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Legislative Roundup - June 24, 2005

I. House ForOps - Update II. House ForOps - Settlements III. House ForOps - Egypt IV. UN Reform - Isr/Pals V. Dear Colleagues VI. On the Hill

for the week ending June 24, 2005

I. House ForOps - Update
II. House ForOps - Settlements
III. House ForOps - Egypt
IV. UN Reform - Isr/Pals
V. Dear Colleagues
VI. On the Hill


Following last week's subcommittee markup (see the June 17th edition of the Round-Up for details, including a break-down of Middle East-related funding and provisions included in the bill), on June 21st the House Appropriations Committee met to mark up the FY06 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill (ForOps). It is expected that the bill will be brought to the floor for a vote next week.


During the markup Appropriations Committee Ranking Minority Member David Obey (D-WI) offered an amendment regarding the Roadmap for Middle East peace. The amendment (full text included below) would have added report language supporting President Bush's statements in support of the Roadmap and requiring the Secretary of State to submit a report to the Committee regarding Israeli settlement activity and other measures of compliance with the Roadmap.

Opposing the amendment, Rep. Rothman (D-NJ) strongly defended U.S.-Israel ties, characterizing Israel as America's closest friend and ally, and blaming Arafat and the Palestinians for the failure of the peace process, for pre-planning of the Intifada, and for the resulting destruction (by Israel) of billions of dollars worth of U.S. investment in the West Bank and Gaza.

Speaking in support of the amendment, Rep. David Price (D-NC) noted first that Rothman's remarks had nothing to do with the amendment being offered. Price argued that there are two threats to the two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - absence of security control on the Palestinian side, and continuation of settlement activity on the Israeli side - and that the Committee needed information on both.

Rep. Obey subsequently amended his own amendment, offering to leave out all introductory language and just leave the sentence requiring the report on settlements. He noted that "the U.S. has an obligation to support Israel, but not to support stupidity." He went on to list all of the audit and oversight requirements placed by the Committee on aid to the Palestinians, stating "[they are] invasive, intrusive, and I'm for all of them." He went on to say that if the Committee is going to require all of this in order for the Palestinians to get $150 million, "we should require a report on settlements in order for Israel to get $3 billion." He added that if the Committee couldn't ask for even this from Israel, then "it says something very interesting about our balance" on this issue.

The Obey amendment was rejected by a voice vote. Observers noted that the "yeas" sounded about as loud as the "nays," but Obey said he would not demand a voice vote since he was not offering the amendment to embarrass his colleagues.

Following the vote, ForOps Subcommittee Chairman Kolbe (R-AZ) noted (as he did last week) that he plans to hold an oversight hearing in July to look at issues related to the peace process, and suggested that this would be an opportunity to revisit the issue of settlements.

Text of Obey amendment:

"In the Committee report, insert the following report language at the appropriate place:

"The Committee strongly supports past statements by the President concerning the Roadmap for Middle East Peace. As President Bush stated, 'A viable two-state solution must ensure contiguity of the West Bank, and a state of scattered territories will not work. There must also be meaningful linkages between the West Bank and Gaza. This is the position of the United States today, it will be the position of the United States at the time of final status negotiations. Israel should not undertake any activity that contravenes Roadmap obligations or prejudices final status negotiations with regard to Gaza, the West Bank, and Jerusalem. Therefore, Israel must remove unauthorized outposts and stop settlement expansion. The barrier being erected by Israel as part of its security effort must be a security, rather than political, barrier.'

"To evaluate Israel's compliance with U.S. policy, the Secretary of State shall submit to the Committees on Appropriations no later than 180 days after enactment a report detailing Israeli settlement activity and other measures of compliance with the Roadmap for Middle East Peace as agreed to by the European Union, the United States, Russia, and the United Nations."


Rep. Hoyer (D-MD) offered, and then withdrew, an amendment regarding aid to Egypt. Similar to language included in HR 2601, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act (see the June 11 edition of the Round-Up for full details of this bill), Hoyer's amendment would have shifted $40 million in military aid (FMF) for Egypt to economic aid (ESF). Hoyer offered detailed criticism of Egypt's economic situation, insufficient democratic reforms, poor human rights practices, and unacceptable treatment of religious minorities, and echoed arguments made previously by Rep. Lantos (D-CA) that shifting the aid would send a message to the Egyptian people that Congress is concerned for their welfare.

