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APN Legislative Round-Up for the Week Ending September 9, 2011

1.  Bills, Resolutions & Letters
2.  UN Reform Bill: Trying to Make US-UN Relations 100% Conditional on Palestinian Issue
3.  Senator Leahy and the IDF
4.  Ellison leads call for Hamas to release Gilad Shalit
5.  1/5 of Congress Visits Israel with AIPAC-affiliated AIEF Over Recess
6.  Odds & Ends


1.  Bills, Resolutions & Letters

(Cutting aid to the Palestinians?)  Washington is abuzz with speculation of impending legislation - either freestanding or attached to some other bill - to sanction the Palestinians for their continued effort to gain recognition or an upgrade in status at the UN (and their insistence on national unity).  Given the fact that Congress is on the record (with H. Res. 268 and S. Res. 185, which APN was virtually alone in opposing and which were strongly backed by AIPAC) almost unanimously calling for cutting off aid to the Palestinians under these circumstances, it seems almost inevitable that some such legislation is coming down the pike.  When might we see it?  Well, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) has schedule a hearing in the House Committee on Foreign Affairs (full committee) on 9/14/11 entitled "Promoting Peace? Reexamining U.S. Aid to the Palestinian Authority, Part II." So it is a good bet there will be some text around that time.  The extremely "balanced" slate of witnesses for that hearing is comprised of:  Elliott Abrams (Council on Foreign Relations), James Phillips (The Heritage Foundation) and Jonathan Schanzer (Foundation for Defense of Democracies).

(UN Reform/Palestinian Bashing) HR 2829: Introduced 8/30/11 by Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and 66 cosponsors (all Republicans), the "United Nations Transparency, Accountability, and Reform Act of 2011."  Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.  Discussed in detail in Section 2, below.

(Israeli Annexation of West Bank) H. Res. 394:  Introduced 9/8/11 by Rep. Walsh (Tea Party-IL) and no cosponsors, "Supporting Israel's right to annex Judea and Samaria in the event that the Palestinian Authority continues to press for unilateral recognition of Palestinian statehood at the United Nations."   Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.  The Republican Study Committee (RSC) is actively lobbying Republicans to support the resolution.  Rep. Walsh's press release announcing his introduction of H. Res. 394 is available here, and Rep. Walsh talked about the resolution to Politico here.  Walsh's resolution is reportedly "modeled closely on a bill introduced in the Israeli Knesset" - a reference to a bill introduced by settler leader and Israeli Knesset member Danny Danon (Likud) calling for Israeli annexation of Area C.  Area C comprises around 60% of the West Bank, including all settlements.  In a press release issued 9/8/11, Danon stated "We welcome the strong support of Rep. Walsh and his colleagues in Congress. Until now, Israel has honored the Oslo Accords and fulfilled its promise not to build any major new communities in Judea and Samaria...The Israeli government has also repeatedly attempted to negotiate a peace settlement with the Palestinians, but without success.  The time for
talking is over."

(Foreign Aid Reform) On 9/7/11 Rep. Berman (D-CA), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, began circulating a huge bill aimed at reforming U.S. foreign assistance.  The text of the bill is available here and is discussed in The Cable, here.  The bill includes numerous references to Israel, but does not appear to break any new ground.

2.  UN Reform Bill: Trying to Make US-UN Relations 100% Conditional on Palestinian Issue

On 8/30/11, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) introduced HR 2829, her long-awaited United Nations Reform bill.  As anticipated, this bill is mostly about Israel and the Palestinians (the bill contains ten titles, of which 6 deal explicitly with Israel and/or the Palestinians - the other sections of the bill will not dealt be with here).  Indeed, taken together those 6 titles of the bill, if they became law, would make pretty much all U.S. funding for the UN and its various agencies conditional on adherence to U.S. dictates on matters related to the Palestinians and Israel.  Ros-Lehtinen has made clear that this is her intent with the bill, including in an op-ed she wrote in the Miami Herald 8/27/11, entitled "To protect Israel at U.N., money talks."  Her intent to fundamentally change the way the UN is funded is articulated in her press release introducing the bill, here.

