FMEP Legislative Round-Up: June 19, 2020


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!

Shameless plugs:

  • Tune in on Monday, 6/22, for a webinar organized by SETA, “Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: From Peace Process to Annexation?” Panelists will be: Geoffrey Aronson, Chairman & Co-Founder, The Mortons Group; Khaled Elgindy, Director, Program on Palestine and Palestinian-Israeli Affairs, Middle East Institute; and Lara Friedman, President, FMEP. Moderator will be SETA Executive Director Kadir Ustun.
  • Tune on Tuesday, 6/23, for “A Conversation on Biden’s Foreign Policy and Israel/Palestine,” convened by Jewish Currents and co-sponsored by FMEP. Panelists will be: Lara Friedman, president of the FMEP (and a Jewish Currents contributing writer); Matt Duss, foreign policy advisor to Sen. Bernie Sanders; and Aida Touma-Sliman, a member of the Israeli Knesset and part of the Joint List. Moderator will be Peter Beinart.

1. Bills, Resolutions, & Letters

(EVEN MORE US-ISRAEL MILITARY COOPERATION)  HR 7148: Introduced 6/11 by Wilson (R-SC) and Houlahan (D-PA), “To establish a United States-Israel Operations-Technology Working Group, and for other purposes,” aka the “United States-Israel Military Capability Act of 2020.” Referred to the Committee on Armed Services, the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and the Committee on Intelligence (Permanent Select). Press release touting introduction of the bill is here.

(CONDEMNING DISCRIMINATION AGAINST IRANIAN AMERICANS) S. Res. 626/H. Res. 1008: Introduced in the Senate 6/17 by Blumenthal (D-CT) and Kaine (D-VA), and in the House 6/18 by Connolly (D-VA), Rooney (R-FL), Peters (D-CA) and Waltz (R-FL), “A resolution upholding the civil liberties and civil rights of Iranian Americans and condemning bigotry, violence, and discrimination.” Referred to the Senate’s Committee on the Judiciary and the House Judiciary Committee and the Committee on Homeland Security.  Press release is here and here, noting: “This bicameral, bipartisan resolution comes after earlier this year, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) office on the U.S.-Canada border was found to have directed its agents to detain and question Americans of Iranian origin about their faith and military service following the U.S. killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani. The resolution calls on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to launch a civil rights probe into the incident and directs government officials to ensure that civil rights and liberties of all Americans – including Iranian Americans – are protected.”

(FY21 INTELLIGENCE AUTHORIZATION ACT) S. 3905: Introduced 6/8 by Rubio (R-FL), the “Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021.” On 6/17, written report filed by the Select Committee on Intelligence. The bill includes two Iran-related provisions: Sec. 511 – “Report on effect of lifting of United Nations arms embargo on Islamic Republic of Iran” and Sec. 512 –  “Report on Iranian activities relating to nuclear nonproliferation.”

(CONDEMNING BAD RUSSIAN ACTOR) S.Res.624/H.Res.996: Introduced in the House 6/11 by Engel (D-NY) and 3 bipartisan cosponsors, and in the Senate 6/16 by Coons (D-DE) and Rubio (R-FL), “A resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that the activities of Russian national Yevgeniy Prigozhin and his affiliated entities pose a threat to the national interest and national security of the United States.” The “whereas” clauses note military support for Assad regime in Syria and support for Khalifa Haftar and his ‘Libyan National Army.’” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

(TARGETING FOREIGN FUNDING FOR US UNIVERSITIES) HR XXXX: On 6/11, Hern (R-OK) issued a press release touting the introduction of a bill entitled, “America: Foreign Influence Resistance Starts with Transparency (America: FIRST) Act,” described as legislation that “seeks to force transparency from universities who receive foreign funding, in particular from the professors and programs who promote the interests of those foreign nations.” As of this writing, the bill has not been introduced (a pdf of the text, as unveiled by the press release, is here).


(END THE YEMEN WAR) Murphy/Young letter to Pompeo: On 6/16, Senators Murphy (D-CT) and Young (R-IN) led a letter, signed by 7 bipartisan colleagues, to SecState Pompeo, expressing concern over recent events in Yemen and urging the United States to help facilitate a comprehensive diplomatic solution to end the devastating war and ensuing humanitarian disaster. Press release is here.

