To return to the new Peace Now website click here.

APN Legislative Round-Up - May 8, 2009

1. Bills and Resolutions; 2. House Approps Committee Marks Up FY09 Supplemental; 3. APN on FY09 Supplemental; 4. AIPAC on the Hill; 5. Shameless Plug for APN Blog

...for the week ending May 8, 2009
1.  Bills and Resolutions
2.  House Approps Committee Marks Up FY09 Supplemental
3.  APN on FY09 Supplemental
4.  AIPAC on the Hill
5.  Shameless Plug for APN Blog
(The Round-Up is early this week, as the author will be on travel
5/8/09 .)
ISRAEL ) H Con. Res. 111: Introduced 4/28/09 by Rep. Garrett (R-NJ) and currently having 45 cosponsors, "Recognizing the 61st anniversary of the independence of the State of Israel."  Brought to the floor under suspension of the rules 5/4/09 and passed by a vote of 394-0.
(IRAN/SYRIA) HR 2290:  Introduced 5/6/09 by Rep. Sherman (D-CA), cosponsored by Reps. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Royce (R-CA), "To provide for the application of measures to foreign persons who transfer to Iran, Syria, or North Korea certain goods, services, or technology that could assist Iran, Syria, or North Korea to extract or mill their domestic sources of uranium ore."   Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
(MIDDLE EAST) HR 2278:  Introduced
5/6/09 by Rep. Bilirakis (R-FL) and Rep. Crowley (D-NY), "To direct the President to transmit to Congress a report on anti-American incitement to violence in the Middle East , and for other purposes." Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
5/7/09 the House Appropriations Committee met to mark-up the bill funding the President's FY09 Supplemental Budget request.  A summary of the Chairman's mark (the original version of the bill introduced in Committee by Chairman Obey) was posted online 5/4/09 , along with the Chairman's statement about the bill. 
The bill fully funds the President's requests for the
Middle East (as detailed in the 4/24/09 edition of the Round-Up).  The only exception is a cut in the amount of security assistance provided for Lebanon (the request was for $98.4 million in FMF, the bill funds $74 million).  In addition, while the bill fully funds the President's request for aid for Palestinian refugees, it imposes a cap on the amount of this funding that can be moved through UNRWA (with the difference to be channeled through other mechanisms).  In addition, the bill includes substantial Middle East funding not included in the President's request.  Most of this is "advanced" funding (i.e. an advance on funds that would normally be part of the FY10 Foreign Operations appropriations bill - discussed below in the FMF report language, with notable reference to the funding being intended to offset Iran's influence in the region).  However, some is "new" assistance (assistance not requested by the President but added by the Committee). 
In addition, the bill includes language regarding possible U.S. assistance to a Palestinian power-sharing government - language that is slightly different from the President's request (making explicit the demand that the Palestinian Authority and all its ministers or equivalents meet the Quartet conditions in order to qualify for US assistance, rather than simply requiring that the PA meet the conditions).  The bill also includes new reporting/oversight requirements related to UNRWA.
Middle East Provisions of the FY09 Supplemental Appropriations Bill,
As passed by the House Appropriations Committee 5/7/09
(Bills text and report language)
Operating Expenses:  The report language notes that the bill provides $5 million for West Bank and Gaza operations (as requested by the President).
Office of the Inspector General:  The report language notes that language in the ESF section of the bill (discussed below) transfers $2 million to the Office of the Inspector General for oversight of USAID activities in the West Bank and Gaza.
Bill Text
Not more than $556 million in ESF may be made available for the West Bank and Gaza, of which
-- not more than $5 million may be used for administrative expenses of USAID.
-- $2 million shall be transferred, and merged with, funds available under the heading "United States Agency for International Development, Funds Appropriated to the President, Office of the Inspector General" to conduct oversight of programs in the West Bank and Gaza.
-- not more than $200 million may be made available for cash transfer assistance to the Palestinian Authority, provided that none of these funds may be obligated for salaries of PA personnel in Gaza.
Report Language
Egypt:  "The Committee recommendation includes $50,000,000 for Egypt, which is $50,000,000 above the request.  Priority should be given to support for economic development programs in the Sinai."
Jordan:  "The Committee recommendation includes $100,000,000 for Jordan, which is $100,000,000 above the request.  The Committee is concerned about the impact of the global financial crisis on Jordan's economy and notes Jordan's continued support for Iraqi refugees."
