses by Lobbying for LIV Golf

West Virginian Metro News 8/29/23: Justice, candidate for Senate, confirms meeting Saudi representative at LIV Golf event but calls it no big deal

Middle East Eye 8/29/23: Israeli opposition leader Lapid to visit DC as Biden keeps Netanyahu waiting [“Yair Lapid will hold high-level meetings with members of Congress and senior Biden administration officials in Washington“]

Al-Monitor 8/29/23: Republican says Congress ‘kept in dark’ as Iran envoy saga develops

UNRWA USA X-post 8/28/23: Despite all our efforts, @SenatorRisch is still blocking the $75 million in congressionally-approved food assistance for refugees. No action by 9/1 could mean empty @UNRWA food distribution centers in Gaza and 1.2 million refugees facing hunger…

Politico 8/28/23: An Iran mouthpiece’s ‘scoop’ draws Republican ire


5. Members on the Record

Ernst (R-IA) 8/31/23: X-post – “Even worse – the Biden administration knew they were hiring an IRGC propagandist to speak to @US_STRATCOM. Their appeasement is showing. Our senior military officials do NOT need advice from Iran’s mouthpiece.” Linked to X-post from Adam Kredo/Free Beacon 8/31/23, “UPDATE: STRATCOM spox tells me: “We were aware of Mr. Mousavian’s previous position within the Iranian government and believe that…we would have benefited from that insight into an opposing viewpoint

Landsman (D-OH) 8/31/23: X-post – “We’ve got to buckle in for decades worth of really tough, hard elections until we have our democracy, our freedoms, and our economy secure.’ Worth a read on combatting antisemitism, trips to Israel, and my Jewishness.” Linked to article, Landsman Seeks To Be Pragmatic Leader In Extreme Times (Cincy Jewfolk 8/25/23)

Ernst (R-IA) 8/30/23: X-post – “The Biden admin has funneled billions to Iran’s terrorist activities. Now, it’s paying a Tehran surrogate to speak @US_STRATCOM. Spending tax dollars for an IRGC propagandist to spread lies should be a non-starter. Biden must STOP kowtowing to Iran.” Linked to article, US Strategic Command Hosts Former Iranian Official Who Bragged About Efforts To Assassinate US Leaders (Free Beacon 8/30/23)

Lawler (R-NY) 8/30/23: X-post – “My legislation with @RepMoskowitz to hold Iran’s enablers accountable now has 155 House cosponsors. I will continue working with my colleagues in both parties to pass H.R. 3774, the SHIP Act, which will sink Iran’s aspirations of regional dominance.” Linked to article, House members join Lawler’s effort to enforce economic sanctions (Mid Hudson News 8/29/23)

Self (R-TX) 8/30/23: X-thread – “ALL of Joe Bidens ‘objectives’ have resulted in failure!Blowing up the Abraham Accords by forsaking our Arab partners. Alienating Israel by reviving a failed Iran Deal....”

Lankford (R-OK) 8/29/23: press release – Lankford Urges Department of Education to Take Concrete Steps to Counter Antisemitism on College Campuses [letter covered in last week’s Round-Up]

Hagerty (R-TN) 8/29/23: X-thread: “It’s shocking that a propaganda arm of Iran’s terrorist regime got its hands on what appears to be a ‘Sensitive But Unclassified’ April 2023 memo related to the suspension of Special Envoy @Rob_Malley’s security clearance. (1/2). @StateOIG must probe whether any State Dept officials have violated any laws or regulations in what appears to be an unauthorized disclosure of this sensitive communication related to Malley & national security. (2/2).” Linked to article, An Iran mouthpiece’s ‘scoop’ draws Republican ire (Politico 8/28/23)

McCaul (R-TX) 8/29/23: press release re Malley memo in Iranian newspaper – “If this memo is authentic, it is extremely concerning especially since this is not the first time the Iranian regime’s mouthpiece has appeared to have sensitive U.S. government information recently while Congress is kept in the dark. I have requested transparency from the State Department on the ongoing Robert Malley saga and will continue to demand answers. This latest chapter raises serious questions about how the regime obtained this potentially authentic document and what other sensitive or classified information they may have. The State Department needs to do a top to bottom security review, because I am concerned they have a leak.” Also see X-post

