Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, October 2020, pp. 26-28
By Shirl McArthur
THE AUG. 13, 2020 announcement that Israel and the United Arab Emirates had agreed to establish normal diplomatic relations, followed months of negotiations. The agreement culminated in June, when the UAE made it clear that it would halt the normalization process if Israel continued with its plans to annex parts of the West Bank and Israel accepted the condition. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s domestic political problems had already led him to move his annexation plans to a back burner, so he was probably relieved to have an excuse and graciously agree to “suspend” them. Meanwhile, in addition to the five congressional letters described in the previous Washington Report regarding Israel’s annexation plans, at least four new ones were sent. Additionally, on Aug. 14 Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) introduced H.R. 8050 to “prohibit the United States from formally recognizing or providing U.S. aid to any area of the occupied West Bank annexed by the Government of Israel in violation of international law.” The bill has six cosponsors.
Of the new letters, only one, led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), signed by 12 representatives plus Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and sent to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on June 30, calls the proposed annexation “unacceptable.” Signers of that letter point out that “annexation of the West Bank is a clear violation of international law” and urge Pompeo to “take all necessary action available to reverse course on this proposal.” They say “should the Israeli government continue down this path, we will work to ensure non-recognition of annexed territories as well as pursue legislation that conditions the $3.8 billion in U.S. military funding to Israel to ensure that U.S. taxpayers are not supporting annexation in any way.”
Well, congressional Israel-firsters couldn’t have that! So on July 10, Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) originated a letter signed by 12 Republican representatives to Pompeo urging him “to reject the blatant anti-Semitism that pervades that letter.” The Ocasio-Cortez letter never mentions the word “Jew” or any of its variations; it only refers to proposed actions by the Israeli government and violations of international law. Once again, criticism of Israel, Israel’s actions, or proposed actions, is called anti-Semitic.
On June 23, seven senators, led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), signed a letter to President Donald Trump expressing their support for the “ongoing implementation” of his “Vision for Peace, Prosperity, and a Brighter Future for Israel and the Palestinian People…including the extension of Israeli civil law into Israeli communities and areas critical for Israel’s security.” In the House, 109 representatives, led by Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), signed a June 22 letter to Netanyahu “to emphasize that Israel has the right to make sovereign decisions independent of outside pressure” and to express their support for him as he makes such decisions.
Meanwhile, S.Res. 234 and H.Res. 138, supporting a two-state solution, still have made no progress.
MEASURES TO INCREASE U.S.-ISRAEL COOPERATION MAKE PROGRESS
The two bills “expanding medical partnership with Israel to lessen dependence on China” have gained support. H.R. 6829, introduced in May by Rep. Chris Pappas (D-NH), now has 206 cosponsors, and S. 3722, also introduced in May by Cruz, now has 29 cosponsors. The twin bills “to establish a U.S.-Israel Operations-Technology Working Group” have made some progress. S. 3775, introduced in May by Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) now has six cosponsors, and H.R. 7148, introduced in June by Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) now has four cosponsors.
AND A NEW ONE IS INTRODUCED
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD), with no cosponsors, introduced S.Res. 669, on Aug. 6, “to express the sense of the Senate on U.S.-Israel cooperation on precision guided munitions.” It says the Secretary of Defense should “take further measures to expedite deliveries of precision-guided munitions to Israel.”
MEASURE URGING U.N. TO RENEW EXPIRING IRAN RESTRICTIONS GAINS SUPPORT
Following the release of the AIPAC-backed House letter to Pompeo urging increased U.S. diplomatic action to “renew the expiring U.N. arms embargo against Iran and U.N. travel restrictions” on certain Iranian individuals, as described in the previous Washington Report, S.Res. 509, introduced in February by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), to urge the U.N. Security Council to renew the expiring restrictions on Iran, gained more support. It now has 56 cosponsors.
A new bill, H.R. 7850, was introduced July 29 by Rep. Bradley Schneider (D-IL). It would “require a National Intelligence Estimate on Iranian proxy forces.” It has nine cosponsors.
The three previously described Iran sanctions bills, H.R. 6015, H.R. 6081, and H.R. 6243, have made no progress.
