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APN Legislative Round-Up - January 9, 2009

1. Bills and Resolutions; 2. APN on the Gaza Resolutions; 3. APN Message to Congress: Support Israel by Supporting U.S. Leadership and a Ceasefire; 4. APN Position Paper Regarding a Ceasefire; 5. House Appropriations Committee Announces New ForOps Subcommittee Members

...for the week ending January 9, 2009

1. Bills and Resolutions
2. APN on the Gaza Resolutions
3. APN Message to Congress: Support Israel by Supporting U.S. Leadership and a Ceasefire 
4. APN Position Paper Regarding a Ceasefire
5. House Appropriations Committee Announces New ForOps Subcommittee Members

1. Bills and Resolutions

(Gaza Crisis) S. Res. 10: Introduced 1/8/09 by Sen. Reid (D-NV) and 31 cosponsors, "recognizing the right of Israel to defend itself against attacks from Gaza and reaffirming the United States' strong support for Israel in its battle with Hamas, and supporting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process." Submitted in the Senate 1/8/09, considered, and agreed to without amendment and with a preamble by Unanimous Consent.

(Gaza Crisis) H. Res. 34: Introduced 1/8/09 by Reps. Pelosi (D-CA) and 11 cosponsors, "Recognizing Israel's right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza, reaffirming the United States' strong support for Israel, and supporting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process." Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Brought to the floor 1/9/09 under suspension of the rules and passed by a vote of 390-5, with 22 voting "present." Members voting "no" were: Kucinich (D-OH), Moore (D-WI), Paul (R-TX), Rahall (D-WV) and Waters (D-CA). Voting "present" were: Abercrombie (D-HI), Blumenauer (D-OR), DeFazio (D-OR), Dingell (D-MI), Edwards (D-MD), Ellison (D-MN), Farr (D-CA), Grijalva (D-AZ), Hinchey (D-NY), Johnson (D-GA), Kilpatrick (D-MI), Lee (D-CA), McCollum (D-MN), McDermott (D-WA), Miller (D-CA), Moran (D-VA), Olver (D-MA), Payne (D-NJ), Sanchez (D-CA), Stark (D-CA), Watson (D-CA), Woolsey (D-CA).

(Gaza Crisis) S. Res. 6: Introduced 1/6/09 by Sen. Vitter (R-LA) and no cosponsors, "expressing solidarity with Israel in Israel's defense against terrorism in the Gaza Strip." Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.

(Iran) HR 334: Introduced 1/8/09 by Rep. Lee (D-CA), "To provide for the appointment of a high-level United States representative or special envoy for Iran for the purpose of easing tensions and normalizing relations between the United States and Iran." Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

(Iran) H. Res. 33: Introduced 1/8/09 by Rep. Jackson-Lee (D-TX) and no cosponsors, "Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the Government of Iran's lack of protection for internationally recognized human rights creates poor conditions for religious freedom in the Islamic Republic of Iran." Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

2. APN on the Gaza Resolutions

The 111th Congress opened this week to the backdrop of the ongoing crisis in Gaza. Consistent with expectations of all Hill observers, one of the first "action items" in both houses of Congress was thus a non-binding resolution addressing the crisis, in the form of S. Res. 10 and H. Res. 34. The drafting of these resolutions offers an interesting glimpse into how the 111th Congress may be different than the 110th and its predecessors.  The result is something that, while still not texts that APN or most organizations associated with the pro-peace left would have written, are still extremely promising.

In the past, at a time like this -- with Israel engaged in military action that is generating widespread criticism, with Israel at least publicly rejecting calls for a ceasefire, and with various outside organizations urging Congress to adopt hardline positions regarding the crisis -- Congress would likely have adopted a hardline statement, drafted in all probability by an outside group, consisting of little more than text blaming Hamas and expressions of steadfast solidarity with and support for Israel.

