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Legislative Round-Up - February 8, 2008

I. FY09 Foreign Affairs Budget Request; II. Bills and Resolutions; III. APN Cosponsors Hill Event Feb. 12, 2008; IV. Obama on Lebanon

...for the week ending February 8, 2008

I.  FY09 Foreign Affairs Budget Request
II.  Bills and Resolutions
III. APN Cosponsors Hill Event Feb. 12, 2008
IV.  Obama on Lebanon

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I. FY09 FOREIGN AFFAIRS BUDGET REQUEST
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The following is a summary of the Middle East-related elements of the President's FY09 budget request (in the order in which they appear in the budget document):

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Child Survival and Health Programs Fund (CSH) (Total CSH requested: $1,577,830,000; Total CSH requested for the Near East: $18,622,000)
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Jordan: $13,144,000 Yemen: $5,478,000

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Development Assistance (DA) (Total DA requested: $1,639,055,000; Total DA request for the Near East: $48,965,000)
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Morocco: $21,500,000 Yemen: $21,000,000 Middle East Regional: $5,500,000 Algeria: $965,000

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Economic Support Funds (ESF) (Total ESF requested: $3,153,743,000; Total ESF request for Near East: $1,065,064,000 )
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Iraq: $300,000,000 Jordan: $263,547,000 Egypt: $200,000,000 Near East Regional: $87,000,000 West Bank/Gaza: $75,000,000 Lebanon: $67,500,000 Iran: $65,000,000 Middle East Regional Cooperation (MERC): $3,000,000 Trans-Sahara Counter-terrorism Partnership (TSCTP): $4,017,000

The budget document notes the following ESF strategic priorities for ESF funding in the Near East:

Lebanon: "ESF resources will support that country's democratic traditions by establishing credible, transparent governing institutions that exercise authority throughout the country, fostering human rights, supporting civil society organizations, and improving educational and economic opportunities among the Lebanese people. Certain funds will target programs in southern Lebanon, reducing the ability of Hezbollah to divide the populace and erode support for the current Government."

MEPI: "ESF funds efforts to sustain the momentum for democratic reform in the Middle East by encouraging political, economic and educational transformation and the empowerment of women. [Note: this comment is odd, since no funds are earmarked in the request for MEPI.]

West Bank and Gaza: "ESF funds will promote Israeli-Palestinian peace by laying the groundwork for a sustainable Palestinian state through building credible, transparent institutions and improving governance; advancing the rule of law; expanding public health and basic education; building infrastructure; creating jobs; and generating micro-enterprise."

Iran: "ESF funds will support the aspirations of the Iranian people for a democratic and open society by promoting civil society, civic participation, media freedom and freedom of information.

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International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INCLE) (Total INCLE requested: $1,202,061; Total INCLE requested for Near East: $112,250,000 )
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Iraq: $75,000,000  West Bank/Gaza: $25,000,000 Lebanon: $6,000,000 Egypt: $3,000,000 Jordan: $1,500,000 Morocco: $1,000,000 Yemen: $750,000

The budget document notes that INCLE for the West Bank and Gaza will "support efforts to reform the security sector by training and equipping National Security Forces."

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Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) (Total MRA requested: $764,000,000; total MRA requested for Near East: $128,641,000)
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Near East: $98,641,000 Israel: $30,000,000 (for resettlement of Jewish migrants)

The budget documents notes that the MRA for Israel "will maintain longstanding U.S. Government support for relocation and integration of Jewish migrants to Israel."

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International Military Education and Training (IMET) (Total IMET requested: $90,500,000; Total IMET requested for Near East: $16,265,000)
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Jordan: $3,100,000  Lebanon: $2,130,000  Iraq: $2,000,000  Morocco: $1,725,000 Tunisia: $1,700,000  Oman: $1,450,000  Egypt: $1,300,000 Yemen: $1,000,000  Algeria: $800,000 Bahrain: $650,000 Libya: $350,000 Kuwait: $15,000  Qatar: $15,000  Saudi Arabia: $15,000  United Arab Emirates: $15,000

The budget document notes:

"IMET programs focus on Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Lebanon, and Oman, providing the technical training necessary to maintain U.S.-origin equipment and increasing awareness of international norms of human rights and civilian control of the military."

