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APN Legislative Round-Up for the Week Ending January 21, 2011

Welcome to the first Round-Up of the 112th Congress! 

1. Bills and Resolutions 
2. Senate Letter Opposing UN Action (but not the action the UN is actually taking) 
3. UN "reform" efforts promised by Ros-Lehtinen - What to Expect 
4. APN on the UN Security Council Resolution regarding Settlements 
5. Ros-Lehtinen Rants about Palestinian Flag Flying in Washington 
6. APN on Palestinian Statehood and the Way Forward 
7. Ros-Lehtinen's East Jerusalem Settlement Connection 
8. Odds & Ends

1.  Bills & Resolutions
(Jerusalem) H. Con. Res. 5: Introduced 1/5/2011 by Rep. Wilson (R-SC) and no cosponsors, "Supporting the reunification of Jerusalem."  Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
2.  Senate Letter Opposing UN Action (but not the action the UN is actually taking)
On 1/18/10 Senator Gillibrand (D-NY) and 17 of her colleagues sent a letter to Secretary of State Clinton urging the Obama Administration to oppose a pending UN Security Council resolution related to Israel and the peace process.  Gillibrand's press release states that the resolution "is being drafted by the Palestinian Authority (PA) in an effort to unilaterally dictate terms to Israel, enabling the PA to avoid direct negotiations."  The release also asserts that "steering negotiations through the U.N., known for its hostility toward Israel, hurts the prospects of a Middle East peace agreement." 
The full text of the letter is copied below.
The JTA's Ron Kampeas does a superb job analyzing the problems with the letter, the most notable of which is the fact that the resolution described/criticized in the Senate letter bears no resemblance to the resolution that was actually tabled this week in the UN security council.  As Kampeas notes: "The actual resolution does address settlements, but not borders -- but weirdest of all is that Gillibrand, in the substantive part of her letter, calls for exactly what the resolution calls for: A return to direct negotiations. It's as if Gillibrand's office wrote this letter without seeing the resolution -- as if the point was to condemn the resolution sight unseen, just because, in the way we did when we were kids and we served notice that our word was final, forever and ever plus a million years."
Kampeas goes on to state:  "Have they taken into account that the letter's signatories may be embarrassed by the final version of the resolution? Have they taken into account what straw men do to a just cause? It's kind of like the political equivalent of crying wolf: When the resolution is made public, and does not impose an outside solution on the parties, and does encourage them to talk directly, the folks considering it will see the straw men have floated away -- and will ignore the resolution's real flaws.  One other point: The United Nations, yes, is a lousy place for Israel. The Security Council, because of its built-in U.S./British/French veto, not so much -- diplomats pretty much treat the two bodies as distinct entities. Pretending the UNSC is the UN is not going to win anyone good faith points."
Text of the Gillibrand letter
January 18, 2011
The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
United States Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Madame Secretary,
We are very concerned about reports that the Palestinian Authority is drafting a resolution intended for consideration at the United Nations Security Council regarding issues that have been and should continue to be pursued through direct negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, namely borders and settlements. We believe such a move hurts the prospects for a peace agreement and is not in the interest of the United States.
We strongly urge you to make clear that the United States will veto such a resolution if it is raised at the Council, and to clearly communicate United States' intent to do so to other Security Council members.
A resolution of this nature would work against our country's consistent position, which has been that this and other issues linked to the Middle East peace process can only be resolved by the two parties negotiating directly with each other. Between November 2009 and September 2010, the government of Israel imposed a settlement freeze as a goodwill gesture, yet the Palestinians refused to negotiate until the very last month.  Attempts to use a venue such as the United Nations, which you know has a long history of hostility toward Israel, to deal with just one issue in the negotiations, will not move the two sides closer to a two-state solution, but rather damage the fragile trust between them.
We know you have a deep understanding of these issues and a heartfelt friendship toward one of our closest allies, Israel.  That is why we urge you to clearly signal that the U.S. will veto this resolution, and to make it clear to the Palestinian Authority that it needs to sit down in direct talks with Israel, rather than pursue unhelpful resolutions at the United Nations.  We stand ready to be helpful to you in this matter.
3.  UN "reform" efforts promised by Ros-Lehtinen - What to Expect
Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), new chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, has made it clear that right out of the box she is going after the United Nations.  The Washington Times on 1/17/11 ran a lengthy piece on the issue, detailing UN "reform" legislation Ros-Lehtinen intends to introduce, and a hearing is scheduled in the committee for January 24th (originally scheduled for the 12th, but delayed because of the Tucson shootings) entitled "The United Nations: Urgent Problems That Need Congressional Action."
