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APN Legislative Round-Up - June 19, 2009

1. New Bills and Resolutions; 2. Update on FY09 Supplemental; 3. FY10 ForOps Season Opens; 4. Avigdor Lieberman Does DC; 5. From the recent archives: Debunking the demand for "Recognition-Plus"

...for the week ending June 19, 2009

1. New Bills and Resolutions
2. Update on FY09 Supplemental
3. FY10 ForOps Season Opens
4.  Avigdor Lieberman Does DC
5. From the recent archives: Debunking the demand for "Recognition-Plus"




( IRAN ) H. Res. 560: Introduced 6/18/09 by Reps. Berman (D-CA) and Pence (R-IN), "Expressing support for all Iranian citizens who embrace the values of freedom, human rights, civil liberties, and rule of law, and for other purposes." Brought to the floor under suspension of the rules
6/19/09 and passed by a vote of 405-1 (with the one "no" vote coming from Rep. Paul, R-TX). 


IRAN ) H Res. 549: Introduced 6/16/09 by Rep. Pence (R-IN) and having 18 cosponsors, "Expressing support for all Iranian citizens who struggle for freedom, human rights, civil liberties, and the protection of the rule of law."   Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. 


For some background on what reportedly went on behind the scenes regarding the drafting of the text of H. Res. 560 (in response to concerns about H. Res. 549), see this report on Politico (please note that the report mentions a Senate version of the resolution - if such a version exists it has not, as of this writing, been introduced).


ISRAEL )  H. Res. 557: Introduced 6/18/09 by Rep. Sessions (R-TX) and no cosponsors, "Expressing support for the State of Israel's inalienable right to defend itself in the face of an imminent nuclear or military threat from Iran , terrorist organizations, and the countries that harbor them."  Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.  Note:  H. Res. 557 is an amp-ed up and overtly partisan version of an amendment Sessions offered last week to HR 2410, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act (for details see the 6/12/09 edition of the Round-Up).  The resolution's first resolved clause states that Congress "expresses its unequivocal support for the State of Israel's inalienable right to defend itself in the face of an imminent nuclear or military threat from Iran , terrorist organizations, and the countries that harbor them, notwithstanding some statements made by the Obama Administration" (emphasis added). 


IRAN )  HR 2647: Introduced on 6/2/09 , and marked up by the House Armed Services Committee on 6/16/09 (following subcommittee markups on 6/5/09 ), the FY10 Defense Authorization Bill.  On 6/18/09 the House Armed Services Committee reported the bill out of committee and it was placed on the Calendar.  As reported out of Committee, the bill now includes a section, Section 1232, entitled "Annual Report on Military Power of the Islamic Republic of Iran" (this section was not included in the bill, as originally introduced).  Sec. 1232 requires an annual report "on the current and future military strategy of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The report shall address the current and probable future course of military developments on Iran 's Army, Air Force, Navy and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, and the tenets and probable development of Iran 's grand strategy, security strategy, and military strategy, and of military organizations and operational concepts."  Sec. 1232 goes on in detail to lay out what shall be included in the report.




On 6/16/09 the House passed the conference version of HR 2346, the FY09 Supplemental - providing funding mainly for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars - by an almost completely party line vote of 226-202.  Only 5 Republicans voted for the measure, while 32 Democrats voted against.   On
6/18/09 , the Senate passed the same version of HR 2346 by a vote of 91-5.  President Obama is expected to sign HR 2346 into law shortly.  For details of the conference version of the bill, see the 6/15/09 edition of the Round-Up.




6/17/09 the House Appropriations Committee's Foreign Operations Subcommittee marked up the FY10 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill.  The full Appropriations Committee is schedule to mark-up the bill next week.  A full analysis of the subcommittee version of the bill and the accompanying report will be provided next week; until then, please see the subcommittee's press release about the bill and Chairwoman Lowey's statement regarding the bill.




This week,
Israel 's controversial foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, was in Washington , where he met with (among others) Administration officials, members of Congress, and the press.  Lieberman is controversial for a range of reasons, including the overtly racist platform of his political part, Yisrael Beiteinu (which among other things wants to revoke the citizenship of any Israeli who refuses to swear a "loyalty oath" to the state).  He is controversial, too, for his long history of statements that include racism and incitement against Arab citizens of Israel , Arab Knesset members, Israeli peace activists, and Arab states with which Israel has achieved peace.  In preparation for Lieberman's visit, APN posted the following "hit list" of Lieberman quotes to help the Administration, the Hill, and the press prepare for meeting this foreign minister.


