I. FY08 ForOps -- Additional Bill and Report Text; II. FY08 ForOps on the House Floor; III. AIPAC and the ForOps bill; IV. Other Bills and Resolutions; V. New Aid Formula, More Aid For Israel
APN Legislative Round-Up for the week ending June 22, 2007
I. FY08 ForOps -- Additional Bill and Report Text
II. FY08 ForOps on the House Floor
III. AIPAC and the ForOps bill
IV. Other Bills and Resolutions
V. New Aid Formula, More Aid For Israel
================================================= I. FY08 FOROPS -- ADDITIONAL BILL AND REPORT TEXT
Last week's Round-Up included a summary of Middle East-related provisions in the FY08 State-Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, based on text obtained prior to the bill being formally filed and the final text officially available. The full bill and report text have subsequently been filed. Provisions included in those texts (and not covered in last week's Round-Up) are:
WEST BANK/GAZA PROGRAM (Sec. 669): This perennial provision has been amended, with an additional requirement added to the already extensive list of prohibitions, restrictions, conditions, and vetting/auditing requirements on the program. The additional prohibition states that none of the funds made available in this Act or any prior act (i.e., funds in the "pipeline") may be made available for West Bank and Gaza programs until the Secretary of State "reports on the benchmarks that have been established for security assistance for the West Bank and Gaza and reports on the extent of Palestinian compliance with such benchmarks." This section also now requires that not later than 180 days of the enactment of this act, the Secretary of State shall submit an update to the report required under section 2106 of Public Law 109-12. (This refers to a provision in the 2006 Omnibus Appropriations bill, passed in May 2005, requiring far-reaching reporting on Palestinian security services and reform of those services, PA efforts to dismantle terrorist infrastructure and root out terrorists, PA efforts to stop incitement, PA efforts to further democracy and rule of law, PA cooperation in investigating the finances of Yasser Arafat, and the amount of assistance pledged and provided to the PA by other donors.)
IRAN: The bill text includes a new section, Sec. 699c, entitled "Programs to Improve Democracy, the Rule of Law, and Governance in Iran." The provision stipulates that $50 million "should be made available for programs to improve democracy, the rule of law, and governance in Iran."
IRAN: The bill includes language (as it has in previous years) directing that a portion of U.S. assistance for the Government of the Russian Federation be withheld until the President certifies that, among other things, Russian government has "terminated implementation of arrangements to provide Iran with technical expertise, training, technology, or equipment necessary to develop a nuclear reactor, related nuclear research facilities or programs, or ballistic missile capability..."
UN: The report directs the Department of State to submit a report no later than August 15, 2007 on the voting practices of United Nations member states for the current and past 3 years on matters regarding the reform of the United Nations, Israel, and Darfur.
MIDDLE EAST BROADCASTING: The report states that the Committee continues to support efforts to expand the audience for U.S. broadcasting in the Arab and Muslim world, noting that the recommendation includes $88,362,000 for television and radio broadcasting in Arabic, including Middle East Television and Radio Sawa. The report goes on to state that the Committee is "deeply troubled by several programming decisions at Alhurra television during the period November 2006 through March 2007. On more than one occasion, the network aired live, and without opposing comment, statements by Hezbollah and Hamas leaders that were hateful, anti-American, and anti-Israel. The Network's coverage of the Holocaust Denial Conference also evidenced a lack of journalistic judgment and sensitivity." The report goes on to state that these incidents "call into question the management and overall journalistic philosophy of the Network's leadership." As a result, the Committee recommendation has deferred FY08 funding for Alhurra's programming, and includes funding for archiving and translation by an independent entity of Alhurra transmissions, and a requirement that transcripts be made publicly available - steps the Committee believes "should enhance the transparency and accountability of Alhurra." The Committee also has requested reviews of, reports on, and recommendations regarding improvements to Alhurra's editorial policies from the Inspector General of the Department of State and the Broadcasting Board of Governors.
ISRAEL ESF PROGRAM: The report includes the following language (added in the full committee markup of the bill):
"The Committee is aware of negotiations between the Government of Israel and the Department of State on a new bilateral aid agreement between the United States and Israel. The Committee expects to consider the new framework for assistance to Israel in the fiscal year 2009 appropriations cycle. The committee is also aware of the success of the Binational Research and Development Funds that were established in the mid 1970s to foster science and technology cooperation between the United States and Israel and encourages the Administration to request additional funds in the future to increase the endowments for these funds through a multi-year process."
MIDDLE EAST REGIONAL COOPERATION PROGRAM: The report notes Committee support for the Middle East Regional Cooperation Program, "a peer-reviewed competitive grants program that is specifically focused on promoting technical cooperation between Arab and Israeli scientists, students, and communities on topics relevant to development in the Middle East, plays an important role in fostering Arab-Israeli cooperation." The report notes that the recommendation includes $5 million, $1 million above the President's request.