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Foreign Military Financing (FMF) (Total FMF requested: $4,812,000; total FMF requested for Near East: $4,187,617)
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Israel: $2,550,000,000* Egypt: $1,300,000,000 Jordan: $235,000,000 Lebanon: $62,200,000 Bahrain: $19,500,000 Oman: $12,000,000  Morocco: $3,655,000  Yemen: $3,000,000  Tunisia: $2,262,000

*this is consistent with the new aid formula agreed on between Israel and the U.S., whereby Israel's FMF will increase by $50,000,000 each year for the next 10 years.

The budget document notes:

"The FY 2009 FMF request includes an increase for assistance to Israel. In addition, the request supports Lebanon and the Gulf states of Bahrain and Oman, in particular, and is consistent with other requirements to fight the War on Terror and secure Middle East peace."

The document also notes in the FMF highlights:

"The Near East region, to include increased support for Israel; funding for Egypt to foster a modern, well-trained Egyptian military; support for Jordan's force modernization, border surveillance and counterterrorism efforts; and for Bahrain and Oman to support our Gulf Security Dialogue commitment."

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Peacekeeping Operations (PKO)
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MFO (Sinai): $21,750,000

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Contributions for International Peacekeeping Activities (CIPA)
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UNIFIL (Lebanon): $186,400,000 UNDOF (Golan): $7,660,000

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Related Appropriations
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Center for Middle Eastern-Western Dialogue program: $875,000 Israel Arab Scholarship program: $375,000

The budget document notes:

"The Center for Middle Eastern-Western Dialogue was established by Congress to foster the exchange of views and ideas among students and scholars on such topics as post-war Iraq and leadership in the Middle East. The FY 2009 request seeks appropriation authority to make an estimated $875 thousand in interest earnings from the Center's permanent trust fund available to the Steering Committee for operations of the Center."

"The Israeli Arab Scholarship Program fosters mutual understanding by enabling Arab citizens of Israel to study and conduct research in the United States. The program's trust fund will provide an estimated $375 thousand in interest earnings in FY 2009 to support these scholarships."

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II. BILLS AND RESOLUTIONS
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(PALESTINIANS) H. Res. 951: Introduced 1/29/08 by Reps. Garrett (R-NJ), Engel (D-NY), Hensarling (R-TX), and Berkley (D-NV), and as of this writing having a total of 68 cosponsors, "condemning the ongoing Palestinian rocket attacks on Israeli civilians, and for other purposes." Referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs.  The resolution is being actively supported by AIPAC (see: http://aipac.org/For_Hill_Staff/index.asp)

(NON-PALESTINIAN REFUGEES) H. Res. 185: Introduced 2/16/07 by Rep. Nadler (D-NY), and after nearly a year having amassed only 39 cosponsors, "Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives regarding the creation of refugee populations in the Middle East, North Africa, and the Persian Gulf region as a result of human rights violations." The resolution is scheduled to be marked-up in the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on 2/14/08. The resolution is being supported by the American Jewish Congress and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

Many observers have long viewed the Jewish refugee initiatives on the Hill as, in large part, an attempt by some opponents of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process to de-legitimize Palestinian refugee claims and erect a new obstacle to a peace agreement. Given this context, it is not clear why Chairman Lantos (D-CA) has elected to suddenly move this resolution at this time - nearly a year after its introduction and with only a small number of cosponsors. The timing is particularly baffling in the context of the new U.S. engagement in and commitment to the peace process and the avowed desire to strengthen and support President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad.