Details of the Israel/Palestine-related elements of the bill are as follows:

Title III:  United States Policy at the United Nations
[Seeks to eliminate Palestinian-related agencies, withhold funds equivalent to those spent on Palestinian-related agencies, conflate anti-Semitism with anti-Israel activity]

Section 309 of this title, entitled "Equality at the United Nations" goes after the various entities at the UN that have been established to deal with issues related to the Palestinians, ostensibly in order to "avoid duplicative efforts and funding with respect to Palestinian interests and to ensure balance in the approach to Israeli-Palestinian issues".  The section names 5 entities to be audited, as well as requiring audits of "any other entity the Secretary determines results in duplicative efforts or funding or fails to ensure balance in the approach to Israeli-Palestinian issues."   

The section requires the Secretary to submit the audits to Congress along with "recommendations for the elimination of such duplicative entities and efforts" - wording that seems to make clear that, at least as far as the drafters of the bill are concerned, the audits are a mere formality, since the conclusion has already been reached that the audited entities should be eliminated.  This section also requires (a) that the President direct the U.S. permanent representative (PermRep) to the UN to use all his/her resources to seek implementation of the aforementioned recommendations and (b) the withholding of U.S. contributions to the UN, in amounts proportional to the amount budgeted for the targeted entities, until the recommendations (to eliminate them) are implemented.

Section 310 of this title, entitled "Anti-Semitism and the United Nations," takes aim at anti-Semitism in the UN.  The final provision in this section, however, goes beyond a step further, requiring the President to direct the UN PermRep to "continue working toward further reduction of anti-Semitic language and anti-Israel resolutions in the United Nations and its specialized agencies, programs, and funds" - a provision that, by its appearances in this section, seems to be asserting that anti-Israel resolutions are a form of anti-Semitism.

Section 311 of this title, entitled "Regional Group Inclusion of Israel" requires the President to direct the UN PermRep to use all his/her resources "to expand the Western European and Others Group (WEOG) in the United Nations in Geneva to include Israel as a permanent member with full rights and privileges."

Title IV - Status of Palestinian Entities at the United Nations
[Takes aim at the current Palestinian effort to gain some sort of recognition or enhanced status at the UN, threatens to cut off funding to every UN agency that in any way upgrades the Palestinians' status]

Section 401 - the "findings" section - asserts (among other things) that the Palestinians are trying to "evade direct negotiations for peace with the State of Israel by seeking recognition of a Palestinian state from foreign governments and in international forums" and that doing so represents a violation "of the underlying principles of the Oslo Accords, the Road Map, and other relevant Middle East peace process efforts" (Congress has never asserted that any Israeli actions on the ground, like expanding settlements, are similarly violations of any of those efforts, even where they explicitly violate, say, the Road Map).   

Section 402 asserts that it is U.S. policy to oppose any recognition of a Palestinian state by any UN entity, or any upgrade in the status of the Palestinians at the UN.  

Section 403 requires the mandatory withholding of U.S. contributions to any UN entity "that recognizes a Palestinian state or upgrades in any way, including but not limited to full membership or non-member-state observer status, the status of the Palestinian observer mission to the United Nations, the Palestine Liberation Organization, the Palestinian Authority, or any other Palestinian administrative organization or governing entity...prior to the achievement of a complete and final peace agreement negotiated between and agreed to by Israel and the Palestinians."  

Title V - United Nations Human Rights Council
[Bars U.S. funding of the UNHRC and for Palestinian-related human rights reporting]

Section 501 consists of 15 findings, most of which assert the Human Rights Council's bias against Israel.