Lieberman: Israel Has "a Fundamental Problem: We are Not Perceived Well."
June 14, 2009 , posted by Ori Nir

Now that Nethanyahu's speech is behind us, we can prepare for the upcoming Washington visit of Avigdor Lieberman, Netanyahu's foreign minister.


Lieberman is arriving Tuesday night and will meet here with Secretary Clinton (on Wednesday) National Security Advisor Jones (on Thursday) and with congressional leaders.
Lieberman is a man on a mission. His goal: to improve Israel 's image abroad. Last Tuesday, I kid you not, Lieberman was quoted as telling the Knesset's Security and Foreign Affairs Committee that Israel "cannot continue with a successful foreign policy without changing the way we are perceived" internationally. He lamented: "We have a fundamental problem: we are not perceived well."


Could it be that Mr. Lieberman, Israel 's number one PR agent, has something to do with this image problem?


For those who need a reminder, here is my colleague Lara Friedman's compilation of Lieberman's greatest hits:


1.  Contempt for Palestinian/Arab Lives


In early 2009, during the Israel 's military operation in Gaza , Lieberman suggested that Israel should completely annihilate the people of Gaza , along the lines of what the US did to Japan in World War II - a clear allusion to total destruction of two Japanese cities by the dropping of atomic bombs.  He stated, "We must continue to fight Hamas just like the United States did with the Japanese in World War II," Lieberman added. "Then, too, the occupation of the country was unnecessary."


In 2006, then-newly appointed Minister of Strategic Affairs Lieberman suggested that in dealing with Gaza, Israel should emulate the brutal tactics adopted by Russia , operating "like Russia operates in Chechnya ."


In 2003, when Israel released Palestinian prisoners, Lieberman said: "I am willing to bring the busses to take the Palestinian prisoners to a place from which they will never return." He added, "I would rather drown them in the Dead Sea ." This statement triggered a formal complaint by the Palestinian Authority and has been repeatedly used by Palestinians as an example of Israeli anti-Palestinian incitement.


In March 2002, Lieberman stated his support for massive destruction of Palestinian civilian infrastructure, stating "If it were up to me, I would notify the [Palestinian] Authority that tomorrow at ten in the morning we will explode all their places of work in Ramallah, for example."  Around this same time he also reportedly suggested during a Cabinet meeting that Israel adopt a policy of massive retaliation against Palestinian civilian infrastructure if terrorism did not stop: "At 8am we'll bomb all the commercial centers. at noon we'll bomb their gas stations. at two we'll bomb their banks."


2.  Incitement against Israel 's Arab elected officials


In 2007, Lieberman told an Israeli Arab Knesset member:  "You are an ally in the Knesset of terrorists. I hope that Hamas will take care of you and all the rest once and for all. Don't worry, your day will come."


In March 2007, Lieberman blamed Arab Knesset members for a deadly terrorist attack on a yeshiva in Jerusalem , stating that "yesterday's attack can not be disconnected from the Arab MKs incitement, which we hear daily in the Knesset." Shortly thereafter he threatened Arab MKs in the Knesset, stating that "a new administration will be established and then we will take care of you."


In May 2006, Lieberman called for the execution of Israeli Arab Knesset members who met with Hamas leaders. Addressing the Knesset, Lieberman said: "At the end of the Second World War, not only the criminals were executed at the Nuremberg Trials, but also those who collaborated with them. I hope that this will be the fate of the collaborators in this house."


3.  Contempt for Israel 's Arab Citizens


In January 2008, in his speech resigning from the Olmert government, Lieberman stated that,
"Our biggest problem are (MK Ahmad) Tibi and (Hadash Chairman Mohammad) Barakeh, who are even more dangerous than (Hamas politburo chief Khaled) Mashaal and (Hizbullah Secretary-General Sheikh Hassan) Nasrallah, because they work from the inside."


In a February 2007 interview with Spiegel, Lieberman made explicit his view regarding the removal of Arab citizens of Israel , based entirely on ethnic/religious concerns (i.e. no pretense that his concern is over loyalty to the state).  He stated:  "What is the core of the conflict? Wherever in the world there are two languages, two religions, two people, there are tensions and conflicts: in Qu├ębec in Canada , in the former Yugoslavia , in the Russian Caucasus or in Northern Ireland where the confessions have fought each other for many years. It is crystal clear: The more homogeneous a country is, the better it develops."


