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APN Legislative Round-Up - February 2, 2007

1. FY07 Foreign Operations Funding 2. New Bills and Resolutions 3. Baker and Hamilton at the SFRC

...for the week ending February 2, 2007

1. FY07 Foreign Operations Funding
2. New Bills and Resolutions
3. Baker and Hamilton at the SFRC


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1. FY07 FOREIGN OPERATIONS FUNDING
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On January 31st the House passed H. J. Res. 20, "Making further continuing appropriations for the fiscal year 2007, and for other purposes." The bill, passed in the place of nine appropriations bills left unfinished by the 109th Congress, will enable government operations to continue until September 30, generally at current operating levels. H. J. Res. 20 includes funding for FY07 Foreign Operations, including regular military and economic assistance for the Middle East. Since this is effectively a long-term continuing resolution (meaning no new programs and generally no changes in current funding levels), H. J. Res. 20 includes very little in the way of program/funding detail (since the details, unless otherwise noted, are those included in the FY06 ForOps bill).

Notably, H. J. Res. 20 is explicit with respect to the Palestinians, stating that "up to $50,000,000 shall be made available for assistance for the West Bank ands Gaza." The reason for the language is that funding for the Palestinians is not continuing at the level stipulated in the FY06 ForOps bill - $150 million - but reduced it is being reduced by two-thirds. In addition, the language of this "earmark" is important. While on first reading it sounds like a hard earmark of $50 million for the Palestinians, it in fact does not mandate that any funds be spent on the Palestinians, but rather sets a hard ceiling of $50 million on any such expenditures the Administration might want to make.

It should also be kept in mind that any funding for the Palestinians faces a myriad of restrictions and conditions - the extent of which are, it appears, unparalleled anywhere in the history of U.S. bilateral aid programs. These include:

- the perennial conditions and restrictions that are part of the annual foreign ops bill (detailed in the 11/4/2005 edition of the Round-Up);

- additional conditions/restrictions (in effect, a strengthening of some of the perennial conditions/restrictions) imposed on the wake of the January 2006 Palestinians elections which brought Hamas to power (as part of the FY06 Supplemental, detailed in the 6/9/2006 edition of the Round-Up); and

- additional conditions/restrictions passed at the end of the 109th Congress in the form of S. 2370, the Senate version of the Palestinian Ant- Terrorism Act (detailed in the 5/26/06 edition of the Round-Up).

In addition, H. J. Res. 20 includes explicit earmarks of $2.340 billion in military assistance for Israel, an increase of $60 million over FY06 funding, consistent with the President's FY07 budget request. This increase is part of an annual process whereby U.S. economic assistance to Israel is decreasing and military assistance is increasing. The plan, formally presented by then- Israeli Finance Minister Neeman in January 1998, proposed a ten-year program of gradually cutting economic aid by $120 million per year, while increasing military aid by $60 million per year. Beginning in FY99, through today, this has been the aid formula followed by the U.S.

Finally, H. J. Res. 20 earmarks $1.3 billion in military assistance for Egypt (also consistent with the President's FY07 budget request). In addition, H. J. Res. 20 rescinds $200 million from ESF funded in prior years but as yet un- obligated; given discussion that took place last year in the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, it seems likely that this refers to funds previously appropriated for Egypt.


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2. NEW BILLS AND RESOLUTIONS
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(IRAN) H.R.770: Introduced 1/31/07 by Rep. Lee (D-CA) and four cosponsors, "To prohibit the use of funds to carry out any covert action for the purpose of causing regime change in Iran or to carry out any military action against Iran in the absence of an imminent threat, in accordance with international law and constitutional and statutory requirements for congressional authorization." Referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Committees on Armed Services, and the Select Intelligence Committee.

(ISRAELI SOLDIERS) H.RES.107: Introduced 1/30/07 by Rep. Ackerman (D-NY) and 5 cosponsors, "Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Israeli soldiers held captive by Hamas and Hezbollah, and for other purposes." Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.


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3. BAKER AND HAMILTON AT THE SFRC
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>From the opening statement (submitted for the record) of James Baker and Lee Hamilton, testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee 1/30/07:

""We were encouraged by the President's statement that 'We will use America's full diplomatic resources to rally support for Iraq from nations throughout the Middle East.'

"We believe there are additional specific steps he should take. The President did not endorse a diplomatic effort including all of Iraq's neighbors. The Study Group took the view that 'the United States should engage directly with Iran and Syria in order to try to obtain their commitment to constructive policies toward Iraq and other regional issues.'

"We recognize that dealing with Iran and Syria is controversial. But it is clear that Iran and Syria have influence in Iraq. They are part of the problem. It is also our assessment that neither Syria nor Iran have a long-term interest in a chaotic Iraq which could negatively affect their own national security interests, Accordingly, it is the view of the Study Group that the United States should try to make them part of the solution.

"Sometimes the argument is made that Iran has momentum in the region, and the United States should not negotiate until it has more leverage over Iran. We disagree. We negotiated with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. We can negotiate with Iran on behalf of stability and our interests in Iraq. The United States and Iran cooperated in Afghanistan, and they should explore replicating this model.

"The Study Group also calls for a renewed and sustained commitment by the United States to an Arab-Israeli peace on all fronts. The Study Group laid out specific and detailed steps that should be undertaken in order to achieve a comprehensive peace on all fronts, including Israeli- Palestinian, Israeli-Lebanese, and Israeli- Syrian. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been traveling in the region. Her efforts to launch informal talks between Palestinians and Israelis are a positive development, but they do not yet include the Israeli-Lebanese and Israeli- Syrian tracks of a comprehensive peace. We feel particularly strongly that the United States is missing an opportunity to promote its goals in Iraq and the broader region by not talking to Syria.

"Some have asked us: What does the Arab-Israeli conflict have to do with the war in Iraq? Why make one problem harder by taking on two?

"The answer is simple. It is difficult to establish regional stability in the Middle East without addressing the Arab-Israeli issue. We want other countries, especially the Sunni Arab countries, to help us. When we go to talk to them about Iraq, they will want to talk about the Arab- Israeli conflict.

"The United States says it wants to empower 'moderate Muslims.' Yet the only way to empower the moderates is to take away the most potent grievance of the extremists: that the United States does not care about the Palestinians.

"A comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace would deal the extremists a blow in Baghdad, Beirut, the Palestinian territories and elsewhere... It would bolster America's prestige. And - above all - it would guarantee the long-term security of America's ally: Israel.

"All of us understand that the peace process is difficult, and that results will be measured in years, not months. But a sustained and comprehensive effort counts. A sustained effort will help us with Iraq and will win us important diplomatic leverage across the board in the Middle East and elsewhere.

B. Senator Barak Obama (D-IL), from his floor statement introducing S. 433: "My legislation makes it U.S. policy to undertake a comprehensive diplomatic strategy to promote a political solution within Iraq, and to prevent wider regional strife. This diplomatic effort must include our friends in the region, but it should also include Syria and Iran, who need to be part of the conversation about stabilizing Iraq. Not talking is getting us nowhere. Not talking is not making us more secure, nor is it weakening our adversaries."


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