CONFLICT RESOLUTION AND RECONCILIATION PROGRAMS: The report notes that the Committee recommendation includes $12 million for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation Programs, of which the Committee recommends that not less than $11 million be used to establish a new reconciliation program, the Middle East People-to-People Coexistence Program.
INTERNATIONAL NARCOTICS CONTROL AND LAW ENFORCEMENT (INCLE): The report notes that the recommendation includes $2.5 million in INCLE for Jordan ($1 million above the request), and notes that Jordan is "an essential and unwavering partner and ally of the United States." The report also states that the recommendation includes $400,000 in INCLE for UAE, and does not include any INCLE for Lebanon, noting that the FY07 Supplemental included $60 million in INCLE for Lebanon.
INTERNATIONAL MILITARY AND EDUCATIONAL TRAINING (IMET): The Report discusses joint Israel-Egypt training in the U.S. since 2000, stating that "The Committee is encouraged by this noting that soldiers who train together are more likely to foster cooperation in future operations. The Committee urges the Department of State to establish a program to promote such joint training."
EGYPT: The report discusses the new bill language making $200 million of Egypt's FMF conditional on three specific certification requirements. The report notes that "The Committee is concerned that Egypt has failed to take adequate steps to promote and protect human rights. Recent actions encroaching on the independence of the Judiciary, including Egypt's highest court, and abuses by the police in detaining and arresting demonstrators have called into question Egypt's commitment in this area. The Committee is also concerned about the smuggling of weapons and illicit goods into Gaza through tunnels and such networks along Egypt's border with Gaza. Therefore, the Committee conditions $200,000,000 of the $1,300,000,000 in military assistance for Egypt to a certification by the Secretary of State that the Government of Egypt is taking concrete and measurable steps to address these concerns and reports to the Committee. The Committee expects the report to contain the following elements: (1) steps towards enactment of a new judicial law, including the principal components of the law and the separation of the budget of the judiciary from that of the Ministry of Justice; (2) steps to review criminal procedures and train police leadership in modern policing to curb abuses including training on handling mass demonstrations, crowd control, arrest procedures and mass detentions, on human rights and on criminal procedures and due process; and (3) steps to detect and destroy the smuggling network into Gaza including but the number of arrests made, amount of illegal cash seized, number of individuals sentenced, number of tunnels detected and number of tunnels destroyed."
II. FY08 FOROPS ON THE HOUSE FLOOR
On June 21st the House opened debate on HR 2764, the FY08 State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill (for full details of the Middle East-related provisions of this bill, please see last week's edition of the Round-Up). A little after midnight the House passed the bill by largely party-line vote of: 241-178 (14 Democrats crossed party lines to vote against the measure, and 31 Republicans crossed party lines to vote in favor). Action on the bill now moves to the Senate.
A number of Middle East-related amendments to the bill were offered on the House floor. These were:
No amendments specifically focused on Israel were offered. A planned amendment from Rep. Price (R-GA), regarding funding for Israel (of unspecified intent) was not introduced.
At the same time, Israel funding came into play in efforts to cut overall spending levels in the bill. The first attempt to impose such a reduction -- H. Amdt. 383, which proposed an across-the-board reduction, introduced by Rep. Price (R-GA) -- failed by a vote of 168-252. The second attempt to impose such a reduction -- H. Amdt. 384, introduced by Rep. Musgrave -- tried a slightly different approach, proposing an across-the-board-reduction on all appropriations in the bill "other than assistance for Israel." Notwithstanding the carve-out for Israel aid, the amendment still failed, although by a slightly better margin of 179-241.
It is hard going these days for Members of Congress hoping to score points by showing toughness vis a vis aid to the Palestinians, given that U.S. assistance to the Palestinians -- either in the form of aid to the PA, the PLO, or the Palestinian people via NGO-run programs for the West Bank and Gaza -- is already subject to such extensive and overlapping prohibitions, restrictions, conditions, vetting and oversight requirements, and audits that it seems impossible to come up with any truly original or new requirement to impose.