In this instance, however, this is not what happened. Hill sources confirm the text of these resolutions was drafted by Congressional staff, not any outside group. To the extent that outside groups had input into the text, Hill sources are clear that it was in the form of appropriate consultation after the base text was complete.  The resulting text includes many positive, constructive elements advocated by APN and other groups on the Left -- elements that would likely have been omitted in the past. These include an explicit call for the President to support a ceasefire, references to Palestinian humanitarian suffering, and repeated endorsement of the peace process; indeed, both resolutions explicitly mention the peace process up front, in their titles. APN is extremely pleased and encouraged that much of our thinking and concerns are evident in the final text of the resolutions.

Following the House vote on H. Res. 34, APN issued the following press release:

APN Addresses Congressional Gaza Resolutions; Calls for US Leadership

Washington, D.C - This week both houses of Congress passed non-binding resolutions regarding the current crisis in Israel and Gaza. Commenting on the resolutions, APN President and CEO Debra DeLee said:

"Since the beginning of this crisis, APN has been calling for U.S. leadership and engagement to end the hostilities and achieve a ceasefire that will be both durable and sustainable. Unfortunately, to date the Bush Administration's efforts have been lacking. Earlier this week, we sent a message to Congress, telling members that what Israel needs now is not just expressions of support and solidarity, but active U.S.-led diplomacy to end the fighting. We hope that with the passage of these resolutions, which contain explicit calls for the Administration to work actively to support precisely the kind of ceasefire we have been advocating, the Bush Administration will finally decide to get serious."

"APN this week also urged Congress to recognize that even the most durable, sustainable ceasefire is not an alternative to a diplomatic process that seeks to deal with the core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is, at its heart, a political conflict. In the absence of a credible effort to reach a long-term solution that meets the needs and aspirations of both sides, extremists will inevitably draw popular support and will invariably resort, once again, to violence. We hope that the strong statement of Congressional support for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process contained in these resolutions signals Congress' readiness to support President-elect Barack Obama in launching a new era of sustained, serious, U.S.-led efforts to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace and to establish two states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and with security."

APN is a Jewish, Zionist organization dedicated to enhancing Israel's security through peace and to supporting the Israeli Peace Now movement.

To read APN policy statements on the Gaza crisis, see: http://peacenow.org/updates.asp?rid=0&cid=5710

3. APN Message to Congress: Support Israel by Supporting U.S. Leadership and a Ceasefire

On 1/5/08 APN sent a message to all Hill offices regarding the Gaza crisis. This message was issued in parallel with an Action Alert with an almost identical text.

APN's message was framed in the context of an earlier AIPAC Action Alert calling on supporters to urge Members of Congress to make statements in support of Israel, but including in its background and suggested talking points no mention of a ceasefire. APN's message was not linked to the resolutions that would be introduced later in the week; indeed, at the time the message was drafted/sent, no text of those resolutions was available. The fact that the resolutions subsequently included an explicit call for a ceasefire we hope reflects, among on things, the fact that staff and members found our position persuasive.