West Bank and Gaza:  "The Committee recommendation includes not more than $556,000,000 tor economic and humanitarian assistance for the West Bank and Gaza, which is the same as the request. Of the sums provided, not more than $200,000,000 is available for cash transfer assistance to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. The Committee continues the prohibition on salaries for personnel of the Palestinian Authority located in Gaza. The Committee provides $188,000,000 for economic assistance to the West Bank for programs that rebuild critical infrastructure, restore essential services, support economic growth and private enterprise development and strengthen local governance capacity. Not more than $156,000,000 is provided for humanitarian assistance to Gaza and $12,000,000 is for humanitarian assistance to the West Bank."  The text goes on to discuss the Palestinian power-sharing provision (see below).  The report text also notes that "the committee also continues all terms and conditions of division H of Public Law 111-8 with respect to assistance for the West Bank and Gaza."
Bill Text
Not more than $106 million of INCLE shall be made available for security assistance for the West Bank, provided that not later than 90 days after the enactment of this Act the Secretary of State must report to the relevant congressional committees on "the use of assistance provided by the United States for the training of Palestinian security forces, including detailed descriptions of the training, curriculum, and equipment provided; and an assessment of the training and performance of forces after training has been completed."
Report Language
West Bank and Gaza:  "The Committee recommendation includes $109,000,000 for assistance for West Bank and Gaza, which is the same as the request. Within the amount provided, $106,000,000 is for ongoing support for training of vetted units of the Palestinian National Security Forces, Presidential Guard, and Civil Defense First Responders. Additionally, there is $3,000,000 to provide law enforcement-related training and non-lethal equipment to enhance border integrity along the Gaza border. The Committee directs that not more than $1,000,000 is available for program development and support activities."
Nonproliferation, Anti-Terrorism, Demining and Related Programs
The report language stipulates that "The Committee recommendation includes $98,500,000 for Nonproliferation, Anti-Terrorism, Demining and Related Programs, which is $23,500,000 below the request. Within the total, $73,500,000 is provided for the Nonproliferation Disarmament Fund (NDF), which is $23,500,000 below the request, for nuclear dismantlement and related activities, as well as for border security equipment, training, and program management to prevent smuggling of illicit goods into Gaza. Within the total, $11,000,000 is to support training of Iraqi National Police in VIP protection, and to continue Export Control and Border Security activities and the TIP-PISCES terrorist interdiction program in Iraq; $12,000,000 is to continue in-country support for the protection of Afghan President Karzai; and $2,000,000 is for training of the Pakistani Federal Investigative Agency's antiterrorist team."
Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA)
The report language states that "The Committee recommendation includes $343,000,000 for Migration and Refugee Assistance, which is $50,000,000 above the request. The funds provided are necessary to respond to urgent humanitarian requirements to assist refugees and internally displaced persons in Iraq, Jordan, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Africa and Burmese refugees in Asia. Funds also will help respond to urgent food pipeline breaks in refugee feeding operations, particularly in Africa."
The report also addresses UNRWA (see section below on UNRWA Accountability)
Bill Text
Jordan:  Not less than $150 million shall be available for Jordan.
Israel:  Not less than $555 million shall be available for grants only to Israel and shall be disbursed within 30 days of the enactment of this Act, of which $144,855,000 shall be available for use in Israel. [Note: The Manager's Amendment changed this number to $145,965,000.].
Egypt:  Not less than $260 million shall be available for grants only for Egypt, including for border security programs and activities in the Sinai, with the normal provision that funds estimated to be outlayed for Egypt shall be transferred to an interest-bearing account within 30 days of the enactment of this Act.
Lebanon:  Up to $74 million may be available for Lebanon only after the Secretary of State submits to the relevant committees a report "on the procedures established to determine eligibility of members and units of the security force of Lebanon to participate in United States training and assistance programs and on the end use monitoring of all equipment provided under such programs to the Lebanese security forces.
Report Language
Lebanon:  "The Committee recommendation includes $74,000,000 for Lebanon, which is $24,400,000 below the request. The recommendation directs that no military assistance may be made available for obligation until the Secretary of State reports to the Committees on Appropriations on the vetting procedures in place to determine eligibility to participate in United-States training and assistance programs funded under this account. The Committee further directs the Secretary of State to report on the procedures in place to ensure that no funds are provided to any individuals or organizations that have any known links to terrorist organizations including Hezbollah, and mechanisms to monitor the use of the appropriatod funds. The Committee directs that the Department of State consult with the Committees on Appropriations prior to the obligation of funds provided for assistance for Lebanon in this Act."