Section 502 bars U.S. funding to the Human Rights Council unless the Secretary of State can certify to Congress that, among other things, "the United Nations Human Rights Council's agenda or programme of work does not include a permanent item with regard to the State of Israel."  This section also requires the mandatory withholding of annual U.S. funding for the UN of an amount "equal to the percentage of such contribution that the Secretary determines would be allocated to the United Nations to support the United Nations 'Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Palestinian territories occupied since 1967' and any other United Nations Human Rights Council 'Special Procedures' used to display bias against the United States or the State of Israel" or to any UN member state that is subject to UNSC sanctions, under a UNSC-mandated investigation for human rights abuses, is a government that the Secretary has determined has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism, or that has been designed by the President as a country of particular concern with respect to religious freedom."

Section 6 - Goldstone Report
[Mandates U.S. campaign gainst the report and withholding of funds equal to what was/is/will be spent on it]


Section 601 is comprised of 39 (yes, 39) separate "findings" blasting the Goldstone Report, its authors, its genesis, and every single thing associated with it.  

Section 602 makes it U.S. policy to consider the Goldstone Report "irredeemably biased and unworthy of further consideration or legitimacy"; to "strongly and unequivocally oppose an consideration, legitimization, or endorsement of the Goldstone Report, or any other measures stemming from this report, in multilateral fora"; "lead a high-level diplomatic campaign in support of the revocation and repudiation, by the United Nations General Assembly, of the Goldstone Report and any United Nations resolutions stemming from it..."; and to "lead a high-level diplomatic effort to encourage other responsible countries not to endorse, support, or legitimize the Goldstone Report or any other measures stemming from the report."

Section 603 requires the mandatory withholding of the U.S. contribution to the regular budget of the UN "an amount that is equal to the percentage of such contribution that the Secretary determines would be or has been expended by the United Nations for any part of the Goldstone Report or its preparatory or follow-on activities."

Section 7 - Durban Process
[Mandates the withholding of funds for anything related to the Durban process and mandates withholding of funding for ALL other UN-affiliates conferences/events until they are certified as not being anti-Israel]


Section 701 is comprised of 38 (yes, 38) separate "findings" blasting the Durban Process and everyone/everything associated with it.

Section 702 asserts that it the Sense of Congress that, among other things, the Durban I and Durban II conferences, as well as their preparatory and follow-on activities, "were subverted by members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference and irredeemably distorted into a forum for anti-Israel, anti-Semitic, and anti-freedom activity."  Section 702 also asserts that it shall be U.S. policy to lead a high-level diplomatic effort to convince other countries not to participate in any way in Durban III, and to withhold their own funding from the UN (a percentage equal to what is spent on Durban III).

Section 703 states that no U.S. funding available under any provision of law may be used in any way to pay for U.S. participation in Durban III.

Section 704 requires the mandatory withholding of U.S. contributions to the UN in an amount equal to "the percentage of such contribution that the Secretary determines would be or has been expended by the United Nations for any part of the Durban I or Durban II conferences, the Durban III meeting, their preparatory or follow-on activities, or any other part of the Durban process..."

Section 704 goes on to require a similar withholding of U.S funds equal to the amount spent for "any conference, meeting, or other multilateral forum, or the preparatory or follow-on activities of an conference, meeting, or multilateral forum, that is organized under the aegis or jurisdiction of the United Nations or any United Nations Entity" unless the first Secretary certifies that (among other things) said conference, meeting, or multilateral forum in no way supported Durban, "was not used to single out the United States or the State of Israel for unfair or unbalanced criticism," and "was not used to propagate racism, racial discrimination, anti-Semitism, denial of the Holocaust, incitement to violence or genocide, xenophobia, or related intolerance..."