Opposing the amendment _ even while agreeing substantially with many of Hoyer's criticisms _ were ForOps Subcommittee Chairman Kolbe (R-AZ), and Reps. Cunningham (R-AZ), Kilpatrick (D-MI), and Jackson (D- IL). Cunningham noted that he does not want the Committee to take any action that could weaken the government of Egypt. Kilpatrick argued that shifting FMF to ESF could undermine stability in Egypt and noted that "Egypt is a stabilizing force in the region." Jackson reminded the committee that Egypt is in the process of implementing serious economic reforms; that Egyptian intelligence provides important help to the U.S. and Israel; and the Egypt helps on the peace process.

Appropriations Committee Ranking Minority Member Obey (D-WI) subsequently offered his own amendment on Egypt, which was agreed to by the Committee. The amendment earmarks $50 million from Egypt's economic assistance for "programs to improve and promote democracy, governance, and human rights" and another $50 million in economic assistance for education programs. The amendment included report language stating that "not less than 50 percent of the funds provided for Egypt for democracy, governance, and human rights be provided through nongovernmental organizations for the purpose of strengthening Egyptian civil society organizations, enhancing their participation in the political process, and enhancing their ability to promote and monitor human rights" and "not less than 50 percent of the funds provided for Egypt for education be used to improve basic education. The remainder of the funds provided for education shall be used to strengthen institutions of higher education, promote academic freedom, and fund educational and cultural exchange programs."


On June 17th the House passed HR 2745, the "Henry J. Hyde United Nations Reform Act of 2005" by a vote of 221-184. The bill, which requires sweeping reform at the UN and mandates the withholding of US funding for the UN if the President fails to certify compliance with each of the listed requirements, now goes to the Senate.

The bill includes a number of important provisions related to the treatment of Israel, seeking to strengthen Israel's position and mandate "proper balance" regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As part of this effort, HR 2745 includes a number of provisions that seek to undermine or entirely eliminate Palestinian-related entities and funding at the United Nations. This approach reflects the view of some in Congress that many of the problems related to the Palestinians, and in particular the refugee issue, can be better solved by attacking the agencies that deliver services to them, rather than through efforts to resolve the overall Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Key provisions of the bill are:

Sec. 101, "United States Financial Contributions to the United Nations"
This section makes it U.S. policy to shift certain UN programs from the regular assessed budget (automatically funded via UN dues) to voluntarily funded programs (programs that member nations have the option of funding and determining the level of funding). Included in the list of programs to be shifted from the regular assessed budget to voluntarily funded programs is "Palestine refugees."

In addition, this section amends current law regarding U.S. participation in the UN (22 U.S.C. 287e-3) to limit the U.S. contribution to any of the programs listed in this section, and specifically mandates that "The Secretary of State may not make a contribution to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in an amount greater than the highest contribution to UNRWA made by an Arab country, but may not exceed 22 percent of the total budget of UNRWA."

The limitation on funding for UNRWA was proposed in a floor amendment by Rep. King (R-IA). Speaking in support of the amendment, which was subsequently adopted by a voice vote, Rep. Lantos (D-CA) stated:

" is sickening, Mr. Chairman, that Saudi Arabia and much of the Arab world, cynically ignoring this situation, continue to lecture to us that we are not doing enough to help the Palestinian people. Mr. Chairman, this amendment stops short of prescribing the range of reforms to which I believe UNRWA needs to be subjected. It must do a better job of ensuring that its assistance does not go to anyone who engages in terrorism, as U.S. law requires; that their textbooks need to be rewritten to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace; that UNRWA needs to stop perpetuating a culture of camps and dependency. It must promote programs to encourage Palestinians to leave the refugee camps that are a breeding ground for misery and terrorism and build a prosperous life on the outside. Soon I will propose comprehensive reform of UNRWA, but today is not that day. For today, I only want to rationalize the process of supporting the UNRWA budget. I do not want to take one penny of humanitarian aid from the Palestinians, nor do I want to increase the burden on a state like Jordan, which has done so much, far more than any other Arab state to help Palestinian refugees. Mr. Chairman, I simply want to see oil-rich Arab states pay a small portion of their fair share, and I want to see the U.S. taxpayer treated with respect. Our amendment makes an important start toward accomplishing these goals. I urge all of my colleagues to support this amendment."