APN Message to the Hill

In recent days, AIPAC has been calling on Members of Congress to issue statements supporting "Israel's right to defend its citizens from terrorism." Unfortunately, their call fails to mention any need to work to end the crisis. This approach is regrettable. What Israel needs now is not just expressions of support and solidarity, but active diplomacy, led by the United States, to end the fighting.  The firing of rockets and mortar rounds from Gaza into Israel is absolutely unacceptable, as is the use of tunnels to import more and heavier weapons into Gaza. Israel has the right to protect its citizens from such attacks and threats. But Israel has learned through painful experience that military force alone cannot eliminate these threats.  While the IDF can achieve short-term tactical gains in Gaza, it cannot destroy popular support for Hamas, stop all rockets from falling, or force the release of Gilad Shalit. Indeed, the ongoing military escalation risks playing into the hands of extremists. It increases dangers to soldiers and civilians -- Israeli and Palestinian -- and risks getting Israel bogged down in an open-ended mission in Gaza. It also raises the specter of a two-front war, should Hizballah decide to renew conflict on Israel's northern border, with all the challenges to the IDF and danger to Israeli civilians that this would entail.  Both Israel and Hamas have an interest in stopping the escalation and re-establishing the ceasefire, but neither side wants to be seen as being the first to blink.  The international community, led by the United States, must provide the diplomatic and political cover necessary for both sides to step back from the brink.  Americans for Peace Now -- an organization devoted to achieving real security and peace for Israel -- urges members of Congress to issue statements supporting Israel. But real statements of support should do more than merely endorse Israel's right to self-defense. Rather, they must also reflect Israel's right to long-term stability and security, which only diplomacy can provide. Statements supportive of Israel must therefore include:  - a clear recognition that a ceasefire is in the vital interests of both Israel and America; - an urgent call for the Bush Administration to show real leadership and spare no effort to work with Israel, regional parties, and other members of the international community to establish a new ceasefire; and - a demand that any new ceasefire be accompanied by efforts to lay the groundwork for the kind of changes on the ground and the establishment of a political process that can avoid a return to military action in the future.  We are not naive. We recognize the extraordinary difficulty Israel faces in achieving any sustainable ceasefire agreement, formal or informal, with an extremist, ideologically-motivated organization like Hamas. But the painful lessons of the 2006 Israel-Hizballah War must not be forgotten. Any resolution to this crisis will require Israel and Hamas to engage eventually, directly or indirectly, to establish a ceasefire. The real questions are:  * How many more Israelis and Palestinians will die or be wounded in the interim? * How much less international sympathy Israel will have when the ceasefire is being negotiated? * How much bigger will the disaster on the ground be, both in Israel and Gaza, once a ceasefire is achieved? * How much damage will have been done to the credibility and viability of the peace process and the Israeli and Palestinian peace camps? * And perhaps most importantly, will a ceasefire this time be accompanied by both the kind of changes on the ground and the establishment of some sort of political process necessary for it to succeed?  For the sake of Israelis in southern Israel, who are again suffering as renewed rocket fire sows fear and disrupts their lives, and for the sake of Palestinian civilians in Gaza, whose extraordinarily difficult lives are worsening daily, a new ceasefire must be established. And this time, a ceasefire must be accompanied by tangible improvements in the humanitarian situation and the establishment of a political process that can prevent the re-emergence of violence in the longer term. Absent these elements -- as has been the case thus far -- a ceasefire will once again be little more than a temporary pause in the violence, during which militants have the opportunity and incentive to re-arm, re-trench, and prepare for the next round.

4. APN Position Paper Regarding a Ceasefire

On 1/8/08, APN distributed to the Hill and the broader policy community a paper laying out the requirements of a durable, sustainable ceasefire. It should be emphasized that this analysis does not in any way suggest that these requirements are conditions that must be satisfied before a ceasefire can be achieved, but rather lays out the arrangements that must be put in place once the shooting stops, to help ensure that it does not simply start again.

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What a "Durable, Sustainable Ceasefire" Requires

Today, it has become common to hear reference to the need for any new ceasefire to be "durable and sustainable," but there has been little discussion about what that would mean.

APN supported the establishment of an Israel-Hamas ceasefire in early 2008, and we do so again in the current conflict. APN has also consistently argued that for any ceasefire to be durable and sustainable, it must be bolstered by arrangements that address key interests and concerns of the parties. This position reflects a pragmatic assessment of what will make a ceasefire work in the long-term.

The need to achieve a ceasefire -- an end to Israel's military engagement in Gaza matched by a total cessation of all rocket fire into Israel from Gaza -- is urgent. Once in place, arrangements to bolster that ceasefire -- to make it durable and sustainable -- must then be put into place quickly, recognizing that absent these arrangements a return to violence is almost inevitable. It is not too early for diplomats to be preparing such arrangements.

Finally, it must be stressed that even the most durable, sustainable ceasefire is not an alternative to a diplomatic process that seeks to deal with the core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is, at its heart, a political conflict. In the absence of a credible effort to reach a long-term solution that meets the needs and aspirations of both sides, extremists will inevitably draw popular support and will invariably resort, once again, to violence. This applies equally to efforts to resolve intra-Palestinian political competition.

Elements Required for a Ceasefire to be Sustainable and Durable

1) For a ceasefire to succeed it must address Israel's central security interests: ending the firing of rockets into Israel and preventing Hamas from rebuilding its capacity to threaten Israel in the future.