(EXPRESSING CONCERN ABOUT POSSIBLE ANNEXATION) Schakowsky/Deutch-led letter: On 6/15, Reps. Schakowsky (D-IL) and Deutch (D-FL) began circulating a Dear Colleague seeking co-signers on a letter opposing Israeli annexation of West Bank land. The letter – which remains open for signatures as of this writing – is addressed to Prime Minister Netanyahu, Alternative Prime Minister and Defense Minister Gantz, and Foreign Minister Ashkenazi. [Both text of the Dear Colleague and the letter itself are included in the link above]. Also see – Haaretz 6/19: Despite AIPAC Opposition, Letter Opposing West Bank Annexation Gains Momentum Among House Democrats; Jewish Insider 6/18: Steny Hoyer and 115 House Dems sign letter opposing annexation; Middle East Eye 6/18: US Democrats circulate Israel letter expressing ‘concern’ over annexation;JTA 6/15: House Democrats push new letter aimed at unifying the party behind an anti-West Bank annexation message to Israel; Haaretz 6/15:: House Democrats Draft Letter Addressed to Netanyahu Warning Against West Bank Annexation

(INVESTIGATE FAST-TRACKING OF SAUDI FUNDING) Warren-Lieu letter to DOS Acting IG: On 6/12, Senator Warren (D-MA) and Rep. Lieu (D-CA) sent a letter to the new Acting State Department Inspector General reiterating their 2019 request for an investigation into the Trump Administration’s use of emergency powers in 2019 to waive Congressional review of arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The request comes in the context of President Trump’s controversial firing of the previous DOS IG, who was reportedly investigating the Department’s use of emergency authority in the context of arms sales. Press release is here.

*UPDATE* (SPEAK OUT AGAINST SETTLER VIOLENCE) House letter to Amb Friedman: On 6/11, a letter was sent from at least least 54 House Democrats to US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, calling on him to condemn all acts of violence in the West Bank, whether the victim is either Israeli or Palestinian [note: Trump Administration officials have been largely silent in the face of ongoing/rising settler violence]. The letter, led by Reps. Haaland (D-NM), Huffman (D-CA), and Yarmuth (D-KY) notes, with respect to the spike in settler violence during the COVID-19 crisis: “As supporters of the safety and security of Israelis and Palestinians, we grieve for each family that has suffered harm or lost a loved one to this conflict. There is no doubt that such incidents, in addition to causing tragic suffering, harm the prospects for a negotiated two-state solution to the conflict that is in each of Israel’s, the Palestinians’ and US interests. We believe the United States must condemn all acts of violence that pull us further away from peace and should make its condemnation clear whether the victim is Israeli or Palestinian. We therefore urge you to urgently and publicly speak out against settler violence and work with relevant Israeli authorities.” Press release is here.]

(PREVENT ANNEXATION) Sen. Bennett letter to Pompeo: On 5/20, Sen. Bennett (D-CO) sent a letter to SecState Pompeo expressing concerns about annexation and urging the Trump Administration to “encourage the Israeli government not to take actions outside of direct talks that would undermine prospects for long term peace.” Article in Jewish Insider (breaking the story about the letter) is here.

2. Hearings

6/16: The House Committee on Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and International Terrorism held a hearing entitled, “Objectives of U.S. Arms Sales to the Gulf: Examining Strategic Goals, Risks and Benefits.” Witnesses were: Andrew Exum, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Middle East Policy (statement), Jodi Vittori, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (statement), and Bradley Bowman, FDD (statement). Video is here.

Heads up! The House Armed Services Committee will hold subcommittee markups of HR 6395, the FY21 NDAA 6/22-6/23 (Subcommittee on Military Personnel, Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces, Subcommittee on Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities, Subcommittee on Readiness, Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces). The House Armed Services Committee is scheduled to hold a full committee mark-up of the bill on July 1.