TWO NEW MEASURES INTRODUCED CONCERNING LEBANON
On July 31, Rep. Darin LaHood (R-IL) and three cosponsors introduced H.Res. 1077 “expressing the sense of the House on the continued importance of the U.S.-Lebanon relationship.” It would recognize “the role of Lebanon and its institutions as historic examples of democratic values in the Middle East,” and express “support for the continuation of democracy and democratic ideals in Lebanon.”
In contrast to the LaHood resolution, H.R. 3331, “Countering Hezbollah in Lebanon’s Military,” was introduced by Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) with 15 cosponsors on June 18. It would limit the use of security assistance funds for Lebanon until certain conditions are met. However, S. 3691, “to prohibit the provision of U.S. Government assistance to any Lebanese government that is influenced or controlled by Hezbollah,” introduced by Cruz in May, still has no cosponsors.
NEW MEASURE EXPRESSES SUPPORT FOR IRAQ; ANOTHER WOULD SANCTION TURKEY
Rep. Colin Allred (D-TX) introduced H.Res. 1062 on July 23, “affirming the nature and importance of the U.S.-Iraq bilateral relationship, including security and economic components of the relationship.” It calls on the U.S. “to provide continued support for Iraq and its citizens through trade and investment, medical assistance, and stabilization efforts.” The measure has 13 cosponsors.
On July 16, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), with two cosponsors, introduced H.R. 7639 “to impose sanctions with respect to Turkey’s acquisition of the S-400 Russian air and missile defense system.”
Shirl McArthur is a retired foreign service officer. He lives in the Washington, DC metropolitan area.
S. 3176 and H.R. 1837, Provide More Goodies for Israel. While S. 3176, introduced in January by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), was reported to the full Senate in June, it still has not been brought up for a vote, but it could be at any time. The similar House bill, H.R. 1837, passed by the House last July, still rests with the SFRC. These bills are grab bags of goodies for Israel, but S. 3176 does not include the provision, included in H.R. 1837, that would give the president authority to provide Israel any defense-related articles or services, without any limitation of law and without congressional oversight, if he determines that Israel is “under an existing or imminent threat of military attack.”
H.R. 5595, Anti-BDS. H.R. 5595, the “Israel Anti-Boycott” bill, introduced on Jan. 13 by dependable Israel-firster, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), still has 64 cosponsors. This bill and the previously described bills S.1, H.R. 336, and S.Res. 120, all equate Israel’s colonies with Israel.
H.Res. 855 and S.Res. 570, Good ICC, Bad ICC. H.Res. 855, introduced in February by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), which would express the “Sense of the House” that “the U.S. should ratify the Rome Statute and join the International Criminal Court,” still has no cosponsors. Similarly, S.Res. 570, “a resolution opposing and condemning the potential prosecution of U.S. and Israeli nationals by the International Criminal Court,” introduced by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in May, also has no cosponsors.
H.R. 550 and H.Con.Res. 83, No War Against Iran. H.R. 550, amended by the House to include the text of H.R. 5543, introduced in January by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), “to prohibit the use of funds for unauthorized military force against Iran,” as well as the text of H.R. 2456, introduced in May, 2019, by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) “to repeal the Authorization for Use of Military Force against Iraq Resolution of 2002,” still has not been acted on by the Senate. H.Con.Res. 83, introduced in January by Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) after the ill-considered assassination of Iran’s Quds Force Commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Soleimani, was passed by the House in January. It would direct the president “to terminate the use of U.S. Armed Forces to engage in hostilities in or against Iran.” It was forwarded to the Senate and still is held in the Senate Foreign Relations committee (SFRC).
H.R. 2407, Human Rights for Palestinian Children. Introduced in April 2019, by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN), this bill still has 23 cosponsors.
H.R. 1850 and S. 2680, Hamas. These bills would sanction about anyone who has anything to do with Hamas. H.R. 1850, introduced by Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) in March 2019, and passed by the House in July 2019, is still stuck in the SFRC. Its companion bill in the Senate, S. 2680, introduced in October by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), now has 27 cosponsors.
S. 3572, Remove Troops from Saudi Arabia. As with the previously described measures reacting to the murder of U.S. citizen Jamal Khashoggi, S. 3572, the “strained partnership” bill, introduced in March by Sens. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK), has gained no further support. The bill would “require the removal of U.S. Armed Forces from Saudi Arabia.”—S.M.