There is no real mystery about what this effort will likely involve. 
The template for UN "reform" legislation is HR 2745, passed by the House during the 109th Congress (6/17/05, by a party-line vote of 221-184, with only 8 Democrats voting in favor, and only 7 Republicans voting against).  While the title of the legislation made the target appear to be the UN in general, the actual provisions in the bill focused disproportionately on attacking Palestinian-related bodies at the UN, including UNRWA (this is not why Democrats opposed it).  It should be noted that if HR 2745 had passed into law, it would have required the President to violate US obligations under the UN treaty (meaning that President Bush would likely have vetoed it or signed it into law but "set aside" key provisions as unconstitutional).
Similar bills have been introduced subsequently - HR 2712 in the 110th Congress and HR 557 in the 111th Congress - both by Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), but with Democrats in control of the House during that period, neither bill moved out of committee.
Now, with Republicans having regained control of the House and Ros-Lehtinen chairing the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, it would seem to be a foregone conclusion that the UN reform legislation that Ros-Lehtinen is already promising to introduce will be passed by the committee and eventually by the whole House.  As with HR 2745, which the Senate never took up (so it died at the end of that Congress), it is extremely improbable that the Senate would take up, let alone pass, this legislation - assuming the legislation follows the lines of its previous incarnations.
Assuming (with good reason) that the past is prologue, at least with respect to recurring Congressional initiatives, here is a brief summary of the Middle East-related elements of HR 557 (introduced by Ros-Lehtinen 1/15/09). 
This section calls for the U.S. Permanent Representative (PermRep) to the UN to use the voice, vote, and influence of the United States at the United Nations to work toward adoption by the general assembly of a definition of "terrorism" that meets several criteria.  Among them is requirement (b), that such definition includes: "any action that is intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organization to do..."   Requirement (b), however, is clarified with requirement (c), which notes that such definition should not "propose a legal or moral equivalence between an action [that meets the previous criteria] and measures taken by a government or international organization in self-defense against an action [that meets the previous criteria]."  Given that HR 2745 was introduced during the 2008-2009 Gaza War, when Israeli actions in Gaza were sparking intense international criticism, the intent behind this last point is clear.
This section would (mandatorily) withhold U.S. contributions to UNRWA unless the Secretary of State provides (at 3 month intervals) a certification.  The certification is written to be so far-reaching that it would be impossible to ever provide (for example, it would require security investigations into not only every single person in any way associated with UNRWA operations, but also every single person receiving UNRWA assistance) - making it nothing more than a thinly-covered excuse to cut all funding to UNRWA.  Specifically, the Secretary would need to certify that:
- not a single person associated in any way with UNRWA is (a) a member of a foreign terrorist organization; (b) has propagated, disseminated, or incited anti-American, anti-Israel, or anti-Semitic rhetoric or propaganda; or (c) has used any UNRWA resources, including publications or websites, to propagate or disseminate political materials, including political rhetoric regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 
- "no UNRWA school, hospital, clinic, other facility, or other infrastructure or resource is being used by a foreign terrorist organization for operations, planning, training, recruitment, fundraising, indoctrination, communications, sanctuary, storage of weapons or other materials, or any other purposes."  
- UNRWA is "subject to comprehensive financial audits by an internationally recognized third party independent auditing firm and has implemented an effective system of vetting and oversight to prevent the use, receipt, or diversion of any UNRWA resources by any foreign terrorist organization or members thereof." 
- no UNRWA-funded school or educational institution uses textbooks or other educational materials that propagate or disseminate anti-American, anti-Israel, or anti-Semitic rhetoric, propaganda or incitement; and
- no recipient of UNRWA funds or loans is a member of a foreign terrorist organization.
In addition, even if the certification could be made, the provision seeks to cut U.S. assistance to UNRWA on the basis of three criteria:  such assistance shall not be "greater than the highest annual contribution to UNRWA made by a member country of the League of Arab States"; " such assistance shall not, as a proportion of the total UNRWA budget exceed "the proportion of the total budget for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) paid by the United States"; and  such assistance shall not exceed "22 percent of the total budget of UNRWA," regardless of any other requirements.
Finally, the section ends with a Sense of Congress that is very telling:  "It is the sense of Congress that, in order to alleviate the suffering of Palestinian refugees, responsibility for those refugees should be fully transferred to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees." 