As noted in the 3/2/07 edition of the Round-Up, the Jewish refugees issue has been raised in every Congress since 2003 (e.g., see H. Res. 848 in the 109th Congress). It is worth noting that until last year, Congress had never held a single hearing dealing with Palestinian refugee issue (although it has devoted a great deal of time and energy to scrutinizing UNRWA operations). This fact rendered somewhat ironic the title of a hearing convened by then-chair of the Middle East Subcommittee Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) on 5/30/03: "The Forgotten Refugees: the Jewish Exodus from Arab Lands." To his credit, on 5/8/07 Middle East Subcommittee chairman Ackerman (D-NY) convened a hearing to examine both the Palestinian and Jewish refugee issues (and notably, at that hearing a case was made that the claims of Jewish refugees from Arab countries far outstrip any claims made by Palestinian refugees, both in terms of the numbers of refugees and the value of properties lost). Chairman Ackerman's thoughtful opening statement can be read in full in the 5/11/07 edition of the Round-Up.

The legislative approach of advocates of the Jewish refugees issue has evolved over time, with the more recent versions of the resolution, including H. Res. 185, broadening the message to embrace all non-Palestinian refugees in the Middle East, rather than just Jewish refugees. However, it is not at all clear what other refugee populations the resolutions are referring to, and lobbying materials supporting H. Res. 185 and previous versions make it clear that the real focus of the resolution is, exclusively, Jewish refugees.  For the record, APN addressed this issue in the Briefing Book for the 110th Congress, urging Members of Congress to:

- support efforts to restart a political process that can lead to resolution of all issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including refugees;

- reject actions that seek to prejudice the outcome of final status negotiations on this issue, bearing in mind the broad acceptance that has already been achieved, informally, of the notion that any solution to the refugee problem will have to be found inside a Palestinian state, rather than inside Israel;

- recognize the existence, too, of claims by Jewish refugees from Arab countries, bearing in mind that resolution of such claims is not an Israeli-Palestinian issue, but rather a bilateral issue between Israel and the countries these Jews fled-it therefore must be dealt with in the context of normalization of ties between Israel and the Arab world; and

- reject efforts to make resolution of claims by Jewish refugees from Arab countries an obstacle in the path of Israeli-Palestinian peace or to hold Palestinian refugees hostage to this issue.  The briefing book is available online at: http://www.peacenow.org/features.asp?rid=&cid=3361

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III. APN COSPONSORS HILL EVENT FEB. 12, 2008
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On 2/12/08 there will be a roundtable discussion on the Hill with leading experts on Middle East affairs including perspectives on Israeli, Palestinian, Egyptian, US and UN policy. The event, which is open to the public, is entitled: "Re-Calculating Annapolis: Understanding the Crisis in Gaza and Southern Israel and Its Impact on the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process." The event is being cosponsored by Americans for Peace Now, Churches for Middle East Peace, Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, the Israel Policy Forum, the Arab American Institute, the American Task Force on Palestine and the Foundation for Middle East Peace.

The event will be from noon-2pm in Rayburn House Office Building, Room 2200. To RSVP for this event, please send an email to: Feb12eventrsvp@gmail.com.

Participants will be:

Daniel Levy, Senior Fellow and Director of the Middle East Policy Initiative of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation, lead Israeli drafter of the Geneva Initiative, former senior policy adviser in the Israeli Prime Minister's office.

Ghaith al-Omari, Advocacy Director for the American Task Force on Palestine, lead Palestinian drafter of the Geneva Initiative, former foreign policy advisor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Helena Cobban, a veteran writer and author on Israeli-Arab and Palestinian issues, currently an advisor to the Friends Committee on National Legislation and publisher of the "Just World News" weblog, former Beirut-based correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor.

Robert Malley, Middle East and North Africa Program Director for the International Crisis Group, former Special Assistant to President Clinton for Arab-Israeli Affairs.

Andrew Whitley, Director of the Representative Office of UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

Amb. Philip Wilcox (Moderator), President of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, former U.S. Consul General in Jerusalem, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Middle Eastern Affairs, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research, and Ambassador at Large and Coordinator for Counter Terrorism.

