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APN Legislative Round-Up: week ending December 7, 2012 (UPDATED)

1.  Bills, Resolutions & Letters
2.  NDAA Advances to House-Senate Conference
3.  Hearings
4.  Members on the Record 
5.  From the Press

Of note from APN:
Lara Friedman in the Daily Beast's Open Zion, 12/5: How Obama Can Get Tough With Bibi

APN Action Alert, 12/3: Tell Secretary Clinton: Get Tough Now On Bibi - Before It's Too Late

APN Press Release, 12/3: APN to President Obama: Demand that Netanyahu Reverse E-1 Decision

1. Bills, Resolutions, & Letters

(DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION/PUNISH PALESTINIANS) S.3254: Introduced 6/4/12 by Sen. Levin (D-MI), the "National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013." Passed by the Senate 12/4/12, as an amendment in the nature of a substitute for HR 4310 (the House version of the same bill - covered in detail in the 5/18/12 edition of the Round-Up). On 12/4 the Senate appointed conferees to take part in the upcoming House-Senate conference to hammer out differences between the two chambers' respective versions of the bill. Senate conferees are: Levin (D-MI), Lieberman (R, I mean I-CT), Reed (D-RI), Akaka (D-HI), Nelson (D-NE), Webb (D-VA), McCaskill (D-MO), Udall (D-CO), Hagan (D-NC), Begich (D-AK), Manchin (D-WV), Shaheen (D-NH), Gillibrand (D-NY), Blumenthal (D-CT), McCain (R-AZ), Inhofe (R-OK), Sessions (R-AL), Chambliss (R-GA), Wicker (R-MS), Brown (R-MA), Portman (R-OH), Ayotte (R-NH), Collins (R-ME), Graham (R-SC), Cornyn (R-TX), and Vitter (R-LA). For Middle East-related details of the NDAA, as passed by the Senate 12/4/12 (including amendments), see Section 2, below.

(THANKS FOR UN VOTE) Ros-Lehtinen Dear Colleague: On 12/5/12 Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) circulated a letter seeking co-signers on a letter of thanks to the countries who joined the U.S. and Israel in voting against upgrading the Palestinians' status at the UN last week (i.e., Canada, Czech Republic, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, and Panama).

(REQUIREMENTS FOR IRAN NEGOTIATIONS) Menendez-Lieberman-Ayotte Dear Colleague: On 12/6/12 Senators Menendez (D-NJ), Lieberman (R, I mean I-CT), and Ayotte (R-NH) circulated a letter to President Obama urging, among other things, that there be "no diminution of pressure on the Iranians until the totality of their nuclear problem has been addressed" (i.e., the president shouldn't offer the Iranians any incentives in negotiations until the Iranians give 100% on what the U.S. is asking). The letter also lays out specifically what these senators believe is required to resolve the "totality" of the nuclear problem, calls for increased sanctions (including an campaign for nations around the world to expel Iranian diplomats), a reiteration of the President's readiness to take military action against Iran and, as almost an afterthought, a call to "expand America's outreach and support to the Iranian people and support of the cause of human rights and democracy in Iran." For more on the letter, see this report by Laura Rozen in Al-Monitor.

2. NDAA Advances to House-Senate Conference

On 12/4/12 the Senate passed S.3254, the "National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013."

Israel Funding

Among other things, the bill authorizes extensive funding under the category "Israeli Cooperative Programs" - Arrow Weapon System improvements, Arrow-3 interceptor, David's Sling short-range BMD, and Iron Dome short-range rocket defense. It also authorizes funding for Iron Dome, as explained in the committee Report accompanying S. 3254. All of this funding is over and above Israel's regular $3.1 billion FMF program. The report notes that the committee has recommended adding $100 million in funding for these programs "Israeli Cooperative Programs", on top of the $99.8 million requested by the Obama Administration. The Committee also recommended doubling the funding (that it is anticipated the Obama Administration will request for Iron Dome for FY 13), from $210 million to $420 million. In total, funding for Israel programs in this bill comes in at $619.8 million. That funding breaks down as follows:

Funds to improve the existing Arrow Weapon System
Admin request: $10.7 million

Committee recommendation: $30.7 million

Funds for continued development of the Arrow-3 upper-tier interceptor missile
Admin request: $50.9 million

Committee recommendation: $70.9 million

Funds for co-development of a short-range missile defense system called "David's Sling"
Admin request: $38.3 million

Committee recommendation: $60 million

Funds for the Israeli Iron Dome system.
Admin anticipated request for FY 13: $210 million