This SoC reflects arguments made by some members of Congress and some outside groups that the explosive issue of Palestinian refugees - an issue that all parties have previously defined as a "final status issue" - can be solved outside of the scope of negotiations.  This would be done by re-defining Palestinian refugees as a problem that has nothing to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but is rather a generic refugee problem, solvable through generic refugee procedures.  Their preferred solution would be to have UNRWA replaced by UNHCR, which would then deal with the Palestinian refugees in the same manner it deals with refugees everywhere - returning them to their homes, resettling them in the countries where they currently reside, or resettling them in a third country.   This approach ignores the fact that each of the UNHCR's solutions is unacceptable to either Israel, the Palestinians, or any third country involved: the UN cannot force Israel to accept refugees inside its borders;  Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan are opposed, with varying degrees of vehemence, to permitting the refugees to remain permanently in their countries; third countries cannot be forced to accept Palestinian refugees; and outside of the scope of a broader political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is unlikely that all or even most Palestinians would willingly leave.  This approach also ignores the fundamental reality that after a half century of limbo, the Palestinian refugee situation is an explosive political issue.  Efforts to bypass a mutually-acceptable solution - as accepted by Israel, the U.S., and the Palestinians as one of the key goals of any peace negotiations - are doomed to fail and will likely exacerbate the conflict.
This innocuously-titled (and lengthy) section targets organs of the UN that deal with Palestinian and Israeli-Palestinian issues.  The section opens with an assertion that this is necessary "To avoid duplicative efforts and funding with respect to Palestinian interests and to ensure balance in the approach to Israeli-Palestinian issues."
The section requires the Secretary to complete an audit of a list of UN entities and present that audit to Congress.  The audit must include "recommendations for the elimination of such duplicative entities and efforts" (meaning that the drafters of this section have already concluded what the results of the audit will be without needing to see it).  The entities to be audited are:  the UN Division for Palestinian Rights; the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People; the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative to the PLO and PA; the NGO Network on the Question of Palestine; the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories; and "any other entity the Secretary determines results in duplicative efforts or funding or fails to ensure balance in the approach to Israeli-Palestinian issues."
The section goes on to assume that the audit results in recommendations for wholesale reform/elimination of the bodies in question, and requires that the US PermRep to the UN "use the voice, vote, and influence of the United States at the United Nations to seek the implementation of the recommendations..."   In addition, it requires that the U.S. withhold its (mandatory) contributions to the UN budget (meaning the U.S. would be required to violate its obligations under the UN treaty) until the recommendations have been implemented, in amounts "proportional to the percentage of such budget that are expended for such entities."
In addition, the section requires a  GAO audit of the status of the implementation of the Secretary's recommendations and how effectively the U.S. work working to seek their recommendations (both by withholding funds and by using "voice, vote, and influence."
This section targets anti-Semitism at the UN, calling on the President to direct the UN PermRep to use voice, vote, and influence" to fight anti-Semitism at the UN in a variety of ways.  The section would be uncontroversial except for its final requirement: that the PermRep "continue working toward further reduction of anti-Semitic language and anti-Israel resolutions in the United Nations and its specialized agencies, programs, and funds."  While there is no question that some actions of the UN General Assembly regarding Israel have included anti-Semitic, this language irresponsibly conflates anti-Semitism and all UN actions regarding Israel.
This section requires the President to direct the UN PermRep "to use the voice, vote, and influence of the United States at the United Nations to expand the Western European and Others Group (WEOG) in the United Nations to include Israel as a permanent member with full rights and privileges."  Background on this issue can be found here.
This section expresses Congressional unhappiness with the (new) UN Human Rights Council.  Notably, in its findings section, the bill lays out only one specific criticism of the council, and it is about Israel: "The structure and composition of the United Nations Human Rights Council have made it subject to gross political manipulation, with the result that, during its two and one-half years of operation, the Council has passed 20 resolutions censuring the democratic state of Israel, as compared to only 4 censuring the dictatorship in Burma, just one censuring the North Korean regime, and none condemning the severe, ongoing human rights abuses in Sudan, China, Cuba, Zimbabwe, Belarus, and elsewhere." The section requires that the U.S. withhold funding to the UN (again, placing it out of compliance with its treaty obligations) unless the Secretary of State can provide a certification regarding the Council's membership.  [NOTE:  Given the Human Rights Council's role in establishing the Goldstone Commission - possibly the most despised UN action by Congress in decades - it seems likely that this section will be substantially toughened in the bill's next incarnation].