Sec. 107, "Equality at the United Nations"
This section requires the President to direct the UN Permanent Representative (PermRep) to "use the voice, vote, and influence of the United States" to expand the UN's Western European and Others Group (WEOG) to include Israel "as a permanent member with full rights and privileges," and requires the Secretary of State to report to Congress every 6 months on "the treatment of Israel in the United Nations and the expansion of WEOG to include Israel as permanent member."

The section then targets UN entities dealing with the Palestinians, "to avoid duplicative efforts and funding with respect to Palestinian interests and to ensure balance in the approach to Israeli-Palestinian issues." The language lists five UN entities that focus on the Palestinians (and includes, in addition, "any entity the Secretary determines results in duplicative efforts or funding or fails to ensure balance in the approach to Israeli- Palestinian issues"); requires the Secretary of State to "conduct an audit of the functions" of all these entities; and requires the Secretary of State to submit to Congress a report with recommendations "for the elimination of such duplicative entities and efforts." The President is required to direct the PermRep to use the voice, vote, and influence of the U.S. to ensure that these recommendations are implemented.

Finally, the provision mandates that until the recommendations are adopted, the U.S. shall withhold from its UN contributions an amount proportional to the amount spent on these entities, and requires the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct an audit both of the status of implementation of the recommendations, and of U.S. actions and achievements of the PermRep in implementing the requirements of this provision. This withholding is unrelated to the broader certification requirements in the bill - even if the President certified that the UN had met all mandated reforms, these withholdings would still occur until the entities are eliminated.

Speaking in support of his amendment to add an additional UN entity to the list of entities that should be eliminated, Rep. Wilson (R-SC) stated:

"...for too long the United Nations has taken an unbalanced approach to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. Nongovernmental organizations and commissions within the U.N. that monitor human rights abuses have often resorted to an anti-Israel campaign under the guise of protecting human rights. As a result, numerous organizations exist within the U.N. that are not constructively engaged in establishing peace in the Middle East, but, rather, serve to continue inflaming anti-Israel sentiment throughout the region due to one-sided reporting of human rights abuses.

"...My amendment adds The Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories to the list of organizations that are to be audited and reported upon. This Committee was established by the U.N. General Assembly in 1968. In its most recent report dated September 23, 2004, it notes that the Palestinian people's hopes for their own homeland and a better future have been considerably diminished. Nothing could be further from the truth. The prospects of Palestine and Israel living side by side in peace for mutual benefit grows stronger every day as world leaders continue to work together to resolve this conflict.

"This Special Committee goes so far as to criticize Israel for building a security wall, without mentioning how the wall has made Israel more secure from suicide bombers, whose sole purpose is to commit the most egregious human rights violations by killing innocent Israeli civilians. Under these circumstances, it is entirely appropriate to add this U.N. Special Committee to the list of entities to be audited and reviewed. In conclusion, God bless our troops. We will not forget September 11."

Sec. 114, "Anti-Semitism and the United Nations"
The provision requires the President to direct the PermRep to use the voice, vote, and influence of the U.S. "to make every effort" to make sure that, among other things, the UN Secretary General or Secretariat requires all UN employees to "officially and publicly condemn anti- Semitic statements made at any session of the United Nations or its specialized agencies, or at any other session sponsored" by the UN. It also requires that employees of the UN and UN agencies "be subject to punitive action, including immediate dismissal, for making anti-Semitic statements or references." It also requires recommendations for the creation of mechanisms to enforce similar requirements in the General Assembly, and requires the PermRep to seek the adoption of a General Assembly resolution achieving this. In addition, it requires the development and implementation of "education awareness programs about the Holocaust and anti- Semitism throughout the world." Finally, it requires the PermRep to "continue working toward further reduction of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel resolutions" in the UN and UN agencies.

This section is a "certifiable" requirement - i.e., its implementation, certified by the President, is required in order to prevent the U.S. from withholding annual funding for the UN.


(HAMAS/PA) On June 22nd Reps. Shelley Berkley (D-NV) and Dan Burton (R-IN) began circulating a Dear Colleague seeking cosigners on a letter to President Bush expressing "strong concerns over the participation of Hamas in upcoming Palestinian elections" and arguing that "peace cannot be realized until Hamas completely disarms, publicly renounces terror, ceases promoting violence and murder against Israeli and United States citizens, and removes from their charter language calling for Israel's destruction..." The letter goes on to state that "The United States must make clear to President Abbas that he must do all in his power to ensure that the participation of Hamas in the upcoming Palestinian elections is conditional on the total cessation of terrorist behavior, the revision of their charter calling for Israel's destruction, and the transformation of the organization away from its culture of anti-Semitism and incitement to violence."