* A ceasefire agreement must be bolstered by a mechanism through which Hamas can be held accountable for any rockets fired after the ceasefire.

* Robust arrangements must be put into place to interdict weapons smuggling into Gaza, including arrangements to deal effectively with the problem of tunnels between Gaza and Egypt and to address weapons smuggled into Gaza by sea. In all likelihood, the ceasefire will require the establishment of oversight mechanisms with a robust international component.

2) For a ceasefire to succeed it must also address the humanitarian needs of Gazans as well as providing for Hamas's central political interest: demonstrating to the people of Gaza that it has improved their lives.

* A ceasefire agreement must be bolstered by tangible changes on the ground in terms of the opening of crossing points and movement and access for people and goods into and out of Gaza.

* Such arrangements will have to be bolstered by oversight mechanisms, with an international component to address Israeli security concerns related to movement of weapons and terrorists. These will also be important in alleviating Palestinian concerns that crossing points not continue to be a tool of Israeli pressure against Hamas.

3) For a ceasefire to succeed in the longer-term, it must be bolstered by the establishment of a political mechanism to ensure that where disagreements or conflicts arise (for example, rocket fire by groups other than Hamas, or an Israeli decision to close a crossing point), the parties have a place to resolve them short of a return to violence.

* The parties and the international community must agree to the establishment of some ongoing forum.

* The Israel-Lebanon Monitoring Group (ILMG), which for many years provided an effective venue for Israel and Hezbollah to lodge complaints about the other's behavior and defuse conflict, provides a potentially viable model.

Other considerations

Each side will doubtless feel compelled to "spin" the ceasefire. Israel will want to emphasize the degree to which its military engagement has radically degraded Hamas' military capacity and weakened its political organization. Hamas will want to emphasize that through armed struggle it has compelled Israel to end the siege of Gaza. Inevitably, both sides will have an interest in casting the ceasefire as a victory for itself and a defeat for the other.

At the same time, Israel would also like to ensure that any ceasefire does not strengthen Hamas politically, and, indeed, Israel would also like Hamas further weakened and eventually removed from power. For its part, Hamas would like to use a ceasefire to achieve legitimacy and recognition both domestically and internationally without appearing to acquiesce to pressure to change its positions.

A ceasefire neither achieves these goals nor denies them to either party.

What is clear today is that the Israeli and international policy of pressuring Hamas through boycotts and blockade has failed to oust the party from power or stop rocket fire from Gaza into Israel. Rather, it has contributed to creating a humanitarian situation in Gaza - even before the current conflict - that has led to harsh criticism of Israel throughout the world and has been seen by many as a legitimate basis for Hamas attacks. Given both the failure of this strategy to achieve its goals and its highly problematic consequences, continuing such a strategy in hopes of a different result, and at the cost of achieving an end to rocket fire into Israel, does not make sense.

For its part, the Hamas strategy of sending rockets into Israel has failed to win it international legitimacy. The strategy also failed up until now to force an end to the blockade and siege on Gaza. While Hamas will no doubt seek to portray an end to the siege as a victory, in the end it will be the people of Gaza, whose lives have been devastated by this conflict, who will deliver a verdict on whether the war was worth the price they, the people of Gaza, were forced to pay.

Finally, while we and others would prefer to see more pragmatic Palestinian political forces take root in Gaza, it must be the Palestinians - not Israel or the international community - choose their leaders. To the extent that the U.S., Israel, and the international community are truly committed to aiding and strengthening Palestinian moderates, it is time to at last empower these moderates with the political and economic resources and diplomatic dividends that, by demonstrating their relevance and effectiveness, can help them earn the support of their constituents.

5. House Appropriations Committee Announces New State and ForOps Subcommittee Members

On 1/7/08 House Democrats announced the composition of the new Appropriations Foreign Operations Subcommittee, as follows:

Chair: Lowey (D-NY) Jackson, Jr. (D-IL) Schiff (D-CA) Israel (D-NY) Chandler (D-KY) Rothman (D-NJ) Lee (D-CA) McCollum (D-MN)


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