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Legislative Roundup - July 22, 2005

I. HR 2601 on the House Floor II. Bush Admin SOP on HR 2601 III. HR 3057 on the Senate Floor IV. New Bills and Resolutions V. APN on Egypt Aid Program VI. On the Record

for the week ending July 22, 2005

I. HR 2601 on the House Floor
II. Bush Admin SOP on HR 2601
III. HR 3057 on the Senate Floor
IV. New Bills and Resolutions
V. APN on Egypt Aid Program
VI. On the Record


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I. HR 2601 ON THE HOUSE FLOOR ================================

On July 19th-20th, the House debated HR 2601, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, and amendments to that bill. On July 20th, the House passed HR 2601 by a vote of 351-78. Details of this bill, as passed by the House International Relations Committee, are included in the June 10th edition of the Round-Up. Middle East-related amendments to HR 2601 were:

(Egypt) Issa - withdrawn
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Representative Darrel Issa (R-CA) introduced, and then withdrew (on July 19th), an amendment to strip out the provision to effectively dismantle the longstanding U.S. aid program for Egypt. Reportedly the decision to withdraw the amendment was taken based partly on the failure of the Administration to take a strong position on the record in support of the amendment (the Administration made its opposition public on July 20th). In addition, AIPAC circulated a letter to all House members opposing the amendment and supporting changes to the Egypt-U.S. (this is the first time AIPAC has ever taken a public position against Egypt's aid program). Both Americans for Peace Now and the Israel Policy Forum circulated talking points in support of the amendment; APN's talking points are included in section V, below.


(Palestinians) Berkley/Crowley - adopted
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Reps. Berkley (D-NV) and Crowley (D-NY) introduced an amendment to further erode the President's ability to provide direct aid to the Palestinians, even when he has determined that it is in the national security interests of the U.S. to do so. On July 21st the far right-wing Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) issued a press release claiming credit for the amendment, stating that the ZOA "working closely with key lawmakers, helped initiate, promote and pass these new restrictions."

As was noted in the June 10th edition of the Round-Up, the House International Relations Committee added language to HR 2601 (as part of an en bloc amendment, so it was never discussed or debated) that seeks to erode the President's national security waiver. Under this provision, the President could only give direct aid if he certified to Congress that it was in the national security interests of the United States to do so AND that the Palestinian Authority was meeting a wide-ranging list of requirements, including implementing far-reaching reforms and fighting terror. (It is worth noting that in virtually all cases in U.S. law, national security waivers do not include any additional restrictions, since the national security of the U.S. is the paramount concern. These include waivers to permit the President to provide aid to countries that support international terrorism and to countries that export lethal military equipment to countries supporting international terrorism.)

The Berkley-Crowley amendment would further restrict this already eroded national security waiver by mandating that, if the President meets the first two conditions to provide aid (certifying both that it is a matter of national security interests and that the Palestinians are meeting the list of requirements), any aid he determined was in the national security interests of the US to provide would have to be divided into quarters, with no more than one-fourth of it available in any quarter of the calendar year. This means that if the President wanted to grant the PA $10 million in direct aid for some urgent need that he determined was in the national security interests of the U.S. to address, he would only be permitted to provide $2.5 million of that amount, with the rest held over for the next 3 quarters of the calendar year.

This amendment, along with the changes to already erode the President's national security waiver, highlight a trend in Congress (kicked off during consideration of the Supplemental aid for the Palestinians, earlier this year) to "up the ante" at each opportunity, piling more and more restrictions and sending a clear message that Congress does not support Palestinian democracy and that many Members of Congress trust democratically-elected Palestinian leaders who embrace non-violence and reform even less than they trusted Arafat.

The amendment was adopted by a vote of 330- 100. See section VII, below, for excerpts from the debate over this amendment.

Those voting against the measure included House International Relations Committee Chairman Hyde (R-IL) and nearly the entire Appropriations Committee Foreign Operations Subcommittee, including Chairman Kolbe (R- AZ), ranking member Lowey (D-NY), and full committee ranking member Obey (D-WI). In addition to Lowey, other leading Jewish House members voted against the amendment: Ackerman (D-NY), Berman (D-CA), Frank (D- MA), Rothman (D-NJ), and Wexler (D-FL).