3. On the Record...

Members on the Record

Re: Annexation…

  • Suozzi (D-NY) 6/19: Twitter thread: “We must affirm our strong and unwavering support for our ally Israel and their right to defend themselves.” & “It is in America’s national interest to maintain our ironclad commitment to Israel’s security and American security assistance under the terms of the 2016 U.S.-Israel Memorandum of Understanding negotiated during the Obama administration.” & “I remain committed to a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and urge Israel to refrain from unilateral annexation of land outside the context of negotiations. I also hope the Palestinians will change course and agree to enter direct negotiations with Israel.”
  • Wyden (D-OR) and Blumenthal (D-CT) 6/18: Wyden, Blumenthal Condemn Reported Plan to Annex West Bank
  • Tlaib (D-MI) 6/17: Tweet – “Annexation is an act of violence and racism towards a whole people. Palestinians, like my sity, deserve us to use our leverage to push back against the oppressive policies by Netanyahu (Trump’s BFF). We must end the unconditional support of his racist & oppressive policies.” [commenting on this tweet/video from IMEU]
  • Scott (R-FL) 6/17: Tweet – “The @UN Human Rights Council, which has sided with human rights violators like Maduro and Communist China, continues to attack Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East standing up for freedom. It is absurd.” [commenting on article: “U.N. rights experts condemn Israel’s annexation plan and U.S. support”]
  • Harris (D-CA) 6/16: Harris to Trump: Unilateral Annexation Would Put Peace Further From Reach
  • Cruz (R-TX) 6/14: Tweet – “Important read. Israel is an ally and a sovereign nation entitled to make this decision for itself. Far too many in America have been presumptuous in trying to dictate the terms of peace to them.” [commenting on article: “Greenblatt to Post: Applying Israeli law in West Bank is not illegal”]
  • Sherman (D-CA) 6/12: Congressman Sherman Statement on Possible Annexation of West Bank Territories [“…It is imperative that Israel does not pursue unilateral annexation of parts of the West Bank, and the Palestinians do not dismantle security agreements with Israel, actions that would jeopardize or prejudice future negotiations and move the two parties further from peace.”]
  • Houlahan (D-PA) 6/8: “The bond between the United States and Israel is founded on a commitment to democratic values, security, and peace in the Middle East,” said Houlahan. “United States policy towards Israel has rested on these principles for decades, and it is my belief that a sustainable peace in the region can only be achieved through a two-state solution that has been negotiated and agreed to by both parties. Any proposal for unilateral annexation of territory jeopardizes the potential for a two-state solution, and consequently, the prospects for long lasting Middle East peace.”
  • Sanders (I-VT) 6/7: JTA – “Bernie Sanders addresses thousands protesting the annexation of the West Bank” [including video]

Re: the ICC…

  • Luria (D-CA) 6/16: Congresswoman Elaine Luria Commends Administration on Action Taken Against the International Criminal Court
  • Blackburn (R-TN) 6/11: Tweets – “Thank you, @POTUS, for authorizing sanctions on @IntlCrimCourt officials. Despite lacking legitimate jurisdiction or consent, the ICC is proceeding with cases against Israeli & American nationals.” and “Last month, I signed a bipartisan letter objecting to Palestine’s ongoing case against Israel at the court.

Re: Miscellaneous matters…

  • Sanders (I-VT) 6/18: Tweet – “The ‘Democratic Majority for Israel’ is a corporate/Republican-funded super PAC that runs ugly, negative ads against progressives. This is establishment big-money politics at its worst, and why we have to transform the Democratic Party.” [commenting on DMFI video attacking Jamaal Bowman, who is running against Eliot Engel].
  • Risch (R-ID) 6/18: Chairman Risch: America Will Continue to Support the Aspirations of the Syrian People
  • Risch (R-ID) 6/17: Chairman Risch Statement on Administration’s Announcement of Caesar Act Designations
  • Wyden (D-OR) 6/17: Wyden Statement on Bolton Revelations Regarding Trump Political Interference on Behalf of Turkey
  • Inhofe (R-OK) 6/16: Tweets – “I had the great pleasure of chatting with my friend HRH @KingAbdullahII of Jordan this morning about regional issues, including Iraq’s new government, the impact of COVID-19, the situation in Syria, and Israeli-Jordanian relations.” and “I was pleased to hear that @KingAbdullahII and Israeli PM @netanyahu’s government have maintained strong contact. Both leaders are great friends and partners, and the dialogue between their governments is essential to bolstering peace and security.”
  • Lankford (R-OK) 6/15: Statement – It’s time to work together to prevent an upsurge of anti-Semitism
  • Cruz (R-TX) 6/15: Tweet – “It’s long past time for @SpeakerPelosi to take up and pass the Cruz-Kaine anti-Semitism resolution in the House and once and for all join the Senate in sending a united message against the evils of #antiSemitism.” [commenting on article: “Austrian parliament unanimously passes condemnation of anti-Israel boycotts”]
  • Steil (R-WI) 6/10: Steil’s Bill to Enforce U.S. Sanctions on Iran Endorsed by the Republican Study Committee as part of Comprehensive National Security Strategy [HR 6015]
  • Murphy (D-CT) 6/10:  Murphy: The President’s Proposed Middle East Budget Is An Attempt to Securitize All U.S. Aid to the Region, Misunderstands the Ways We Can Protect U.S. Interests and Allies
  • Engel (D-NY), Maloney (D-NY), Menendez (D-NJ), Connolly (D-MD), and Castro (D-TX) 6/10:  Engel, Maloney, Menendez, Connolly, and Castro Release Transcript of Interview with Inspector General Linick [“Mr. Linick’s removal came as his office was conducting at least two inquiries that touched directly on Secretary Pompeo’s conduct—one looking into the misuse of State Department resources by Secretary and Mrs. Pompeo, and one dealing with the 2019 ‘emergency’ declaration used to push through over $8 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.”] Also see Engel 6/12: Engel Responds to State Department’s Agreement to Produce Central Figure in Linick Probe; Maloney 6/5: Chairs Release Letter from Acting State Department IG Regarding His Ongoing Conflicts of Interest
  • McGovern (D-MA) 6/9: McGovern Welcomes Release of Bahraini Prisoner of Conscience Nabeel Rajab
  • Risch (R-ID) 6/8: Risch, Menendez, Engel, McCaul Statement on Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act
  • Cruz (R-TX) 6/5: Ami Magazine: Ted Cruz ‘Undoubtedly One of the Best Friends of the Jewish Community’
  • Cruz (R-TX) 6/5: Sen. Cruz Joins AEI’s “What the Hell Is Going On” Podcast [and talks about Iran and the JCPOA]