In a 2006 interview, shortly after entering the Olmert government, Lieberman stated, "Minorities are the biggest problem in the world. I think separation between two nations is the best solution. Cyprus is the best model. Before 1974, the Greeks and Turks lived together and there were frictions and bloodshed and terror.  After 1974, they constituted all Turks on one part of the island, all Greeks on the other part of the island and there is stability and security." When the interviewer pointed out that in Cyprus thousands of people were forcibly driven from their homes, Lieberman responded "Yes, but the final result was better."


In a 2004 interview with a local Tel Aviv weekly, Lieberman stated that "ninety percent of the Arabs of Israel will have to find themselves within that Arab entity that will be established, not within the state [of Israel]." He continued: "All of them with no exception! They have no place here. Let them take their bags and go to hell."


Lieberman has repeatedly stated his wish to expel Arab citizens of Israel, and has used hateful, provocative expressions against Arab citizens of the state. In 2005, when Israel was preparing to remove settlements from the Gaza Strip, Lieberman - a strong opponent of the move - enraged Israel's Arab citizens by posting huge billboards in key locations calling for "disengagement from Umm al-Fahm," implying that rather than remove settlements from Gaza, Israel should rid itself of one of Israel's most densely populated Arab towns.


4.  Incitement against Israeli peace activists


In October 2007, Lieberman "caused a political storm on Tuesday when he declared the Left responsible for all the lives lost in the Arab-Israeli conflict and for everything wrong with the country."  Speaking to Army Radio, Leiberman said (among other thing), he stated that "All our troubles, all our problems, all our victims are because of those people.I have no complaints against the Arabs or against the world. My claims are aimed against those in the Israeli Left, who are trying to break us from within at any cost and to breach every consensus."


Around the same time, in an interview on an Israeli news program, Lieberman assailed Israeli peace activists and called them "Capos, like those who served the Nazis at the concentration camps." This statement prompted Israeli documenters of the Holocaust, as well as Holocaust survivors to charge Lieberman with contempt of the Holocaust.  (Unofficial translation).


5. Contempt for Egypt and Israel-Egypt relations


In October 2008, Lieberman said that Egypt's President Husni Mubarak "can go to hell." Israeli leaders, Lieberman said, should condition meeting with Mubarak on reciprocation. "If he wants to talks to us, he should come here, and if he doesn't want to come, he can go to hell." Israel's President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Olmert had to extend a public apology to Mubarak. Once they did, Lieberman complained that "The State of Israel is acting toward Egypt like a battered woman."


In 2001, Lieberman told ambassadors from the former Soviet Republics that if relations with Egypt go sour, Israel should bomb Egypt's Aswan dam, a move that would flood vast areas, causing a national calamity.  Around that same time, he reportedly stated that "Mubarak continues to act against us and to travel for consultations with Saddam Hussein. If he carries out his threat and puts forces into the Sinai, it would be an example of a (crossing) of the red line to which we would have to respond strongly, including by bombing the Aswan Dam."


6.  History of anti-Arab Racism


According to former officials of Meir Kahane's racist Kach movement, Lieberman was a card-carrying member of the movement in the late 1970's.  Kach was later outlawed in Israel - and in the United States - as a terrorist organization.




Given the recent speech by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in which Netanyahu stated that a precondition for Israeli-Palestinian peace was the Palestinians recognizing Israel as a Jewish State, it seemed appropriate to highlight this analysis posted by APN earlier this year (when this same argument was being made, but nobody seemed too concerned about it).


The Demand for "Recognition-Plus" - Bibi's New Pretext for Not Pursuing Peace
April 19, 2009 , posted by Lara Friedman


September 9, 1993 -- the date that the PLO officially and formally recognized Israel's right to exist in peace and security, and in return Israel recognized the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people -- is a day that stands out in my memory.   As a US Foreign Service officer serving in Jerusalem during that period, I will never forget the palpable feeling of hope and anticipation that was in the air.


What is entirely absent from my memory is the recollection of any Israeli narrative at the time saying: "Sorry Mr. Arafat, but this recognition isn't good enough.  What we actually need is your formal endorsement of Israel as a Jewish state.  If you can't do that, then your recognition of Israel doesn't count."


