FMEP Legislative Round-Up: October 9, 2020


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

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

Shameless plugs:

On October 6, FMEP convened a webinar entitled, “Is it Time to Reform International Aid to Palestine?” Panelists will be: Inès Abdel Razek (Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy), Zayne Abudaka (Economist and Private-Sector Development Specialist), and Dr. Alaa Tartir (Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva) – – in conversation with FMEP’s Lara Friedman. Video of the discussion is here.

On October 7, the Middle East Institute hosted a webinar “Public Opinion, Annexation, and Normalization: A 2020 Zogby Research Poll,” to discuss 2019 and 2020 polling data from several Arab countries and Israel and the potential implications they have on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Webinar speakers were: James Zogby (Zogby Research Services & Arab American Institute), Khaled Elgindy (MEI), and Lara Friedman (FMEP). The panel was moderated by Paul Salem (MEI). Video of the discussion is here.

1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters

(WE <HEART> ISRAEL’S QME) HR 8494 (text): As noted in last week’s Round-Up, on 10/1 by Schneider (D-IL) and 17 cosponsors (14 Democrats, 3 Republicans) introduced HR 8494, “To reaffirm the critical role of congressional consultation and to require appropriate deliberation to assess the effects of the sale or export of major defense equipment to countries in the Middle East on the qualitative military edge of Israel, and for other purposes.” 

  • As a reminder, US law deals with Israel’s QME in two places: 22 U.S. Code § 8602 (which is a statement of policy) and 22 U.S. Code § 2776 (requiring reports and certifications to Congress on military exports).
  • HR 8494 seeks to amend the latter piece of law to add 3 new items to the existing list of considerations in law that an Administration must include as part of “a determination that the sale or export of the defense articles or defense services will not adversely affect Israel’s qualitative military edge over military threats to Israel.” These are: “(i) the ability of Israel to effectively defend itself against military threats from regional non-state actors;  (ii) the risk that is posed by the sale or export of a subsequent unauthorized transfer or proliferation of the equipment for use against Israel; and (iii) the effective countermeasures available to Israel to defend against such unauthorized transfer or proliferation.’’
  • More significantly, HR 8494 seeks to further amend that same section of law to compel an Administration to consult Israel in making its QME assessment (in effect giving Israel a direct say, and potentially a veto, when it comes to US arms sales decisions). Specifically, the the bill seeks to make it US law that the President “shall seek to consult with appropriate officials of the Government of Israel for information regarding Israel’s qualitative military edge before making a determination under paragraph (1).’’
  • Further reading: Bipartisan bill would give Israel a say on Middle East arms sales (Ron Kampeas/JTA)


(PROSECUTE SFSU FOR TERROR SUPPORT) Lamborn letter to Barr/Wray: On 9/29 (not previously reported in the Round-Up), Rep. Lamborn (R-CO) sent a letter to Attorney General Barr and FBI Director Wray calling for investigation and potential prosecution of the president of San Francisco State University, Lynn Mahoney and two SFSU professors – Rabab Abdulhadi and Tomomi Kinukawa, for “potential violations of 18 U.S. Code § 2339A, which makes it unlawful to provide material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization.” The demand is linked to last month’s SFSU-hosted online event featuring Leila Khaled, a convicted terrorist associated with the PFLP, a US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization. Lamborn asserts that the event, by giving a platform to Khaled, SFSU and its staff are guilty of providing material support for terrorism — regardless of whether Khaled was representing the PFLP or would have used the platform to in any way incite or support terrorism (whether she would have done the latter is unknown, since, following intense activism by various groups, the event was de-platformed by Zoom, YouTube, and Facebook; Lamborn’s letter points to this deplatforming as further evidence of SFSU’s guilt). Lamborn press release is here; Middle East Forum op-ed celebrating the Lamborn letter is here.

