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APN Legislative Round-Up - April 20, 2007

I. Syria Trip Still in the Spotlight II. Recalling Tom DeLay's Knesset Speech

...for the week ending April 20, 2007

I. Syria Trip Still in the Spotlight
II. Recalling Tom DeLay's Knesset Speech


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I. SYRIA TRIP STILL IN THE SPOTLIGHT ================================

The issue of the recess visit to Syria by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and a number of other members (including Republicans) continues to be a source of debate and some controversy on the Hill. (APN applauded members for making this trip - our position was included in last week's edition of the Round-Up.)

Attacks in the Senate
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In a particularly odd development, two amendments have been offered to S. 372, the Intelligence Authorization bill, seeking to include in that bill a "Sense of Congress" that in effect argues that members of Congress should not overly involve themselves in foreign policy and that they do so to the detriment of U.S. national interests. These amendments are SA 879, offered by Senators Inhofe (R-OK) and Craig (R-ID), and SA 853, offered by Sen. Cornyn (R-TX).

These amendments are very strange. Every member of Congress knows that Congress routinely intrudes into U.S. foreign policymaking via congressional fact-finding trips ("codels") and via legislation, especially appropriations bills. By design, the President has authority over foreign policy, but Congress has the "power of the purse strings," controlling the funds the President needs to carry out his foreign policy. While the Executive often decries Congressional interference in foreign policy, it is perhaps unprecedented for Members of Congress to argue that the Congress should voluntarily accept this limitation on their power.

With respect to foreign policy in the Middle East in particular, Congress has routinely sought to limit, constrain, and otherwise define U.S. foreign policy - for example, passing legislation regarding U.S. policy on Jerusalem (passed over the objections of both Democratic and Republican administrations). With respect to Syria, it is worth recalling that the primary piece of legislation impacting U.S.-Syria relations today, the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Act (HR 1828 - 108th Congress) was pursued in and passed by Congress, despite strong objections from the Bush Administration.

Attack in the House
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On April 17th Rep. Burton (R-IN) made a statement on the House floor arguing that Rep. Pelosi's actions on her trip to the Middle East had violated the "Logan Act" - an obscure piece of legislation making it illegal for American citizens to take it upon themselves to negotiate on behalf of their country. Like the amendments discussed above, his argument is somewhat bizarre, since it is generally a point of pride for members of Congress that in order to do the work of the people and oversee the use of taxpayer funds, they can and should meet with whatever foreign leaders they see fit.

Defense in the House
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On April 18th, in the context of a hearing about Lebanon featuring David Welch (Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs) Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Chair of the Middle East Subcommittee of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, engaged in some repartee with with Welch regarding the propriety of Congressional travel around the world:

Ackerman: Do you think it is helpful or unhelpful if members of this committee or members of Congress go to Syria to have meetings with high-level officials in the interest of pursuing U.S. policy?

Welch: Mr. Ackerman, I trust in the judgment of the membership of this committee and of Congress. And I would point out that it's not my judgment alone that matters in this; it's the judgment of all those who are watching.

Sometimes an effort to -- however serious and well-intentioned it might be -- to ask questions and to raise issues is misperceived, and particularly when we're dealing with a skilled and devious adversary who has a long record of deception about their real actions. I'm a -- I'm a big believer in talking, asking questions. And as a diplomat, I believe that - - in diplomacy. But I also know when I've got an answer, and I'm sorry to say that the answers that we have gotten to the questions that we have asked are not only insufficient to convince us that Syria is serious about addressing these problems, but also pose risks to Palestinians, to Lebanese, to Iraqis, and, yes, to Americans.

Ackerman: I think you said you answer to a higher authority. I like that. I appreciate the fullness of your answer as far as it was able to go, and want to assure you that despite the fact that there is a sophisticated, devious, bad-intended leadership in Damascus, that the members of Congress, as you know and pointed out, are in most instances rather sophisticated and serious themselves. Sometimes national leaders on our side misspeak. That doesn't mean anything in the long run. But certainly members of this committee, this gentleman from the East Coast [indicates self] and the gentleman down on the other end from the West Coast [indicates Rep. Darrell Issa, R-CA] have each separately met both with President Assad and his father separately at other occasions, President Assad, in the advancement of our foreign policy, regardless of party, position or political attitude, in an attempt to move the process forward. And I'm glad that you believe in discussions and diplomacy, and we do, too.

Capps on the Record
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On 4/19/07 Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) inserted into the record the text of an op-ed by the Israel Policy Forum's Michael J. Rosenberg (better known to most people as MJ Rosenberg) entitled "Blessed Are the Peacemakers." The op-ed states, among other things, that "...Pelosi's visit strengthened America's position in the region, and likely helped Israel on prisoners, on Hezbollah, and in its effort to avoid another war like last summer's. It was a gutsy move by the new Speaker and one that deserves commendation, not criticism from those who are committed to the whole litany of failed policies of recent years. One would think that some of these pundits would look at the sheer carnage they delivered in Iraq--the 3200 American dead and the hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqi civilians--and be shamed into shutting up. But no such luck..."