It is worth noting that on June 20th Rep. Burton inserted into the Congressional Record a statement entitled "The Potential Impact of Israeli Disengagement on U.S. Interests." The statement includes the text of an anti-disengagement briefing paper by a hardline former Israeli diplomat listing 11 ways that disengagement threatens U.S. interests (arguing that disengagement will lead to escalated terrorism and U.S. deaths, hurt the war on terror, etc.). In his own comments Burton stops just short of explicitly opposing the disengagement plan, noting that:

"I have met Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and I know that he is a fine man. I am sure he firmly believes that this 'strategic retreat' from the Gaza Strip and four settlements in the West Bank is the best way to guarantee Israel's long-term security by allowing Israel to conserve and consolidate military and security resources, reducing opportunities for further friction with the Palestinians, and potentially reducing pressure on Israel to negotiate a final peace settlement on unfavorable terms. Personally, I will not second guess the Prime Minister's wisdom; I very much hope that he is right. But again, my experience tells me that if you take steps to appease an enemy you only give him a green light to put more pressure on you. In my opinion, it is imperative and critical to U.S. National Security that we as policymakers understand the consequences should the Israeli disengagement plan fail to live up to expectations."

(INTERFAITH COOPERATION) On June 21st House International Relations Committee Chairman Henry Hyde (R-IL) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D- CT) began circulating a Dear Colleague informing members about "an important initiative by American citizens who are working together to promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians." The letter goes on to explain that "On Sunday, June 26, 2005, Christians, Jews and Muslims will come together in over 50 cities across the United States to listen to Israeli, Palestinian and American religious and civil society leaders speaking from the Notre Dame Center in Jerusalem and the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, DC. ...We want to applaud and encourage this unprecedented act of multi-faith cooperation in support of peace between Israelis and Palestinians. We want to let our constituents know that we hear and share both their concerns and their resolve. ...At a time of so much strife in the Middle East and so much concern about religious extremism, it is an inspiring sign of the pluralism and religious tolerance of America that such a joint interfaith effort should be mounted in our Capitol and across our Nation. We hope that you will share our support for such interfaith cooperation at this critical moment, taking this special opportunity to address one of the world's most urgent problems."


On June 21st Americans for Peace Now hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill featuring Dr. Menachem Klein, a Senior Lecturer in the Political Science Department at Bar-Ilan University, a Senior Researcher at the Jerusalem Institute of Israel Studies, and a Think Tank Fellow on the topic of confronting terror at the Jaffe Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University. Addressing an audience of more than 100 people, Dr. Klein's topic was: "The Day After Disengagement: A Look at the Fence, Settlements, and Further Options in the West Bank."

On June 22nd Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) sponsored a Hill briefing by the far right- wing, pro-settler, anti-peace process Israel Resource News Agency (IRNA). This week's Event, entitled "An Inside Look at the New Palestinian Leadership," represented the third time this year that Smith has provided a forum in the House for the group, including a May 18th event (with the same title), and a March 10th event featuring "an interim report by Abu Mazen Watch."

While presenting itself on the Hill as a mainstream, unbiased source of news and analysis about the Palestinian Authority, IRNA is in fact led by David Bedein, a longtime opponent of the peace process and an outspoken and ubiquitous opponent of the Sharon disengagement plan. In May 2005 he published an article entitled "How to Defeat the Sharon Plan," published on the website of the Gush Katif settlements. In February 2004 he characterized the plan as "Sharon's program for unilateral retreat from the 17 Jewish farming communities..." In May 2004, he wrote: "The text of the Sharon Plan speaks for itself: Ethnic Cleansing of Jews, strengthening of the PLO, and no disengagement whatsoever..." In October 2004, Bedein concluded: "To make a long story short, the Sharon Plan, far from being a plan of disengagement from the PLO, evolved into nothing less than a program of empowerment for the PLO."

[In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that notwithstanding the declaration on IRNA's website that its mission is to "report Israel's reality to the media" and cover "every aspect of peace negotiations," Mr. Bedein opposes efforts to even track, let alone report on, settlement activity, characterizing Peace Now's Settlement Watch as "Jewish Spies Against Israel" and arguing that "...the organization provides information that can easily used against Israel. In these cases, every bit of information counts. Everything is relevant when it comes to protecting the people of Israel." (May 2004),]

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