Committee recommendation: $420 million

Amendments

A total of 381 amendments were offered to the bill, covering a range of issues related and unrelated to the base text. Of these, a total of 144 were considered, of which 142 were adopted (one was defeated and one was ruled out of order). As noted in last week's edition of the Round-Up, a number of Middle East-related amendments were included (for details of the amendments themselves, see last week's Round-Up). Here is an update on all of these amendments:

· Palestinians: Three amendments to punish the Palestinians for going to the UN (and the UN, and countries that supported the Palestinians): SA 3139, SA 3171 and SA 3203. NOT CONSIDERED. No outside groups, including AIPAC, reportedly lobbied in favor of consideration/adoption of any of these three amendments [UPDATE: AIPAC did, in fact, circulate a letter to Senators on 11/30 supporting the SA 3203, the Schumer-Graham amendment; that letter is available here], and J Street launched a major (and very successful) lobbying campaign against them. Notably, the senators who offered the amendments made no public appeals for leadership to take them up, and none of the GOP senators involved sought to use the failure of Senate leadership to bring them up as a pretext to score political against Democrats. All of this, plus the amateurish drafting involved in these amendments (as noted in last week's Round-Up) suggests that these amendments were not the "main event" in the anticipated effort to punish the Palestinians and that people concerned about this issue should stay vigilant.

· Egypt/Israel: An amendment to make funding for joint U.S.-Egypt military exercises contingent on Egypt not abrogating, terminating, or withdrawing from the Israel-Egypt peace treaty: SA 3061. NOT CONSIDERED.

· Israel/Iron Dome: A "Sense of the Senate" in support for Israel/Iron Dome - SA 3122. AGREED TO 11/29, BY UNANIMOUS CONSENT.

· Iran: A major amendment laying out new Iran sanctions - SA 3232. AGREED TO 11/30, BY A VOTE OF 94-0. This amendment was supported by AIPAC, which circulated a letter to all senators urging a "yes" vote. Reps. Dold (R-IL) and Deutch have already circulated a Dear Colleague urging members to resist any efforts to "weaken or water down" the provisions in this amendment. This appears to be part of a coordinated effort to pre-empt any efforts by the Obama Administration, which objects to the legislation contained in SA 3232, to seek changes to the sanctions language in conference. The Senate's 2-minute long floor consideration of the amendment is available here. Additional Senators' statements on SA 3232 (because there's only so much you can get done in 2 minutes) are available here. Senator Schumer (D-NY) got on the record in support of the amendment here. NIAC issued a strong statement on the sanctions: "New Sanctions Are Incremental Step to Iran War, Include No Medicine Fix."

· Syria: An amendment to require the President to report to Congress on issues related to Syria - SA 3171.AGREED to 12/3, BY UNANIMOUS CONSENT.

· Syria: An amendment to require a report on military activities to deny or significantly degrade the use of air power against civilian and opposition groups in Syria - SA 3262. AGREED TO 12/4, BY A VOTE OF 92-6. Floor discussion of the amendment is available here. The Cable reported on this, here.

· Yemen: An amendment to authorize the transfer of defense articles and the provision of defense services to the military and security forces of Afghanistan and certain other countries (including Yemen) - SA 3164. AGREED TO 12/3, BY VOICE VOTE.

Middle East-Related Provisions in the bill, as passed

As passed by the Senate on 12/4, the Middle East-related provisions in the NDAA are as follows:

- Sec. 232: "Regional Ballistic Missile Defense." This section focuses mainly on the threat of ballistic missiles from Iran and North Korea and, among other things, requires a report from the Secretary of Defense describing the status and progress of regional missile defense programs and efforts.
- Sec. 237: "Availability Of Funds For Iron Dome Short-Range Rocket Defense Program." This section states that "Of the amounts authorized to be appropriated for fiscal year 2013 by section 201 for research, development, test, and evaluation, Defense-wide, and available for the Missile Defense Agency, $210,000,000 may be provided to the Government of Israel for the Iron Dome short-range rocket defense program as specified in the funding table in section 4201."

- Sec. 1203: "Authority to build the capacity of certain counterterrorism forces in Yemen and East Africa."

- Sec. 1250: "Sense of Congress on the Israeli Iron Dome defensive weapon system."

- Sec. 1234: "Reports on Syria."

- Sec. 1235 "Report on military activities to deny or significantly degrade the use of air power against civilian and opposition groups in Syria."