Apparently undeterred by this situation, Rep. Pence (R-IN), ranking minority member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs' Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, bravely proposed an amendment initially intended to "prohibit the bill's $64 million in aid to the Palestinian government in the West Bank and Gaza, unless the president certifies that it renounces terrorism, acknowledges the existence of Israel and abides by previous agreements reached between the Palestinians and Israel" -- a somewhat baffling demand, since (a) the bill does not provide any aid for the PA (such aid is barred by law), and (b) nobody has for a moment suggested that Fatah or President Abbas do not already affirmatively meet these conditions. Perhaps for these or other reasons, Pence elected to re-work the amendment and eventually introduced H. Amdt. 388, "to prohibit funds to provide direct aid to the Palestinian Authority, except as otherwise provided by existing law." The House overwhelming endorsed this entirely redundant amendment by a vote of 390-30. (U.S. law has long prohibited direct assistance to the Palestinian Authority -- law dating back to the Arafat era, when Congress' chief concern was accountability and corruption; it should be recalled that Congress took the somewhat baffling step of strengthening this prohibition AFTER Arafat's death and the election of President Abbas, making it even harder to provide direct aid to the PA under President Abbas and with Salaam Fayyad in charge of the Finance Ministry than it had been when Arafat was in charge). Another member of Congress, Rep. Lamborn (R-CO), did, in fact, come up with a genuinely novel, if somewhat surreal, approach to further restricting assistance to the Palestinian people. He proposed an amendment (H. Amdt. 391) "to prohibit use of funds for availability to or through any individual, private or government entity, or educational institution that does not expressly recognize the right of the State of Israel to exist." The amendment was withdrawn by Rep. Lamborn, by unanimous consent.
An planned amendment from Rep. Pence (R-IN), ranking minority member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs' Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, regarding a prohibition of funds for U.S. contributions to UNRWA, was not introduced. Given that the centerpiece of the Bush Administration's current response to the Gaza/West Bank crisis is a $40 million contribution to UNRWA, there is speculation that the Administration may have prevailed on Rep. Pence to refrain from attacking UNRWA at this particular time.
Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA) offered an amendment (H. Amdt. 370) to strike section 699 from the bill. Section 699, as discussed in last week's Round-Up, is new language barring disbursal of $200 million of Egypt's military assistance until specific conditions (related to democracy, security services reform, and dealing with tunnels on the Egypt-Gaza border) are met. The amendment was defeated by a vote of 74-343. An amendment planned by Rep. Weiner (D-NY) to effectively strike $200 million in military aid to Egypt was not introduced. In addition, an amendment planned by Rep. Fortenberry (R-NE) regarding Egypt's military aid and border security efforts (no further information was available about the intent of the amendment) was likewise not introduced.
UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
Congressional outrage over the conduct of the UN Human Rights Council and its focus on Israel found an outlet in H. Amdt. 379, proposed by Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), ranking minority member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The amendment, "to prohibit availability of funds for use by the Department of State as a contribution for the United Nations Human Rights Council," was agreed to by a voice vote. <!--[if !supportLineBreakNewLine]--> <!--[endif]--> SAUDI ARABIA ---------------------- In what has become a perennial exercise, Congress took the brave step of adopting an amendment (H. Amdt. 389) prohibiting the use of funds for assistance to Saudi Arabia. As in previous years, the amendment -- offered each year by Rep. Weiner (D-NY), who this year was accompanied by Reps. Crowley (D-NY), Ferguson (R-NJ), and Berkley (D-NV) -- amounts to little more than grandstanding at the expense of U.S. interests, since the U.S. does not provide "assistance" to Saudi Arabia. The only funding in this account comes under a very small program to bring Saudi military officers for training in the U.S. (a program that is viewed by the U.S. military as being of direct strategic value to the U.S., at a very low cost) and other very limited expenditures related to counter-terrorism activities. Indeed, according to the sponsors of the amendment, the grand total of U.S. funding for Saudi Arabia programs in FY05 and FY06 was a whopping $2.53 million.
A press release circulated by the sponsors of the amendment notes that the amendment "closes a loophole the Bush Administration has used in each of the last three years to ignore the will of Congress to cut off this aid." It complains that this loophole "allows the President to send as much anti-terror funding as he wants--without issuing a public certification--as long as it is used to 'deter terrorism'" and explains that the amendment will "close that loophole for good" -- meaning that even if the President determines that the national security interests of the United States are at risk, he cannot fund any such programs.
As in past years, the amendment passed without difficulty (last year it passed by a vote of 312-97, this year by a voice vote), with once again nobody willing to take the risk of appearing to support an "aid program" that does not, in fact, exist.
In an amendment that had less to do with Syria and more to do with partisan point-scoring, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) introduced an amendment (H. Amdt. 390) to bar Speaker Pelosi -- and ONLY Speaker Pelosi -- from traveling in an official capacity to Syria or any other countries that are state sponsors of terrorism. The amendment, which got a lot of play on the blogs, was an effort to re-ignite controversy over Speaker Pelosi's (bipartisan) trip to Syria earlier this year. The amendment was rejected by a largely bipartisan vote of 84-337.