Please note that this event meets the criteria of a "widely attended event," as defined under the new House ethics rules: the event is open to the public and is being actively advertised to an audience of non-Hill staff, with the expectation that more than 25 non-Hill staff will attend. If staffers have further questions, they should contact the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct at (202) 225-7103.

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IV. OBAMA ON LEBANON
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On 2/4/08 Senator Obama (D-IL) inserted a statement into the record entitled "Remembering Former President Rafiq Hariri." The statement is included below, in its entirety.

"Madam President, the continued deadlock over Lebanon's Presidency brings further instability to an important country in the Middle East. We cannot idly stand by as an emerging democracy whose people have long ties to the United States teeters on the verge of collapse. The United States must turn the page on the Bush administration's failed Lebanon policy and replace hollow rhetoric with sustained diplomatic engagement. We must work with our European and Arab allies to foster a new Lebanese consensus around a stable and democratic Lebanon.

"With the approach of the third anniversary of the assassination of former Prime Minister Hariri, our thoughts are with the Lebanese people as they struggle against extremist forces and continued intervention in their national affairs by Syria and Iran. Across the broader Middle East, the failures of the Bush administration are everywhere manifest. Instead of defeating extremists and elevating the cause of freedom, the administration's Middle East record includes an unfinished war in Afghanistan; a war in Iraq that should have never been authorized that has cost us precious lives, trillions of dollars, the readiness of our military, and our standing in the world; a too-long neglected Israeli-Palestinian peace process; and an emboldened Iran taking advantage of waning American influence throughout the region, and our refusal to use direct diplomacy to advance our interests.

"Add to this string of failures the state of affairs in deeply divided Lebanon, once heralded by the President as a stepping stone in his 'forward march of freedom.'' During its first term, the Bush administration largely ignored the country. It took the brutal assassination of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in February of 2005 to wake it from its stupor. At that time, the administration acted appropriately and pressed the Syrians to end their oppressive presence in Lebanon and called for an international effort to identify and punish those responsible for the assassination.

"But, as with many parts of the world, the administration trumpeted the Cedar Revolution as its own success when the real credit should have gone to the people of Lebanon. And, as is often the case, there was no follow-through by the administration to consolidate democratic gains, and momentum was lost. "As a result, the hope and opportunity for change that characterized Lebanon 2 years ago has been replaced by cynicism and renewed civil strife. In that time, Lebanon has witnessed a string of political assassinations aimed at critics of Syrian influence that threaten to undermine the very foundations of its democracy; a devastating war between Israel and Hizbullah; a deepening political standoff between the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and the opposition; and a long and bloody confrontation between Lebanon's army and an al-Qaida-inspired group of extremists.

"It is time to engage in diplomatic efforts to help build a new Lebanese consensus. These efforts should focus on the need for electoral reform, an end to the current corrupt patronage system, and the development of the economy so as to provide for a fair distribution of services, opportunities, and employment.

"The United States can play a positive role in helping achieve this consensus. We should support the efforts of our Arab allies and work with them to promote compromise among Lebanon's disparate groups. We should support the implementation of all U.N. reforms including the tribunal established to try those accused of assassinating former Prime Minister Hariri. We should work with our European allies and the Sarkozy government in France in calling for an all-party intra-Lebanese dialogue. Finally, we must make clear that part of any national compact must be the disarmament of all militias.

"Moreover, we must support the implementation of U.N. Security Council resolutions that reinforce Lebanon's sovereignty, especially resolution 1701 banning the provision of arms to Hizbullah, which is violated by Iran and Syria. As we push for national consensus, we should continue to support the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Siniora, strengthen the Lebanese army, and insist on the disarming of Hizbullah, before it drags Lebanon into another unnecessary war. And it is vital that we work with the international community and private sector to rebuild Lebanon and get its economy back on its feet.

"As the tragic events of the past few years make clear, what happens in Lebanon affects other American priorities in the region, including the fight against al-Qaida and other extremists, as well as opportunities for regional stability and peace. To neglect Lebanon would not only serve our interests badly, it would fail a nation whose people have suffered too much for too long a nation that could now be on the edge of a new precipice."


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