- Sections 1261-1275: Iran Sanctions

3. Hearings

12/5/12: HFAC, Europe Subcommittee hearing: Iranian Influence in the South Caucasus and the Surrounding Region. Witness were: Ariel Cohen, Heritage Foundation (prepared statement), Michael Rubin, AEI (prepared statement), Alex Vatanka, MEI (prepared statement), Brenda Shaffer, University of Haifa (prepared statement). The prepared statement of Ranking Member Meeks (D-NY) is available here. No video of the hearing is available online as of this writing.

4. Members on the Record

Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 12/3: [NOT A JOKE] Abu Mazen's Incendiary Remarks on Jerusalem [following announcement of settlement expansion and E-1] Only Undermine Chances for Peace

5. From the Press

MUST READ - CQ 12/4: Feinstein Rare Senate Critic of Israel's Expanded Settlement Plans
This excellent article by CQ's Jonathan Broder (behind a paywall until 12/6), reports the reactions of some key senators to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's retaliatory actions against the Palestinians, in particular the announcement of plans to proceed with E-1. Senators commenting include Feinstein (D-CA), Casey (D-PA), Cardin (D-MD), Lugar (R-IN), and McCain (R-AZ). Of the group, only Feinstein was critical of the recent moves. Others appeared to defend Israel's right to do what it wants or ducked the question.

Flashreport 11/30: The House Foreign Affairs Committee Is In Strong Hands With Royce
(Note: Earlier this year, Royce was the lead sponsor of HR 5303, the "Palestinian Peace Promotion and Anti-Incitement Act." As noted in the 5/11/12 edition of the Round-Up,

This shameless piece of grandstanding starts with the premises that the PA has "not fully lived up to its prior agreements with Israel to end incitement" and "should do more to prepare the Palestinian people for peace with Israel" - despite the fact that over the years the PA has made great strides in clamping down on incitement and on problematic materials in mosques and textbooks. Nonetheless, these members of Congress have decided that now is the time to grab onto this issue and use it as an excuse to impose additional conditions on what is already the most conditioned, restricted, vetted, and otherwise overseen aid U.S. aid program in existence (more conditioned, restricted, vetted, and otherwise overseen today than at any time during Arafat's tenure - for details on current restrictions etc, see the summary of the FY13 ForOps bill in Section 3, below).

Under HR 5303, all aid to the PA would be barred - aid that today is provided in order to keep the PA from falling apart (something that is viewed as vital to Israel's own interests). HR 5303 gives the President the authority to waive the restriction only if he can certify that doing so is important to U.S. national security interests - in what looks at first glance like a "clean" national security waiver (i.e., a waiver unencumbered by other requirements). Such a formula has long been used by Congress so that it can score points for being "tough" on the Palestinians while not actually harming U.S. interests, with the President having to bear the cost in political capital for being "soft" on the bad guys. However, HR 5303 turns out to not have a clean waiver at all, with the latter part of the bill stating that even if the president determined that providing aid to the PA was in the vital interests of U.S. national security, he cannot waive the restriction unless he certifies to Congress that, among other things, the PA "no longer engages in a pattern of incitement against the United States or Israel and is engaged in peace preparation activities aimed at promoting peace with the Jewish State of Israel."

The bill goes on to stipulate exactly what "peace preparation activities" means (though the use of one specific word - "may" rather than "shall" leaves open some small possibility that the certification could actually be made). The bill states that: "Arabic-language communications and educational activities sponsored by the Palestinian Authority, which are communicated or administered via electronic, broadcast and print media, schools, mosques and statements by government officials that may include the following: (A) Public acknowledgments of the State of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state [this is a non-starter for the Palestinians]. (B) Firm public commitments to and endorsements of peaceful co-existence with the Jewish State of Israel [assuming this means in the context of a two-state solution, the Government of Israel does not meet this bar, given that it includes parties that oppose such a solution]. (C) Production, distribution, and public display via all media platforms, schools, mosques, educational materials and elsewhere of maps that show the State of Israel existing as `Israel' side-by-side with `Palestine' and halting all production, distribution, or public display of maps that do not include a state of Israel [again, the government of Israel doesn't meet this bar, given that various government ministries and affiliated agencies continue to produce maps that designate all the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea as Israel (e.g. Israeli Ministry of Tourism; Israel Meteorological Service; Israeli Ministry of Immigration; Israel National Roads Safety Authority; Nefesh b'Nefesh, which not only doesn't mark off the West Bank, but which recommends that prospective immigrants move to "communities" that are actually settlements located deep inside the West Bank, some east of the separation barrier)]; and (D) renouncing any and all future rights or claims to commit acts of violence against Israel."