In the Press
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This week, the Forward newspaper published a lead article entitled "Dems Warn Olmert About Playing Politics," examining the tensions engendered by Prime Minister Olmert's response to Pelosi's visit -- a response perceived by many Democrats as evidence that the Israeli Prime Minister was willing to publicly embarrass Speaker Pelosi in order to support President Bush. That article can be viewed at:

http://www.forward.com/articles/dems-warn- olmert-about-playing-politics/

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II. RECALLING TOM DELAY'S KNESSET SPEECH ============================================

In the context of this debate over what members of Congress - and Congressional leaders - should or should not do with respect to foreign policy, it is instructive to recall the speech delivered 7/30/03 by then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) at the Knesset, at the height of international efforts to achieve progress on the Roadmap. The speech was included, in its entirety, in the 7/15/03 edition of the Round- Up. For those who have not archived the Round- Ups, it is also reprinted below.

As noted in the 7/15/03 edition of the Round- Up, reporting on reaction to the speech, the Los Angeles Times quoted far-right wing Knesset Member Aryeh Eldad, from the National Union Party, as stating, "As I shook his hand, I told Tom DeLay that until I heard him speak, I thought I was farthest to the right in the Knesset."

DeLay at the Knesset
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Mr. Speaker, thank you very much for your invitation and for that warm reception. I want to take this opportunity to thank the citizens of Israel for their generous welcome and hospitality to my wife, Christine, and me over the last three days.

My traveling partner, Ander Crenshaw, and I look forward to bringing the lessons we've learned here back to America and to our colleagues in Congress. I also look forward to sharing my experiences with President Bush, whose leadership and clarity make peace in the Middle East possible and victory in the war on terror inevitable.

In his comments yesterday, the president reaffirmed America's support for Israel's security and our commitment to fight "terrorism wherever it is found." He made clear that the prospects for peace are the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority. They must maintain sustained, targeted and effective operations to fight terror and dismantle terrorist capabilities and infrastructure.

After my time here, I have a new appreciation for threat terrorism poses, and for the president's sense of urgency in fighting it every day and every where. It has been an amazing six days here. I know I speak for everyone who made this trip with me when I say none of us will never forget the things we've seen here or the people we've met. I sat with former refuseniks, heroes who spoke truth to power and helped bring an evil empire to its knees. I visited the Kotel, the ancient Western Wall of the temple that still stands as a symbol of God's infinite strength and love to billions of believers of many faiths all around the world. I shook the hand of the owner of the Moment Café which was bombed last year. Today that café has been rebuilt. Moment Café is now open for business in defiance of terror. And I listened to another woman who told me her story.

Just a few years ago, she was, like me, a grandparent, and excited with the news her daughter was expecting again. Her daughter and son-in-law were on their way back from the doctor's office where they had seen - in the sonogram image - the tiny form of their third baby. On the bus ride back home from the doctor, their joyful path met the profound cruelty of a homicide bomber's. The terrorist detonated his weapon, and this family and their baby were gone. She told me this story this week in a park, surrounded by the play of children directly affected by Palestinian terror. She called two of them over, and introduced me to her two grandchildren who were orphaned that day. Despite the story I heard, these children played, and laughed, and seemed as hopeful about the future as any child could be. And despite my heartache, I smiled too, because hope was with us in that park.

Even now, I am filled with a gratitude and humility I cannot express, I stand before you today, in solidarity, as an Israeli of the heart. The solidarity between the United States and Israel is deeper than the various interests we share. It goes to the very nature of man, to the endowment of our God-given rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is the universal solidarity of freedom. It transcends geography, culture and generations. It is the solidarity of all people - in all times - who dream of and sacrifice for liberty. It is the solidarity of Moses and Lincoln. Of Tiananmen Square and the Prague Spring. Of Andre Sakharov and Anne Frank.

And in its name I come to you - in the midst a great global conflict against evil - with a simple message: "Be Not Afraid." I do not say this as a foreigner, cavalier in my estimation of the dangers that surround you. Instead, I say it as an ally, in spite of the terrifying predators who threaten all free nations, especially Israel.