Title VII - UNRWA
[Bars funding to UNRWA unless the Secretary can make an impossibly far-reaching certification, and even then caps funding; seeks the elimination of UNRWA]

Section 801 is comprised of 36 (yes, 36) separate "findings" blasting UNRWA and everything/everyone associated with it

Section 802 amends the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to bar any U.S. funding of UNRWA unless the Secretary of State can provide a required certification to Congress.  The Secretary must certify that not a single UNRWA employee (including, as the text is written, say, janitors) is a member of an FTO, has ever said anything anti-American, anti-Israel or anti-Semitic, or has in any way used UNRWA resources to engage in any political rhetoric regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (it is not clear what "political rhetoric" means here - given the nature of UNRWA's mandate, it is hard to see the drafters of this bill not considering everything UNRWA puts out as "political" and probably objectionable...)

In addition, the Secretary must certify that no UNRWA facilities are being used by FTOs for any purposes; that UNRWA is subject to comprehensive external audits and has implemented a vetting system to ensure that no resources are going to terrorists; that no UNRWA schools are using materials that include messages that could in any way be considered anti-American, anti-Israel, or anti-Semitic; that UNRWA is only working with banks that the U.S. does not believe are involved in terror financing; and that not a single recipient of UNRWA assistance out of the hundreds of thousands of recipients of UNRWA assistance is a member of an FTO (requiring, it seems, that UNRWA perform background checks on every single recipient of aid).

In addition, in the almost impossible to imagine event that the required certification was made, Section 802 goes on to limit U.S. funding for UNRWA to an amount equal to: (a) the highest contribution to UNRWA of any member of the League of Arab States; (b) the amount of the budget, proportionally, that the U.S. provides to the UN High Commissioner of Refugees; or (c) 22% of the total UNRWA budget.

Section 803 is a Sense of Congress that the U.S. should pressure other countries to withhold funding for UNRWA based on the certification requirements in Section 802.  Section 803 also seeks to deal with the problem of Palestinian refugees through a number of "technical fixes":  declaring those refugees who have obtained citizens in any country as no longer under the UNRWA mandate (i.e., no longer recognized as Palestinian refugees with any rights as refugees); stripping away the UNRWA definition of a "Palestine refugee" and making Palestinian refugees part of the generic refugee population, as defined by UNHCR; and "in order to alleviate the suffering of Palestinian refugees," putting Palestinian refugees under the responsibility of UNHCR (and, by extension, dismantling UNRWA).  [Note: UNHCR's strategies for dealing with refugees are: choice 1 - return them to where they came from (not really an option with Palestinians, for obvious reasons), choice 2 - settle them where they are (not really an option with Palestinians, since the UN has no authority to force host countries to permanently accept refugees as citizens), and choice 3 - move them someplace else (not really an option with the Palestinians outside of the context of a peace agreement.  So it is not clear how the drafters of this bill think this shift would actually work...]   

Further reading:

Haaretz 9/8/11: U.S. Republicans urge Obama to veto Palestinian statehood bid at UN
Arab News, 9/8/11: US Congresswoman's misguided war on the UN
Huffington Post 9/2/11: Ros-Lehtinen Hijacks Pro-Israel Support for Extreme Anti-UN Bill
The Economist 9/1/11: A bad bill for everyone
Jerusalem Post 8/31/11: US lawmaker links UN funding to Palestinian issue
JTA 8/31/11: Bill would cut U.S. funds to U.N. entities that upgrade Palestinians
Politico 8/30/11: PROPOSAL: TIE UN DUES TO PALESTINIAN STATUS
Bloomberg 8/30/11: Republicans Unveil Legislation to Force Major Changes at UN
Washington Post 8/30/11: House bill would cut off funds to UN groups elevating status of Palestinian mission

3.  Senator Leahy and the IDF

A brouhaha erupted during recess over an 8/16/11 report in Haaretz that Senator Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee's Foreign Operations Subcommittee, would be introducing legislation to cut aid to certain IDF units accused of abusing Palestinian human rights.  In a press release Leahy's office made clear that no such legislation has been proposed, although existing legislation related to this issue (known as the Leahy Amendment or the Leahy Law) applies across the globe.  That legislation states that "No assistance shall be furnished under this Act or the Arms Export Control Act to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of State has credible evidence that such unit has committed gross violations of human rights."  The legislation provides an exception in cases where the government of such country is "taking effective measures to bring the responsible members of the security forces unit to justice."  The ZOA, RJC and others jumped on the story to attack Leahy (and Democrats in general) as anti-Israel - although basically their message is not that no IDF units might fall into the category described in the legislation, but that Israel should be exempted from the Leahy Law.