(Palestinians) King - adopted
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Rep. Steve King (R-IA) introduced an amendment to insert the text of H. Con. Res. 144, "condemning attacks on United States citizens by Palestinian terrorists." The amendment was adopted by a roll call vote of 423-0.

H. Con. Res. 144, which currently has 71 co- sponsors, asserts that since the September 13, 1993 signing of the Oslo Accords, 53 U.S. citizens have been killed by Palestinian terrorism. H. Con. Res. 144 is an updated version of H. Con. Res. 119, introduced in the 108th Congress. As noted in the May 2nd edition of the Round-Up, the focus of H. Con. Res. 144 remains American victims (and the bulk of the resolution consists of a list of such victims).

However, while the text of the resolution is "updated" to refer to "the late Yasser Arafat" and to note that Palestinian terror "continues to happen as demonstrated by the bombing in Tel Aviv on February 25, 2005, despite the recent elections and a new sense of optimism in the region," the updating does not extend to noting the absence of American victims in the post-Arafat era, or the marked decrease in terror attacks overall. It is also updated to assert (as U.S. policy, as opposed to, more accurately, a Sense of Congress) that "the United States is willing to continue to work with Palestinian leaders under the condition that the newly elected Palestinian leadership reject and take verifiable steps to prevent terrorism."


(UN reform) Hyde - adopted
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House International Relations Committee Chairman Henry Hyde (R-IL) offered an amendment to include the text of HR 2745 in HR 2601, mandating far-reaching UN reform and mandatory withholding of U.S. contributions if reform requirements are not met. As discussed in detail in the June 24th edition of the Round-Up, the bill includes a large number of provisions related to Israel and the Palestinians. The amendment was adopted by a roll call vote of 226-195, with the vote split along party lines (only 6 Republicans voted "no" and 9 Democrats voted "aye").


(Anti-Semitism) Hyde/Lantos - adopted
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Reps. Hyde (R-IL) and Lantos (D-CA) introduced an amendment making technical revisions to the bill. The amendment included language earmarking $450,000 out of the total aid provided for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) for programs related to fighting anti-Semitism and training law enforcement officers regarding hate crimes. The amendment also included additional paragraphs to a provision related to Hizballah and its television statement, al- Manar. The amendment was adopted by a voice vote.


(China Sanctions) Hyde et al - adopted
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Reps. Hyde (R-IL), offered an amendment adding text similar to HR 3100, authorizing measures to deter arms transfers to China. HR 3100 was defeated on the House floor on July 14th. HR 3100 (like other similar legislation, including HR 1815, discussed in the May 27th edition of the Round-Up) included sanctions language that, while aimed at Europeans, could impact Israeli weapons manufacturers. The amendment appears to resolve this potential problem by requiring the President to report on weapons exports to China by "every person of a member country of the European Union, and any other foreign person the President may consider appropriate..." The amendment was agreed to by a voice vote.


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II. Bush Admin SOP on HR 2601 =============================

On the morning of July 20th, the Bush Administration belatedly issued it "Statement of Policy" regarding HR 2601. The SOP articulated Administration opposition to the bill, as reported out of the House International Relations Committee. Objections to Middle East-related provisions were:

Jerusalem: "The Administration opposes sections 210 and 211 regarding Jerusalem. The permanent status of Jerusalem is a volatile issue with sensitivities throughout the region and needs to be resolved by the parties. The President has stated that such provisions impermissibly interfere with his constitutional authority to formulate the position of the United States, speak for the Nation in international affairs, and determine the terms on which recognition is given to foreign states. U.S. policy regarding Jerusalem has not changed."

Jerusalem: "Sections 210, 211, and 212 would infringe upon the President's constitutional authority to conduct the Nation's foreign affairs and supervise the unitary Executive Branch." [Note: Section 210 mandates that, for the purposes of U.S. passports, the place of birth for people born in Jerusalem must be recorded as "Jerusalem, Israel." Section 211 mandates that the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem must come under the authority of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. Section 212 deals with an unrelated matter.]

Egypt: "The Administration opposes Section 921, which would shift $240 million from Foreign Military Financing to the Economic Support Fund Account for Egypt, and would completely change the nature of our assistance program in that country. Such changes could be viewed in a way that may undermine our efforts to achieve U.S. foreign policy goals in the Middle East and could have a negative consequence for political and economic reform in Egypt." [Note: This statement unfortunately was issued after the Issa amendment had been withdrawn.]