It is absent not because my memory is faulty, but because this narrative simply didn't exist.  Yitzhak Rabin did not say "thanks, but no thanks;" nor did Israelis.  Everyone understood that the demand of the Palestinians was and had always been: recognize Israel 's right to exist (or some slight variation thereof).   The historic September 9th declaration achieved exactly that.  The demand that the Palestinians "recognize Israel 's right to exist as a Jewish state" - or what hereafter will be known as "recognition-plus" - came much later.


Why didn't Rabin go for "recognition-plus" in 1993?  Indeed, why did this formula not come up in any real way until 2006 (in the context of Congressional efforts to place restrictions on any relations with Hamas), and then again in late 2007, in the context of the Annapolis conference?  It is hard to avoid the conclusion that this new condition - raised again last week by Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu - is nothing more than a ruse to avoid peace negotiations.  It didn't come up in 1993 because Rabin, unlike some of his successors, wasn't looking for such excuses.  The fact that the most ardent Israeli (and American) advocates of the "recognition-plus" formula are also some of the most ardent opponents of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement (or at least any agreement that would ever be acceptable to Palestinians) is clearly not a coincidence.


The heart of the issue is this: how Israel defines itself, how it characterizes itself to the world and to its people, is an internal Israeli matter, something that is between the government of Israel and its citizens.  This is not to say that is an easy issue - Israel today is struggling with a serious national identity crisis.  It is wrestling with a profoundly difficult question:  how to be both a Jewish state and a democratic state, given that 20% of the population is ethnically Palestinian and an additional percentage is also not Jewish.  The success of ultra-nationalist Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beiteinu party in the last elections - running on an overtly racist platform that embraces "loyalty oaths" for all citizens and calls for the excising of Arab areas of the country in exchange for West Bank settlements - underscores the extent to which this struggle is at the heart of the current Israeli zeitgeist.


Viewed in this context, Bibi's decision to trot out the "recognition-plus" demand at this time is a textbook case of populist politics.   The decision is also wholly consistent with the approach of a Prime Minister who from day one in office (and even before) has refused to endorse the two-state solution.  As a result, he is under intense US and international pressure to back down from this politically anachronistic position - a position that, in an awkward turn of events, leaves the government of Israel out of compliance with the conditions the Quartet set for Hamas (conditions that were formulated, in part, based on the notion that for any party to be considered legitimate in the Israeli-Arab political arena, they must accept the two-state solution).


Desperate for a way out of this mess, the "recognition-plus" formula could be Bibi's salvation.  If he can get the world to buy this new demand, and then the Palestinians (predictably) refuse to meet it, he can make the case that he is ready to move forward to a peace agreement, but it is the Palestinians who are proving to be unreasonable and intransigent.


No need to mention that "recognition-plus" is a new and nonsensical demand.  No need to mention that neither Egypt nor Jordan (nor the PLO) was asked to meet this condition.


No need to mention that for Palestinians, this demand is politically awkward in the extreme, in effect asking them to endorse the marginalizing of 20% of the population of Israel - a population that did not vote in Palestinian elections and which the PA in no way represents.  Indeed, for Palestinian citizens of Israel, the demand for the PA to recognize Israel as a Jewish state is understood as a demand for the PA to deny, on the behalf of these 20% of Israel's citizens, their right to fight for equal rights in Israel.   As one Palestinian citizen of Israel wrote in December 2007, "This is not a matter of semantics. If Israel's demand is granted, the inequality that we face as Palestinians-roughly 20 percent of Israel's population-will become permanent."


Fortunately, it appears the Obama Administration has not fallen for Bibi's ploy and has rejected the "recognition-plus" demand.  Hopefully President Obama, Secretary Clinton and Senator Mitchell will hold firm in the face of this and the inevitable future stalling tactics and red herrings Bibi and his colleagues will come up with.  Hopefully the U.S. Congress will back them in doing so.


Finally, it should be recalled that at the time of the Annapolis conference, when the political climate in Israel was somewhat more positive, Israeli pollsters asked Israelis whether they felt the Palestinians should be required to recognize Israel as a Jewish state as a condition for negotiations.  A full three-quarters (75%) said they should not.



Don't forget to check the APN blog for breaking news and analysis about issues related to Israel, the Middle East, and the Hill.


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