NOTE: To understand the potential implications of this case targeting  SFSU, it should be noted that in recent years various lawfare actors – most notably NGO Monitor and Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs – have worked to make the case that virtually the entire Palestinian civil society sector, including human rights groups and humanitarian organizations [none of which anyone is arguing actually engage in, support, finance, incite, or defend terrorism], as well as their Israel and international partners, funders, and supporters – are linked to terrorism via a 6-degrees-of-PFLP-contamination argument. These efforts have previously shown up in the US with, for example, another lawfare actor – the Lawfare Project – sending legal warning letter to US universities claiming that they may be violating US anti-terror law for dealing with the internationally renowned Palestinian human rights group Al Haq.


2. Hearings & Markups



3. On the Record


Members in general

Cruz (R-TX) 10/8: Sen. Cruz Applauds the Trump Administration for Sanctioning Iran’s Financial Sector

Fischer (R-NE) 10/5: Weekly Column – “A New Era for the Middle East” (re: Abraham Accords)


Articles and Reports Related to the Hill


StarTribune 10/7: Rep. Betty McCollum faces surprise GOP candidate in Fourth Congressional District [“St. Paul Republican City Committee Chairwoman Sara Rasque-Michener said McCollum has not done enough to address public safety fears, particularly on the Green Line light rail. And both she and Mikki Murray, chairwoman of the Fourth District Republicans, noted concerns about McCollum’s criticism of the Israeli government.”]

Jewish News Syndicate 10/6: AOC & Company want no part of liberal Israel and pro-Israel Democrats

JTA 10/5: Pro-Israel groups launch video ads in swing states

Other News

Reuters 10/7: Exclusive: Qatar makes formal request for F-35 jets – sources

Defense News 10/7: Democrats urge halt to security aid to Azerbaijan in Armenia conflict [Israel may halt commercial weapon sales to Azerbaijan, Armenian Ambassador to Israel Armen Smbatyan told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. The move came as Armenia recalled Smbatyan for consultations to protest the sale of Israeli made weapons. Israel, which reportedly receives 40 percent of its oil supply from Azerbaijan, has sold it more than $800 million in military equipment over the last decade, including drones, loitering munitions, anti-tank missiles, and a surface-to-air missile system, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.”]

Jewish Insider 10/6: Joaquin Castro pledges to bring Palestinian voices to the Foreign Affairs Committee [“‘I think if you’re going to be the sole broker, then you’ve got to be willing to listen to all sides to take that in. And then as you go forward, be better in your job of brokering a peace agreement,’ Castro said on the J Street call. ‘For the long-term stability of both Israel and the Palestinians, I think the United States — especially on the congressional level — being able to hear the different voices would actually be helpful. And so I hope that we can make that happen next term.’ He added during the DMFI forum that such a move would help restore Palestinians’ trust in the U.S. as an honest broker in the process, and help bring them back to the negotiating table.”]

Jewish Insider 10/6: Rep. Brad Schneider introduces bipartisan resolution on Israel as F-35 deal looms

JTA 10/5: Pro-Israel groups audition Dems seeking top congressional foreign policy seat

Arutz Sheva 10/4: A talk with a pro-Zionist advocate, Republican MO Senator Bob Order [Q: In congress we have Democrats like Ilhan Omar, AOC, Rashida Talib, and Pressley who have continuously voted against Israel and the Jewish people. With more congressional candidates who align with their ideology (anti-Jewish, pro-BDS, anti-Israel) running in this year’s election what do you see happening in the future? Cori Bush for example. Senator Onder: I cannot imagine that Cori Bush will not be one of the squad’s members, will not follow AOC, Omar, and the others to the letter. So, what do we do on the national level? Fortunately, none of them are in the U.S Senate. It is just like last year, when anti-BDS legislation in Congress had 58 co-sponsors- 42 Republicans and 15 Democrats, 292 co-sponsors in the house. Q: Why can’t it get done? Senator Onder:I think Nancy Pelosi is just afraid of her left flank and I do not think she wants a rebellion on her hands from these younger members. So I don’t see, as long as the Democrats keep control of Congress, getting anti-BDS legislation through. It’s a lot like moving the embassy to Jerusalem, almost everyone endorsed it in theory, but when it came around to getting it done it took Donald Trump to do it.”]

Washington Post 10/2: Only Congress has the authority to declare war. Can it take that power back from the presidency?