Palestinian Aid: "The Administration objects to...the onerous certification requirements in Sections 944, 904, and 932 (relating to assisting the Palestinian Authority). Such provisions limit the President's flexibility to conduct the Nation's foreign policy."

General: "Sections ...921(b) [a "statement of policy" regarding Egypt]...1101(b) [a statement of U.S. policy on Iran]...would infringe on the President's foreign affairs powers by attempting to direct the Nation's foreign policy. These should be amended to reflect 'the sense of Congress.' Several sections would infringe upon the President's constitutional authority by imposing reporting requirements concerning diplomatic negotiations, including: ...1014(c) [relating to the Magen David Adom Society], ...1016(c)(1) [relating to the murder of 3 Americans in Gaza in 2003], 1017(c)(1) [relating to promotion of diplomatic relations with Israel], 1021(b)(6) [relating to the efforts of the United States and its allies to facilitate the process of disbanding and disarming Lebanon-based militias and stanching the flow of weapons to such militias... These provisions would impermissibly infringe on the President's authority to conduct foreign affairs and international negotiations and should be amended to reflect that these reports need contain information only as the President deems appropriate."


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III. HR 3057 ON THE SENATE FLOOR ================================

On July 18-20th the Senate debated HR 3057, the FY06 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill. On July 20th the Senate passed HR 3057 by a vote of 98-1. Details of the bill as passed by the Appropriations Committee are included in the July 1st edition of the Round Up.

On July 20th the Senate also appointed conferees to meet with House conferees to resolve differences in the two versions of the bill. Senate conferees are:

McConnell (R-KY); Specter (R-PA); Gregg (R- NH); Shelby (R-AL); Bennett (R-UT); Bond (R- MO); DeWine (R-OH); Brownback (R-KS); Cochran (R-MS); Leahy (D-VT); Inouye (D-HI); Harkin (D-IA); Mikulski (D-MD); Durbin (D- IL); Johnson (D-SD); Landrieu (D-LA); and Byrd (D-WV).

Middle East-related amendments to HR 3057 were:

(Egypt) Brownback - adopted
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Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) offered an amendment to earmark $50 million in Egypt's economic assistance for educational programs. This earmark is consistent with an earmark included in the House version of the bill. Adopted by unanimous consent.

(Lebanon) Sununu/Chafee - adopted
---------------------------------- Sens. John Sununu (R-NH) and Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) offered an amendment to increase economic assistance from $35 million to $40 million, and to increase the amount of that aid earmarked for American educational institutions in Lebanon from $4 million to $6 million dollars. These changes make the Senate version consistent with the House version of the bill in these matters. Adopted by unanimous consent.

(Egypt) Brownback - not pursued
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Sen. Brownback (R-KS) introduced, but did not offer for floor consideration (i.e., never actually considered on the Senate floor) an amendment to take interest earned by Egypt on its interest-bearing account and earmark it for democracy and governance programs. The amendment is similar to a portion of the wide-ranging provision in HR 2601 attacking Egypt's aid program.

(Extradition) Chambliss - adopted
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Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) offered an amendment, adopted by a vote of 86-12, to cut off all aid to countries "whose government has notified the Department of State of its refusal to extradite to the United States an individual, or has not within a reasonable period of time responded to a request for extradition to the United States of an individual, charged with committing a criminal offense in the United States for which the maximum penalty is life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, or a lesser term of imprisonment, regardless of the individual's citizenship status." The amendment is identical to one offered in the House by Rep. Nathan Deal (R- GA), and passed by a vote of 294-132.

As Sen. Chambliss made clear in his statement in support of his amendment, he focus on the issue is the result of a specific case involving a constituent who was murdered by an individual who fled to Nicaragua. Other countries mentioned by Sen. Chambliss included Mexico, Costa Rica, Spain, Venezuela, and Portugal. The measure, however, would apply to ALL countries refusing to extradite, including Israel, with whom the U.S. has had ongoing friction over the issue (and most notably over the case of Samuel Sheinbein, a U.S. citizen wanted for a 1997 murder in Maryland. Sheinbein fled to Israel and claimed Israeli citizenship. He was never extradited, but eventually convicted in an Israeli court. The case led to calls, at that time, for cutting off aid to Israel).