"Advanced" Security Assistance to Near East Countries:  "The Committee hopes that a combination of engagement and diplomatic pressure, including sanctions, will produce constructive results toward Iran suspending its nuclear program. Yet, the Committee notes that, despite three sets of United Nations Security Council sanctions as well as United States and European measures against Iran's financial system, Iran's policy toward its neighbors remains one of obfuscation, antagonism, and delay. The Committee believes that in order to provide a counterbalance to Iran's hegemonic ambitions in the region, Iran's continued support for terrorism through its proxies, Hamas and Hezbollah, and Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons, the United States must make every effort to improve the defense capabilities of our key allies in the region. Therefore, the Committee recommendation provides forward funding for a portion of security assistance for Jordan, Egypt, and Israel. These funds are not in addition to the presumed fiscal year 2010 request: The Committee intends that the forward funding of bilateral security assistance should be used to sustain the long-term obligations to protect our fundamental interests in the region and advance our common goals."
Jordan: "The Committee recommendation includes $150,000,000 for Jordan, which is $150,000,000 above the request. The Committee notes that Jordan plays a critical role in supporting peace and security in the Middle East and strongly supports efforts to improve Jordanian security."
Egypt:  "The Committee recommendation includes $260,000,000 in FMF grants for Egypt, which is $260,000,000 above the request, and which shall be transferred to an interest bearing account for Egypt in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York within 30 days of enactment of this Act. The Committee believes that continued military cooperation between Egypt and the United States remains in the national security interests of both countries."
Israel:  "The Committee recommendation includes $555,000,000 in FMF grants for Israel, which shall be available within 30 days of enactment of this Act. The recommendation represents a portion of the $2,775,000,000 agreed upon in the Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and Israel and requested in the Administration's fiscal year 2010 request. The balance of $2,220,000,000 will be addressed in the fiscal year 2010 bill. The Committee remains committed to helping Israel maintain its qualitative military edge which is critical for its security. The Committee also recommends that to the extent that the Government of Israel requests that FMF grant funds for Israel be used for such purposes, and as agreed by the United States and Israel, funds may be made available for advanced weapons systems, of which $144,855,000 shall be available for the procurement in Israel of defense articles and defense services, including research and development." [Note:  the Managers' amendment passed during the mark-up changed $144,855,000 in the report to $145,965,000.]
Bill Text:  The bill includes a new section entitled "UNRWA Accountability" that:
-- limits the amount of MRA funds that may be made available to UNRWA to $119 million;
-- mandates a new "accountability report" requiring the Secretary of State to report to the relevant committees not later than 45 days after the enactment of this Act on a laundry list of UNRWA activities, practices, etc.;
-- stipulates that an additional $1 million of ESF provided for West Bank/Gaza programs be transferred to, and merged with, funds available under the heading "United States Agency for International Development, Funds Appropriated to the President, Office of the Inspector General" to conduct oversight of programs in the West Bank, Gaza, and surrounding region.
Report language:  The report discusses this issue further, noting:
"The Committee is aware of abiding concerns over whether the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) is taking all possible steps to prevent its funds from supporting terrorists and other extremists, particularly in the West Bank and Gaza, and is operating in an open and transparent manner. The Committee notes that the Department of State and UNRWA have taken steps to improve both the vetting of staff and beneficiaries and financial accountability and transparency. In an effort to ensure continued progress, section 21004 (b) requires that the Secretary of State prepare and submit to the Committees on Appropriations, not later than 45 days after enactment of this Act, an accountability report.the Committee recommendation also includes language, section 21004 (a), limiting to $119,000,000 the amount of funding provided in this chapter that can be made available to UNRWA for activities in the West Bank and Gaza." (The "." is where the text goes on to detail the reporting requirements listed in the bill).
Palestinian Power-Sharing
Bill Text:  The bill includes a new section entitled "Prohibition on Assistance to Hamas."  The section:
-- states that no funds in this supplemental may be made available for assistance to Hamas, or any entity effectively controlled by Hamas, or any power-sharing government that includes Hamas.
-- states that notwithstanding this limitation, assistance may be provided to a power-sharing government that includes Hamas "if the President certifies in writing and reports to the Committees on Appropriations of the House of Representatives and the Senate that such government, including all of its ministers or such equivalent, has publicly accepted and is complying with the principles contained in subparagraphs (A) and (B) of section 620K(b)(1) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2378b(b)(1))."
-- In addition, the Manager's Amendment added a requirement that whenever the President exercises this certification, the Secretary of State "shall submit a report to the Committees on Appropriations of the House of Representatives and the Senate within 120 days of the certification and every quarter there after on whether such government, including all its ministers or such equivalent, are continuing to publically accept and comply with the principles contained in section 620(K)(b)(1)(A) and (B) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961(22 U.S.C. 2378b(b)(1)).  The report shall also detail the amount, purposes and delivery mechanisms for any assistance provided pursuant to the abovementioned certification and a full accounting of any direct support of such government."