Articles and Reports Related to the Hill

Spotlight on Eliot Engel’s re-election travails: 

  • Jerusalem Post/JTA 6/19: Sanders slams PAC who ran ugly ad against Engel’s progressive opponent
  • JNS 6/18: Engel faces toughest race yet, he says, with concerns about Mideast policy in mind
  • JNS 6/18: Communal leaders, pro-Israel groups seek to mobilize Jewish voters to save Engel
  • Huffington Post 6/17: Israel Hawks Are Scrambling To Save Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel
  • Jewish Insider 6/17: Schumer endorses Engel in tough primary battle
  • The Intercept 6/15: GOP Money Flowing to Super PAC Backing Rep. Eliot Engel, Documents Show

Spotlight on what AIPAC did/didn’t tell Congress re: criticism of annexation:

  • Haaretz 6/15: Majority of Senate Democrats Speak Out Against Israeli Settlement Annexation
  • Al-Monitor 6/15: Battleground state Democrats warn against annexation after AIPAC greenlights criticism
  • JNS 6/12: AIPAC denies overlooking congressional criticism of planned Israeli annexation of West Bank areas
  • JTA 6/10: AIPAC tells lawmakers it won’t push back if they criticize annexation

Miscellaneous Matters:

  • JNS 6/18: Jewish Democratic Council says it won’t back Ilhan Omar, mum on endorsing her primary opponent
  • Times of Israel 6/16: US mulls withholding aid to Jordan to force extradition of Palestinian terrorist
  • JNS 6/16: US may withhold aid to Jordan over extradition of ‘Sbarro’ terrorist
  • Jewish Insider 6/15: The wine magnate fighting BDS in Congress [Rep. David Trone, D-MD] and in wine shops across the country [“Total Wine, which operates more than 200 stores across 24 states, is the largest retailer of Israeli wine in the U.S., according to the congressman, and its website makes clear that it opposes BDS as much as Trone does personally. ‘From Judea, Stop the BDS Movement,’ reads a description below some wines that are produced in the West Bank.”]
  • Jerusalem Post 6/13: RJC announces ‘major lobbying effort’ in support of Israeli sovereignty
  • The Patch (NJ) 6/13: Campaign controversy over anti-Israel vote helps Lisa McCormick [“Bonnie Watson Coleman cast a vote in Congress last summer that many local residents contend would undermine Israel’s economy as part of a plan to destroy the nation, which has suffered repeated military attacks by hostile neighbors since its 1948 founding, and the issue has surfaced in the primary election campaign as she faces progressive challenger Lisa McCormick…”]
  • New Jersey Globe 6/14: Republican Jewish Coaliton [sic] endorses Tom Kean [RJC national director “accused Malinowski of laying the groundwork for the anti-Israel Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement when he was a lobbyist for Human Rights Watch, and said he was one of the Obama administration officials who promoted the Iran nuclear deal.”]
  • JNS 6/10: House Republicans propose ‘toughest sanctions’ on Iran
  • Free Beacon 6/8: Exclusive: Congressional Republicans to Unveil Largest Iran Sanctions Plan in History
  • Al-Monitor 6/8: AIPAC lobbies for US-Israel coronavirus bill to counter China