Since the Sheinbein case Israel has changed its law to permit limited extradition of Israeli citizens, based on where the individual was a resident at the time of the extradition request. The language of the Deal/Chambliss provisions, however, would appear to reject such a distinction. The recent emigrations to Israel of two associates of embattled lobbyist Jack Abramoff underscore how potentially problematic for Israel this provision could prove.

(Egypt) Feinstein - not pursued
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Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced, but did not offer for floor consideration (i.e., never actually considered on the Senate floor) an amendment to earmark Egypt's military aid. As noted in the July 1st Round-Up, while the Appropriations Committee fully funded the President's request for U.S. military assistance for Egypt, it broke with past practice - with no explanation - and omitted perennial language earmarking this assistance in the bill.


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IV. NEW BILLS AND RESOLUTIONS ================================
(Israel) H. Res. 368: On July 19th Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) introduced H. Res. 368, "Congratulating the State of Israel on the election of Ambassador Dan Gillerman as Vice-President of the 60th United Nations General Assembly." Referred to the House International Relations Committee.

(Jordan) HR 3370: On July 20th Rep. Weiner (D-NY), Berkley (D-NV), Crowley (D-NY) and Maloney (D-NY) introduced HR 3370, "to require the Secretary of the Treasury to take certain actions with regard to the Arab Bank, and for other purposes." The bill would force the closure of the Jordanian bank, which has been in business in New York since 1982, and seize its assets to hold for terror victims (who have pending lawsuits against the bank).

In response to the bill, the Arab Bank issued a statement: "Congressman Weiner's actions are deplorable. The legislation proposed by him to shut down Arab Bank in New York is nothing more than gutter politics, designed to promote his last place mayoral campaign by attacking a respectable Arab institution. Rep. Weiner is wrong on the facts. Arab Bank has never done any transactions with known terrorist entities such as Al Qaeda. Mr. Weiner's focus on Arab Bank is designed for base political purposes, which we are confident his constituency will reject. We consider this to be shocking, irresponsible behavior by an elected official. Arab Bank is strongly committed to preventing the financing of terrorism in the Middle East and elsewhere, and is a strong supporter of the peace process. But we also strongly condemn actions like Rep. Weiner's proposed bill that use terrorism to mask blatant discriminatory action against a bank and a people based on race."


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V. APN ON EGYPT AID PROGRAM ================================

On July 19th APN sent the following talking points to all House members:

"Last year, the House wisely rejected an amendment to cut military aid to Egypt. This year, language was included in the Foreign Relations Authorization Act (HR 2601) to cut military aid to Egypt and place Egypt's entire U.S. assistance program - and its longstanding relationship with the United States - in jeopardy. This unprecedented attack on the U.S.-Egypt relationship threatens to hurt Israel's security and its efforts to implement the disengagement plan. At the same time, it threatens vital U.S. interests in the region and the war on terror, and undermines U.S. efforts to press Egypt to improve its record on human rights and democratization. Americans for Peace Now (APN) urges Members of Congress to vote to remove this provision from HR. 2601.

"Israeli Security: Egypt has a key role in the success of any Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, including the disengagement plan of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Egypt and Israel are working together to develop appropriate and mutually acceptable arrangements for security on the Egypt-Gaza border after the disengagement, including increased security forces to stop smuggling tunnels. Egyptian officials are playing a pivotal role in efforts to stop Palestinian extremist violence that seeks to terrorize Israel and undermine Palestinian President Abbas. Remarking on a landmark 15-year natural gas deal signed with Egypt last month, Israeli Minister of Infrastructure Gen. Binyamin Ben-Eliezer stated 'This is an historic day. By implementing this agreement, this will be the best indication to show everyone that peace between Israel and Egypt is solid.'

- "Lt. Gen. William Ward, U.S. Security Coordinator: 'I think the current situation along the border and as it pertains to the future, given Gaza disengagement, is encouraging. The level of coordination between the Egyptians and the Israelis with respect to the force along the Philadelphi corridor, what that force is, how that force will be equipped, and where that force will be positioned, I believe, has just about been resolved between the Egyptians and the Israelis. And I would suspect that within a matter of days, as I've been told by both parties, that they will have those issues resolved. That will then put the mechanism in place for that corridor to be taken by the Egyptians." (June 30, 2005, speaking before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee)