Report Language:  The report originally just re-stated the bill provision, but the Manager's Amendment added additional language to this section of the report, as follows:  "The committee believes that a public acceptance should be an acceptance in writing by such government and its ministers."
The Mark-Up
Chairman Obey and Foreign Operations Subcommittee Chairwoman Lowey reportedly worked hard to address any concerns about the Middle East provisions in the bill text itself or in a Managers' amendment (a single amendment, dealing with a number of issues en bloc, agreed to in advance by both Democrats and Republicans and adopted without any controversy).  The effort was apparently successful, averting a potentially ugly public battle over Palestinian assistance, UNRWA, and the provision regarding Palestinian power-sharing. 
Nonetheless, Rep. Kirk (R-IL), who grandstanded at length regarding the Palestinian power-sharing provision in the recent hearing with Secretary Clinton, could not resist the opportunity to engage in further grandstanding at the Secretary's (and the Obama Administration's) expense.  He stated that they had "dramatically tightened up the language from what Secretary Clinton surprisingly proposed." He went on to assert that the original language proposed by the Administration required only that the Prime Minister of a power-sharing government meet the Quartet conditions (a questionable interpretation of the President's original language, which stated that "such government" must accept and comply with the conditions). 
In addition, Chairwoman Lowey thanked the subcommittee for their help in drafting the Palestinian power-sharing language.  She described the language as an effort to respond to Senator Mitchell's and the President's initiative to bring about peace.  She noted that everyone knows that it going to be very difficult to construct a power-sharing government or a unity government and that at this point the issue of US funding for such a government is hypothetical.   However, she said that there is general agreement in the subcommittee that Congress needs to work with the President and Senator Mitchell and support their efforts.  She described the resulting bill provision (as amended by the managers' amendment) as language that does this, while putting into place appropriate safeguards to ensure that no money goes to Hamas.
Finally, Rep. Kirk also took a shot at the Obama administration over the Arrow missile program, in effect accusing the Obama administration of undermining Israel's security by not funding the upgrade of the Arrow III.  He noted with satisfaction that the bill reverses this and provides $30 million for the program.   Rep. Rothman (D-NJ) similarly praised the funding for the Arrow program and in an apparent message to the Obama Administration noted that he looked forward to seeing the program "as we all expect in the 2010 Defense Appropriations Bill."  Further details about the Arrow program will be covered in a future edition of the Round-Up (once they are clearer).
On 5/6/09 APN sent a message to every member of the Appropriations Committee urging them to support the Middle East-related provisions included in the FY09 Supplemental.  The message stated:
I am writing because I want you and your boss to know that Americans for Peace Now (APN) strongly supports the Middle East-related provisions of this request. We urge members of the Appropriations Committee to support them in full.
This request includes:
--- Vital Humanitarian aid: The request includes urgently needed humanitarian assistance for Gaza and the West Bank, as well as aid for the West Bank to support education and social services, to promote economic growth, and to improve governance and the rule of law. It also includes vital assistance for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank, as well as funding to bolster security on the Gaza border. All of this aid would be subject to the same stringent conditions, restrictions, and oversight mechanisms put into place by Congress with respect to any assistance to the Palestinians - making aid to the Palestinians the most thoroughly vetted, monitored, and conditioned U.S. aid program in the world.
--- An Important Pro-Peace Provision: A vital provision in the request would open the door for U.S. assistance to a Palestinian power-sharing government that includes Hamas, but only if that government and all its members have met the Quartet conditions (renounced violence, recognized Israel, and accepted prior agreements). If approved by Congress, Washington's relations with a power-sharing government would thus be subject to the same conditions mandated in 2006 by the (Republican-controlled) Congress and signed into law by the Bush Administration. And the proposed legislation would continue to bar aid to Hamas or any other terrorist organizations, as well as to a unity government that did not meet the conditions. This provision is an important signal to Palestinians and is consistent with APN's view that U.S. relations with a Palestinian unity government should be determined on the basis of the positions taken by that government and the strategic interests of the U.S., not solely on the basis of whether Hamas is included in the government.
--- Other assistance: In addition, the bill includes funding for Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon - aid that has in important role in ensuring regional security, bolstering peace efforts, and restoring US leadership.
APN strongly supports all these Middle East-related provisions in the FY09 Supplemental Appropriations bill and urges members of the Appropriations Committee to approve them, in full.