My country is not ignorant, nor are we indifferent to your struggle. We know our victory in the war on terror depends on Israel's survival. And we know Israel's survival depends on the willingness of free nations - especially our own - to stand by all endangered democracies in their time of need. We hear your voice cry out in the desert, and we will never leave your side. Because freedom and terrorism cannot coexist. Terrorism cannot be negotiated away or pacified. Terrorism will either destroy free nations, or free nations will destroy it. Freedom and terrorism will struggle - good and evil - until the battle is resolved. These are the terms Providence has put before the United States, Israel, and the rest of the civilized world. They are stark, and they are final. Those who call this world- view "simplistic" are more than welcome to share their "sophisticated" theories at any number of international debating clubs. But while they do, free nations of courage will fight and win this war. Israel's liberation from Palestinian terror is an essential component of that victory. And it's a liberation we are determined to secure - not merely a paper-thin cease-fire.

False security is no security, and murderers who take 90-day vacations are still murderers. The violence must stop. An immediate and total end to Palestinian terrorism is not a concession the civilized world asks of the Palestinian Authority to advance the peace process. It is a prerequisite to the Palestinian Authority's invitation to it.

In the United States, we have two chambers in our national legislature: the House of Representatives, where I serve, and the Senate. But the voice of the people resides in the House. And one month ago, the House overwhelmingly passed a resolution - which I was proud to co-author - that states unequivocally the position of that body. That resolution reads in part - "Whereas Israel has no choice but to use its own measures to fight terrorism if the Palestinians are unwilling to do so... ..Therefore be it resolved that the House of Representatives recognizes and respects Israel's right to fight terrorism and acknowledges Israel's fight against terrorism as part of the global war on terrorism."

This echoes years of continuous support for Israel in Congress, where we remain committed to Israel's strength, security, and qualitative military superiority. In short, it is the position of the people of the United States, as expressed by their representatives in Congress, that Israel's fight is our fight. And so shall it be until the last terrorist on earth is in a cell or a cemetery.

The United States does not seek conflict. We are a peaceful people whose military strength has been consciously built to deter aggression so that we might live in peace. Ideally - and I believe, eventually - we will live in peace, with friendly democracies in every corner of the earth, committed to justice and human rights, "with malice toward none and charity for all." In nations with governments of the people, by the people, and for the people - as in our two nations - no tyrant or wicked regime can exert their brutality. It is in democracy that the hope for peace resides. Democracies do not starve their citizens, nor torture their dissidents, nor threaten their neighbors. In democracies, governments serve the people; not the other way around. And, by their nature, democracies neither enable terror nor instigate war. Citizens in democracies are too busy engaging in "Tikkun Olam"... "repairing the world." Raising their children. Supporting their families. Strengthening their communities. It is only through the freedom of democracy that a nation's capacity for industry, knowledge, and peace can be fulfilled.

This war we fight - this war on terror the United States shares with free nations, like Israel, around the world - we fight for this reason: to establish and secure a community of nations safe to be free, and free to be prosperous. It's the same reason we fought Nazism, fascism, and Communism: the liberation of all mankind from oppression. Terrorism, like its tyrannical forebears, is borne of the idea that with enough guns, enough fear, and enough violence, human power can control the human spirit. That through brute force, powerful men can erase the imprint of the Almighty etched into the souls of all His children. That through domination of the weak, in the words of the serpent, "Ye shall be as gods."

Ladies and gentlemen, IT IS A LIE. It was a lie at Auschwitz. It was a lie in the Gulag. It was a lie behind the Iron Curtain. It was a lie in Kabul and Baghdad. And today, it remains a lie in Beijing, and Havana, and Tehran, and Pyongyang, and Damascus and Ramallah!

But history has taught us, The Lie's grip on civilization is only as tight as civilization permits. After September 11, 2001, OUR tolerance for The Lie is no more. As President Bush said: "You're either with us, or you're with the terrorists." The war on terror is not a misunderstanding. It is not an opportunity for negotiation or dialogue. It's a battle between good and evil, between the Truth of liberty and The Lie of terror. This war is the moral extension of World War II and the Cold War, and like the Nazis, fascists, and Communists before them, the terrorists are goingto lose.

History, as always, will judge harshly those who would accommodate evil's aggression. Standing up for good against evil is hard work. It costs money and it costs blood, but after September 11, 2001, it's a price we are determined to pay. On that day, we left behind forever the illusion that terrorism was "someone else's problem." We were thrust into the horrible reality of terror that your nation has long endured. We learned on that day what Israelis have known for decades: that evil cannot long be ignored or accommodated. Good must stand up to evil. We must stand up to terrorism.

There is no middle ground or moral equivalence; no "moderate" position worth taking. Appeasement is not an option! Human freedom will not be subdued by human cruelty! And so we fight: humbly, proudly, and together. The common destiny of the United States and Israel is not an artificial alliance dictated by our leaders. It is a heartfelt friendship between the citizens of two democracies at war, bound by the solidarity of freedom.

Brothers and sisters of Israel: "Be not afraid." The American people stand with you, and so does our President. George W. Bush is a man of integrity and honesty. He is a man committed to the security of Israel and its destiny among the great nations of the earth. I've served with presidents of both parties, and I assure you, you could not have a better friend than George W. Bush. He understands the fundamental truth that terrorism and freedom cannot coexist, and he has defined America's global mission in its terms. All people who desire peace and freedom are therefore allies of the United States.