- "Amb. David Welch, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs: 'Jordan and Egypt...have lent their support in very important ways to making it [disengagement] work. And General Ward mentioned, for example, the negotiations between Egypt and Israel over additional security support along the Gaza-Egypt border. Egypt's also providing training for Palestinian security services. The Jordanians are likewise in a position not simply to protect their own border with these territories but also to provide training support. Most importantly of all, both those parties have provided a great deal of political support for the Palestinian Authority under its president, Mahmoud Abbas.' (June 30, 2005, speaking before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee)

"U.S. Interests & Fighting Terror: Modernization of Egypt's military supports key U.S. interests in the region, permitting improved military cooperation and coordination, providing better support for U.S. operations and joint exercises (inter- operability), and providing vital security for U.S. military and assets moving through and operating in the region.

- "Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Rose Likens: 'During the last 25 years, Egyptian- American shared interests and cooperation have broadened significantly. Essential to this relationship is the military-to- military cooperation between the United States and Egyptian armed forces. The United States receives a range of strategic benefits from our security assistance to Egypt. This assistance has helped to facilitate peace between Israel and Egypt for the past 25 years and has secured Egypt as a strong partner in the global war on terrorism. Security assistance funding for Egypt enhances U.S. security. It helps Egypt participate as a coalition partner, to modernize its armed forces, to provide force protection for U.S. military forces in the region, and to maintain U.S. access to the Suez Canal and key overflight routes used to support our forces in the region. ...We need a regional ally with a modern capable force, and that is the force we are attempting to help Egypt to build. There are an awful lot of components that go into that. ...They are transitioning from an era of Soviet weaponry, and so helping them to have modern U.S. weapons systems is to our advantage. It means we can operate more easily with them. ...Every time one of our ships transits the Suez Canal we have protection from the Egyptian Navy. In just the case of January to July 2003 there were 368 such transits. Certainly the ability to overfly Egyptian airspace and to be able to refuel to Egyptian facilities on our way to Afghanistan and on our way to Iraq was very important. ...Egyptian participation in peacekeeping, Egyptian participation in joint exercises and regional exercises - all of those things are very important to the overall regional stability picture.' (6/16/04)

"Preserving Camp David: U.S. military aid to Egypt is a direct result of the 1979 Camp David Accord, the most important and durable Israeli-Arab peace agreement. This accord has delivered peace and stability on Israel's border for nearly three decades, permitting Israel to focus its defenses on threats like Iran and Syria.

- "Ambassador Edward S. Walker, Former Assistant Secretary of State: '...let's remember the basic premise of this assistance - it was part of an agreement for peace between Israel and Egypt. That peace has given Israel a level of security that no amount of assistance could pay for. Changing this basic formula on FMF would undercut the peace between these two neighbors. If we really care about Israel's security, we should be building up incentives for maintaining peace, not tearing them down.' (3/6/02)"


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VI. ON THE RECORD
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Excerpts from the House debate over the Berkley/Crowley amendment:

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) (opening statement)
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"Mr. Chairman, this is a two-page amendment. If it were a one-page amendment, I would be an enthusiastic supporter. The declaration of policy urging our government to promote the emergence of a democratic Palestinian government is greatly to be desired. ...I do not think, however, that we should impose these restrictions on the funding. This is an issue on which I trust President Bush and Prime Minister Sharon.

"...I share the goal of a secure Israel as a Jewish democratic nation, and I admire the insight of Prime Minister Sharon and Deputy Prime Minister Olmert, that an Israel which governs millions of hostile Palestinians will have a hard time being Jewish and democratic, and, therefore, I support Israel's effort to reach peace. There is no guarantee that it is possible. It is a difficult situation. But I do not think we in Congress should make it more difficult.

"There are people within Israel who do not agree with what Prime Minister Sharon is doing, but they have not been able to get a majority in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset. I do not want to see them win a partial victory in the U.S. House of Representatives that they cannot win in the Knesset.

"While I agree with the declaration of policy, I believe that restrictions on funding to the Palestinian Authority ought to be left to the decision of the executive branch. I trust George Bush on this, and I trust this administration. I believe they are as committed to the declaration of policy as any of us. And I think in this case it is important for them to have some flexibility.

"I do not find the Palestinian Authority any model of democratic governance, but it is clearly in everybody's interest, and the Israeli government agrees to this, to have the Palestinian Authority strengthened vis- a-vis the terrorists of Hamas. Maybe the right way to do it will be to cut back; maybe it will not be. I do not think that is a judgment we can make here.