This week was the 2009 AIPAC Policy Conference.   The agenda for AIPAC's 5/5/09 Hill Lobby Day was laid out in a document distributed to Conference-goers entitled:  "The 2009 AIPAC Agenda."  The introduction/summary of this document stated:
"Today, thousands of AIPAC activists will lobby their members of Congress in over 500 meetings on Capitol Hill, focusing on strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship and American policy in the Middle East. The 2009 AIPAC agenda reflects the organization's central mission of advancing American interests in the Middle East by strengthening the relationship between the U.S. and Israel, our most reliable ally in the region and one of America's closest friends in the world.  During today's meetings, AIPAC delegates will discuss several key legislative priorities: Congressional action aimed at stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons; American security assistance to Israel; and separate House and Senate letters to President Barack Obama outlining the key principles needed to support Israeli-Palestinian negotiations."
In essence, this means that AIPAC supporters lobbied in favor of more sanctions on Iran, arguing that diplomacy should be accompanied by ever-tougher pressure.  They also pressed the point that such efforts should not be open-ended, despite the Obama Administration's signals that it will not set negotiating deadlines.  Another handout, entitled "Talking Points - Stop Iran's Nuclear Program" stated explicitly that: "since Iran has used negotiations as a way to delay sanctions while continuing to advance its program, any talks should not be open-ended and should have as their early goal a verifiable suspension of Iran's enrichment program." 
AIPAC supporters also lobbied in favor of a set of principles - that they want Congress to endorse - that they believe should guide/limit President Barack Obama's efforts to make peace.  These principles include the argument that "Efforts to go around or pressure Israel on issues related to its security and survival are destined to backfire," and "while the United States should be sensitive to the needs of both parties to negotiations, it should not adopt a posture of 'evenhandedness' between its ally, Israel, and other parties," and "an enduring solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must arise from the parties themselves, and cannot be imposed by the United States or outside parties."  The memo closes with the urging that "Congress and the executive branch should continue to closely adhere to the principles outlined above.An American position consistent with our historic principles offers the best chance of helping both Israelis and Palestinians ultimately achieve peace.'
For anyone who has not yet discovered it, Americans for Peace Now has a blog.  We regularly post analysis, news links, snippets translated from the Israeli press, and other items (for example, APN spokesman Ori Nir is currently in Israel and blogging daily about his meetings and his travels).  Below is a post from this week, dealing with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's speech to AIPAC.   Another post included excerpts from and links to the speeches delivered at AIPAC by Vice President Biden and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Kerry (D-MA).
Still Skeptical about Bibi
May 5, 2009, posted by Lara Friedman
In his speech to AIPAC last night, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu described his approach to Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab peace.  The speech left all of us at APN skeptical about the sincerity of the Prime Minister's commitment to peace - a commitment that will be judged not by Netanyahu's skill in laying out his own "peace paradigm" but by his policies and actions.  Specifically, the speech raised serious concerns that we hope Netanyahu will dispel when he meets with President Obama later this month:  

  • Netanyahu failed to articulate support for the two-state solution. He spoke about process but failed to offer the kind of political horizon necessary for such a process to have credibility.
  • Netanyahu ducked two "make-or-break" issues for any peace effort: settlement expansion in the West Bank, and settlement expansion and the demolition of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem. The absence of any statement on these issues raises a "red flag," given recent comments by Israeli ministers that indicate Israeli government support for continued settlement expansion and demolitions. 
  • Netanyahu capped his speech with the argument that peace is impossible unless the Palestinians "recognize Israel as the Jewish state." This is a red herring. As noted recently by Dov Weissglas, Chief of Staff to then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, ".IsraelIsrael, as Israel has defined itself. It will therefore recognize Israel as the state of the Jews. The demand for recognition now is like creating a problem where none exists. It is neither dignified nor believable."
  • Netanyahu spoke of improving ties with the Arab world, but failed to acknowledge the Arab Peace Initiative. He also failed to mention the Israel-Syria peace track.

If Netanyahu is serious about peace - and serious about maintaining good relations with the Obama Administration - he should use the upcoming meeting with President Barack Obama later this month to clarify his commitment.  If he is serious about working to achieve peace, he will use this meeting to:  

  • Unequivocally embrace the two-state solution without adding new conditions for peace.
  • Commit to freezing settlement expansion, Jerusalem home demolitions, and other acts that destroy the credibility of any peace efforts.
  • Embrace the Arab Peace Initiative as an important basis for making progress toward Israeli-Arab peace.
  • Commit to re-launching Israel-Syria peace negotiations and achieving an Israel-Syria peace agreement. 

If Netanyahu makes clear that he is serious about peace, APN will happily support his efforts. Until then, we remain skeptical.

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