4.  Ellison leads call for Hamas to release Gilad Shalit

On 8/26/11 Rep. Ellison (D-MN) sent a letter, co-signed by a number of prominent Muslim-Americans, to Hamas leader Khaled Meshal, calling on Hamas to release Gilad Shalit.  The letter noted that, "Hamas' inhumane detention of Shalit undermines the Palestinian people's legitimate aspirations for human rights and a state of their own, existing in peace and security beside Israel..."  Further reading: Politico, Star-Tribune, Star-Tribune, JWeekly.com, Shalomlife.com, CityPages.com.

5.  1/5 of Congress Visits Israel with AIPAC-affiliated AIEF Over Recess

Every year, large numbers of members of Congress visit Israel during the summer recess.  This  past recess was different only in the fact that the numbers were even higher than usual.  These visits are sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF), a 501(c)(3) that is closely related AIPAC - AIEF is located at the same address as AIPAC (in the building built by AIPAC), its  board of directors and officers overlap with AIPAC's board of directors/officers, and funding flows between the two groups.  For more details see AIEF's 2010 IRS form 990.  Details of the amounts of funding AIEF spends per member on these trips is available here.  

Further reading:

Engel (D-NY) on his trip to Israel, in the Congressional Record 9/8/11 (expect more of these)
West Virginia Public Broadcasting 9/8/11: Following trip, McKinley stands with Israel
The Springfield News-Leader 9/2/11: Long travels to Israel
Pulaski County Daily 8/31/11: Hartzler returns from visit to Israel
LaCrosse Tribune 8/31/11: Kind discusses Middle East visit
Sun-Sentinel 8/30/11: Representative [Wilson (D-FL)] shares experiences from Israel trip
Williamsport Sun-Gazette 8/27/11: Marino returns from Israel with fresh perspective on Middle East
Christian Science Monitor 8/25/11: Why one-fifth of U.S. representatives went to Israel this summer
Steuben Courier 8/25/11: Reed travels to Israel on business
Jewish Exponent 8/24/11: U.S. Rep Visits Israel as Terror Hits
GoErie.com 8/24/11: Congressman Kelly traveling in Israel
France24 8/23/11: Congress members' summer trips to Israel a headache for Obama?
Jerusalem Post 8/23/11: US lawmaker: Aid to Egypt depends on peace with Israel
Minnesota Public Radio 8/22/11: Paulsen goes to Israel
The Valley News 8/20/11: Owens: Seven-day Israel trip was an 'intense experience'
Cleveland Jewish News 8/18/11: Sutton: Israel visit 'amazing,' 'educational'
Syracuse.com 8/18/11: U.S. Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle to take congressional trip to Israel
Irondequoit Post 8/18/11: Buerkle, colleagues to visit Israel next week
The Commercial Appeal 8/18/11: U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher describes his fact-finding trip to Israel as educational and emotional
New York Times 8/15/11: A Recess Destination With Bipartisan Support: Israel and the West Bank
Jerusalem Post 8/8/11: 81 congressmen to visit Israel in coming weeks

6.  Odds & Ends

Politico 8/18/11: Hill fight simmers over Palestinian statehood vote
The Hill 8/19/11: Lieberman, Cantor won't attend Glenn Beck's Israel rally
Mediaite 8/18/11: Beck Furious After Boehner Doesn't Allow Congressmen To Attend Rally: 'The Republican Party Sickens Me'
Brooklyn NY 1 News, 9/7/11: Israel Continues To Be Major Talking Point In Turner-Weprin Race