"Again, when we have in power an Israel and a United States with democratically elected governments that are committed to this process, having these congressional restrictions, I believe, is a hindrance; and this notion no more than 25 percent can be spent in a quarter does not, to me, have any substantive policy reason. Maybe there will be a joint decision by Prime Minister Sharon and President Bush that the Palestinian Authority is in fact doing what it should do and they want to be able to give them more money in a period of time. I do not think it is appropriate for this Congress to restrict that."

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) (responding to comments by Rep. Crowley (D-NY) that the Presidents can waive the restriction)
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"I am always puzzled when in defense of an amendment we are told that it is really not going to mean anything. We are told the President can waive it. Well, frankly, I think the purpose of an amendment is not to waive it, W-A-I-V-E, but for some of us to wave it, W-A-V-E, as a sign of what we think.

"I am all in favor of this declaration, but I think the amendment's operative part restricting funding might get in the way. The single most important issue, it seems to me, is that the Palestinian Authority should agree to disarm and dismantle any terrorist agency network or facility. I agree that is essential. They have to be willing to confront Hamas, but they cannot do it without money. What are they going to do it with, rhetoric?

"We are taking a gamble, there is no question. If the Palestinian Authority is in the end unwilling or unable to meet these responsibilities, then there will not be peace. That will be a tragedy for all concerned, but mostly for the Palestinians. No one should ask Israel to go forward if that is not the case. That makes it all the more important to do everything we can to enable the Palestinian Authority and pressure them to do this. The problem is playing yo-yo with the funding does not work.

"The President has the authority now to stop. We cannot force him to spend foreign aid. The President will do this in consultation with the Israeli government, with Vice Premier Peres, who works on this.

"I believe this is an unwise intrusion of Congress. We do not have a disagreement here. We say we agree with Sharon's government of trying to see if peace can be made. We agree with the administration. I do not think that this kind of intervention by Congress is going to be helpful with a difficult and delicate peace process."

Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA)
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"I rise in strong opposition to this amendment. I want to associate myself with the gentleman from Massachusetts who spoke so eloquently in opposition on the Floor. At this particular moment, it is clearly in our national interests to strengthen the democratically elected Abbas government. This is especially true in the face of the imminent Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and because the Palestinian Authority is up against a strong challenge from Hamas in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

"The amendment states that the United States should promote the emergence of a Palestinian government that combats terrorism. We all agree with that. But at the same time, we must continue to urge the Israeli government to stop settlement activity and ease the conditions of occupation. Both sides have obligations under the Road Map.

"And more than anything, the U.S. government must use this opportunity to work with both parties to ensure that the turnover of Gaza from Israel to the Palestinians is carefully coordinated and that the myriad of security, economic, and infrastructure issues are dealt with fairly and quickly.

"Mr. Chairman, not only must the Berkley amendment be defeated, but I wish the underlying bill would not have included such onerous conditions and limitations on Palestinian aid. I support the efforts of President Bush who has twice used his waiver authority to grant funding directly to the Palestinian Authority and who opposes the inflexible language in this bill. Instead of passing one-sided and punitive amendments like this one, it is incumbent upon the United States Congress to try to help both Prime Minister Sharon and President Abbas confront the extremists on each side who seek to derail the peace process.

"Fragile as it may be, a flicker of hope and optimism has been kindled in the Middle East. But it may truly be our last hope. And what a great tragedy it would be--for Israel, for the Palestinians, and for America--if we didn't do everything in our power to bring an end to this terrible conflict."

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)
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"Under the new leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas, progress is being made-- slowly--on the path to democracy and peace. It is ironic that these additional restrictions are proposed on Abbas, yet were never applied to Yasser Arafat. In light of Israel's impending withdrawal from Gaza, I believe that we need to maintain President Bush's flexibility to use United States assistance to promote American interests in the region. Already, aid to the Palestinian Authority is the most heavily restricted, audited, and projectized assistance in the world with aid going directly to the Palestinian Authority only when the President signs a specific waiver. This amendment is one more unnecessary restriction that ties the President's hands to support any movement towards peace and security."

For more information, contact APN Government Relations Director Lara Friedman at 202/728-1893, or at lfriedman@peacenow.org.