Sanders (I-VT) 8/29/23: X-post – “There is substantial evidence that Saudi Arabian border guards have killed hundreds of unarmed migrants seeking to cross their border, and tortured and raped survivors. These horrific allegations must be investigated, including by the U.S. government.” Linked to article, Saudi forces killed hundreds of Ethiopians at Yemen border, report says (Washington Post)

LaLota (R-NY) 8/29/23: X-post – “It was an honor to welcome Israel’s President Isaac Herzog before his address to Congress last month. I am proud to support Israel and will continue to push back on cases of antisemitism around the world.

Ernst (R-IA) 8/28/23: X-post – “Iran is trying to go behind our backs and undermine the United States. The Biden admin must see through this ruse and end their appeasement in pursuit of a flawed deal.” Linked to article, Iran summons Swiss diplomat over US seizure of Iranian crude oil that’s now at port in Houston (AP News 8/28/23)

Britt (R-AL) 8/28/23: X-post – “The Biden Administration’s decision to hand $6 billion to Iran is not only reckless, it threatens the lives of Americans and our allies around the world. That’s why my colleagues and I are demanding answers and accountability.” Linked to article, Britt joins Senate colleagues in demanding answers from Biden admin over $6 billion payment to Iran (1819 News 8/28/23)

Hagerty (R-TN) 8/28/23: X-post – “Is this Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU) memo about the suspension of @USEnvoyIran @Rob_Malley ’s security clearance authentic? How did Iran’s regime get this SBU memo? @StateDept owes U.S. Senators answers to these & many other critical questions“, linked to X-post from former State Dept official/JINSA fellow Gabriel Noronha linking to alleged State Dept memo posted by Tehran Times

Hill (R-AR) 8/28/23: press release – Rep. Hill Statement on Visit to Syria. Also see X-post

Cramer (R-ND) 8/28/23: X-post – “It was truly special to speak at Christians United for Israel’s Night to Honor Israel. Thank you to @CUFI & @PastorJohnHagee for your incredible ministry, vision, & leadership. This work is critical to remind the church about our connection to God’s chosen people in Israel.

Blackburn (R-TN) 8/27/23: X-post – Six additional countries, including Iran, have been invited to join the Brics Group of emerging nations, which includes Russia and Communist China. The U.S. must stand against the New Axis of Evil’s attempts to expand their political and economic influence.

Fischbach (R-MN) 8/27/23: X-post – “Earlier this summer, I had the privilege of attending a Joint Session of Congress to hear from President @Isaac_Herzog. @Israel has our back. It is vital that we have theirs.”

Torres (D-NY) 8/27/23: X-post – “An innocent Israeli mother by the name of Batsheva Nigri, a Kindergarten teacher, was murdered in the presence of her 12 year old daughter who, in a eulogy, uttered these words of inconsolable grief: “I am jealous of all the angels who are lucky to have you in heaven.” A cold-blooded murder that leaves a 12-year old motherless is not “resistance.” It’s terrorism, pure and simple. Glorifying terror against Israel means openly inciting violence against innocent Israelis. Violence never brings peace. It only begets more violence and spills more bloodshed. And it only deepens the senseless suffering of both Israelis and Palestinians.” Linked to Jerusalem Post article 

Lawler (R-NY) 8/26/23: X-thread – “My team was proud to participate in the Annual Westchester Jewish Music and Arts Festival last weekend in Valhalla. I’m proud to represent one of the largest Jewish constituencies in the country and will continue working with my colleagues to strengthen our partnership with our closest ally Israel, tackle the affordability crisis, and eliminate the scourge of anti-Semitism at home and abroad.

Lawler (R-NY) 8/25/23: X-post – Not only does this threaten to undermine an agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia, it potentially puts Israel in a position where it is pressured into decisions that jeopardize its safety and security. Israel is our closest ally. We must have her back.” Linked to article, U.S. tells Israel mega-deal with Saudis must include concessions to Palestinians (Axios 8/25/23)