And included in that number are the Palestinian people who yearn for peace, who for too long have been used as pawns by their terrorist leadership. Their plight is real: they have been oppressed and abused by a pernicious enemy. But their enemy is not Israel, nor its people, nor its democratic government. Their enemy is Yasser Arafat. Their enemy is Hamas, Hezbollah, and the vast network of violent men who threaten this region like so many desert scorpions. Leaders of these groups - "who sharpen their tongues like swords" - blame Israel for the blood they themselves draw and the squalor in which they themselves confine their people.

But the evidence is clear and the conclusion indisputable. Israel is not the problem; Israel is the solution! Just as freedom is impossible amid terror, so too is peace. Terrorists are incapable of peace, because they live only to terrorize, to intimidate, and to kill. Democracies, therefore, must only make peace with those men capable of it.

A prerequisite to a lasting peace is the establishment of a genuine Palestinian democracy that serves the Palestinian people. David Ben-Gurion once said, "In Israel, in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles." But the most realistic miracle of all is liberal democracy. I sincerely hope Abu Mazen is the man to finally rid his people of the terrorist elements among them. He may be. And though Israel and the United States should adopt a "trust but verify" attitude toward him, peace is worth giving him that chance. On June 24 of last year, President Bush spoke to the world and called on the "Palestinian people to elect new leadership, leaders not compromised by terror." This they have done, and the world supports their decision.

In large part, then, the onus now shifts to the rest of the world, to take the ascension of Abu Mazen to its logical conclusion: Arafat must be isolated. Nations and organizations - however well-intentioned - that acknowledge Yasser Arafat and his network as legitimate representatives of the Palestinian people validate The Lie, and perpetuate terror. Whether in Brussels, Manhattan, or anywhere in between, legitimizing Arafat undermines the prospects for peace.

Terrorism does not exist in a vacuum. The campaigns of evil visited on innocent men, women, and children around the world rely on state sponsorship. Governments in Iran, Syria, and elsewhere who continue to offer support and safe harbor to terrorists will be held accountable for their actions, and suffer the consequences. Terrorism is going to be ended in the Middle East and everywhere else, and so too will regimes that support it. In the words of President Bush: "We will not waver. Will not tire. We will not falter, and we will not fail." A lasting peace in the Middle East requires more than the temporary ascension of Abu Mazen. President Bush made this point at the White House last week, when he said, "...the Middle East needs leaders of vision and courage and a determination to serve the interests of their people." These leaders must not only renounce terrorism, but eradicate it. They must acknowledge Israel's right to exist, secure in its borders, for all time. And they must work to ensure their neighbors in the Arab community do the same. Nations around the world and around the Middle East who have helped achieve these goals should be commended. The work they are doing requires courage, and this is a time for courageous men.

If we do not do this difficult work, the status quo will remain. Innocent people will die, and The Lie will live on. But if we do... If we do, the citizens of Israel will have what they've never had before. And so will the Palestinian people. If they rise up from terror and embrace the universal hopes of freedom and democracy, the United States and the rest of the world will be there to help them. We will help them develop the infrastructure necessary to accommodate a free society. We will help them establish the civic institutions necessary to foster a vibrant democracy. Roads, hospitals, bridges, schools, accountable government, the rule of law, economic opportunity. These are things their terrorist leaders have long promised, but never delivered.

On the other hand, the United States has - for a century - helped newly liberated peoples grow into great and prosperous democracies. We did it in Western Europe and Japan after World War II, and Eastern Europe after the Cold War. We are doing it now in Afghanistan and Iraq. And I want to assure the Palestinian people: there is nothing we would like more than to do it again. If you provide the hope, we will provide the help. But if the Palestinian people continue to allow violent men - the murderous minions of The Lie - to speak for them, they will remain terrorized under the boot-heel of evil.

So I say again, to all Israelis and Palestinians who seek peace: "Be not afraid." Your liberation from The Lie is at hand. More blood may be spilled and more tears shed, but a future of freedom is certain. In the words of a 15-year-old girl hiding in Amsterdam less than a month before she was taken to Auschwitz, "I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us... I feel the suffering of millions. "And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more."

One day, Israel - with the United States by her side - will live in freedom, security, and peace. And terrorism will perish from the earth. But until that day to dawns, free men the world over - whether of the cross, the crescent, or the Star of David - will stand with Israel in defiance of evil. Free men will never succumb to the ease or expedience of The Lie because we will never forget that when fighting evil, determination is destiny.

May the God of Abraham continue to bless the United States, Israel, and each and every one of you.'

And in His name: Ahl teerah [Be not afraid]


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