Two planned amendments from Rep. Shadegg (R-AZ), both related to Iran, were not introduced. The first would have prohibited funds to countries providing assistance to Iran related to nuclear and missile programs, and the second would have prohibited funds for countries providing refined petroleum to Iran.
III. AIPAC AND THE FOROPS BILL
Given the very serious partisan differences over key provisions of the FY08 ForOps bill -- differences entirely unrelated to funding for Israel and the Middle East (and focused most notably on provisions related to funding for programs that provide family planning services) -- it was clear from the outset the final vote on the bill would be a largely partisan one. This posed some problems for AIPAC, which strongly supported passage of the bill and which generally "scores" voting on ForOps.
Anticipating this problem, AIPAC circulated a note to the press and supporters earlier this week seemingly implying that a "no" vote would not be held against Republicans. The note reiterated strong AIPAC support for the bill but also reminded people about "the 'Mexico City' (family planning) language that is in the bill, and the associated political wrangling that will take place this year as a result. Since this is the fist (sic) time in over a decade that the Dems are in control of the House and are writing the bill, it includes some language amending the current prohibition on U.S. funds going to any group that is involved in abortion in any way by allowing those groups access to U.S. funded contraceptives. Some Republicans are adamantly opposed to the inclusion of this language. As a result, the overall vote on the bill may be somewhat less overwhelming that in recent years. For those of you who have been in town for sometime, you will recall this being a regular occurrence and nothing a (sic) major import."
Also anticipating this problem, Republican leadership in the House circulated a memo to Republican members on June 21st stating, "Please advise your boss that Leadership will be voting NO on final passage of the Democrats' State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, and strongly encourage Republican Members to do the same...NOTE: Members are advised that the Leadership has drafted a letter to AIPAC affirming Republican support for Israel funding, not withstanding final passage of this bill. This letter will be available for Members to sign at the Leadership Desk on the floor tonight..."
IV. OTHER BILLS AND RESOLUTIONS
(PEACE PROCESS/MIDDLE EAST ENVOY) This week an additional three Senators signed on as cosponsors to the Feinstein-Lugar resolution, S. Res. 224, which is being strongly supported by APN, along with other Jewish groups (Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, Israel Policy Forum), Arab groups (Arab American Institute, American Task Force on Palestine) and Christian groups (Churches for Middle East Peace, Catholic Bishops Conference). The new cosponsors are Lott (R-MS), Leahy (D-VT), and Reed (D-VI). Also this week, an additional 8 House members signed on as cosponsors to H. Res. 143, a resolution introduced early this year by Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) and strongly supported by the pro-Israel, pro-peace community. Both of these resolutions were on the top of the advocacy agenda of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, which brought members to the Hill Monday and Tuesday over a hundred meetings with Members of Congress and staff.
(IRAN) H. Con. Res. 21: On 6/20/07 the House voted to suspend the rules and pass H. Con. Res. 21, "Calling on the United Nations Security Council to charge Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with violating the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and United Nations Charter because of his calls for the destruction of the State of Israel." The measure passed by a vote of 411 - 2, with 11 voting "present."
(JERUSALEM) H. Con. Res. 171: Introduced 6/20/07 by Rep. Tancredo (R-CO) and no cosponsors, "Expressing the sense of Congress with respect to relocating the United States Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem." Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
(REGIONAL) H. Res. 503: Introduced 6/20/07 by Rep. Baird (D-WA), "Commending the Middle East Investment Initiative." Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
V. NEW AID FORMULA, MORE AID FOR ISRAEL
During the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Olmert to Washington this week, President Bush announced that the U.S. and Israel had agreed on a new framework for U.S. assistance for Israel over the next decade. Over the past decade, U.S. aid to Israel has been based on mutually agreed-on formula whereby U.S. economic assistance was decreased annually, in tandem with annual increases to military assistance. That formula ended this year, when U.S. economic aid to Israel reached zero, and U.S. military aid for Israel reached $2.4 billion. Under the new plan, starting next year U.S. military aid to Israel will increase annually by $50 million, to reach $2.9 billion at the end of ten years, with Israel still permitted to spend slightly more than a quarter of this assistance in Israel (normally military assistance must be spent in the U.S.).
It should be noted that this is in effect a "gentleman's agreement," since it is Congress, not the President, which controls the actual amount that is appropriated in foreign aid for any country. In addition, it should be recalled that no sitting Congress cannot mandate future appropriations (i.e., the current Congress cannot legally commit a future Congress to future expenditures). That said, there is no reason to imagine that future U.S. Administrations and Congresses would not respect the agreed-on formula, as they have in the past with respect to assistance for Israel.
For more information, contact APN Government Relations Director Lara Friedman at 202/728-1893, or at email@example.com.