This section requires far-reaching reform of the IAEA with goal of making the body more effective and giving its actions more "teeth."
With respect specifically to Iran, the section requires the President to direct the UN PermRep to "use the voice, vote, and influence of the United States at the IAEA to make every effort to ensure the adoption of a resolution by the IAEA Board of Governors that, in addition to the restrictions already imposed, makes Iran ineligible to receive any nuclear material, technology, equipment, or assistance from any IAEA Member State and ineligible for any IAEA assistance not related to safeguards inspections or nuclear security until the IAEA Board of Governors determines that Iran-- (A) is providing full access to IAEA inspectors to its nuclear-related facilities; (B) has fully implemented and is in compliance with the Additional Protocol; and
(C) has permanently ceased and dismantled all activities and programs related to nuclear-enrichment and reprocessing."  The section also requires mandatory the PermRep to work for mandatory penalties against IAEA members who violate the prohibition on assistance to Iran.
4.  APN on the UN Security Council Resolution regarding Settlements
On 1/21/11 APN released the following statement regarding the pending UN Security Council resolution dealing with settlements and the peace process:
"APN has long argued that Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem must stop. This activity undermines the prospects for peace and a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It undermines confidence in negotiations and is a boon to extremists. It threatens Israel's security and creates instability on the ground. And it paints Israelis as a people more interested in perpetuating and cementing the occupation than in making peace.
"It is indefensible that the Netanyahu government, heedless of the damage settlement activity does to Israel's own interests and indifferent to the Obama Administration's peace efforts, has not only refused to halt settlement activity but has opened the floodgates, including in the most sensitive areas of East Jerusalem. In this context, the move by the United Nations Security Council to censure Israel's settlement activity should surprise no one. By following a different course, the Netanyahu government could have avoided this painful development. 
"It is not too late for the Israeli government to change course and to stop backing settlement activity. Such a change is needed to ensure Israel's security and viability as a Jewish state and as a democracy. This resolution can help Israel's leaders and public to grasp this fundamental truth.
"This UN action needs to be considered on its merits: both the context and the content of the resolution matter. The context here is Israel's dogmatic refusal to refrain from settlement activity that is destructive to peace and to Israel's future. The content of the action is a resolution whose text is consistent with longstanding U.S. policy regarding settlements, and explicitly supports negotiations and the two-state solution.
"Given this context and content, APN calls on the Obama Administration to not veto this resolution in its current form. Vetoing this resolution would conflict with four decades of U.S. policy. It would contribute to the dangerously naive view that Israeli settlement policies do no lasting harm to Israel. And it would send a message to the world that the U.S. is not only acquiescing to Israel's actions, but is implicitly supporting them."
A Washington insiders' brouhaha has erupted over another group taking a similar position on the resolution.  On 1/10/11 a letter - organized by Steve Clemons of the Washington Note - was sent to Obama, signed by a group of foreign policy commentators and practitioners, academics, and former government officials, urging Obama to support the resolution.  The letter was denounced by right-wing Washington Post commentator Jennifer Rubin as the work of "Israel bashers," sparking a sharp protest from Steve Clemons and more insightful analysis from Ron Kampeas at the JTA. Ben Smith at Politico subsequently weighed in with a post in which he refers to Clemons' protest as "a bit plaintive" and gives space for former AIPAC spokesman Josh Block to make the case that supporting virtually any action critical of Israel at the UN - regardless of context or content - is "the DEFINITION of anti-Israel activism."  Block also suggests that complaining publicly and in emails about being attacked as an Israel basher for doing so is, also, "the DEFINITION of anti-Israel activism."  Meaning that in Block's view, Clemons, whether he intended to do so or not, is guilty of two sins: engaging in anti-Israel activism by drumming up support for this resolution, and the compound sin of defending himself against Rubin's attack.  Presumably if Clemons responds to Block's attack, Block will find a way to categorize that as yet another part of the DEFINITION of anti-Israel activism.
5.  Ros-Lehtinen Rants about Palestinian Flag Flying in Washington
If it weren't already clear that the season of pointless grandstanding on issues related to Israel, the Palestinians, and the Middle East in general is upon us, the press release issued 1/18/11 by new chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), leaves no room for doubt.  In it Ros-Lehtinen rages against the raising of the Palestinian flag at the offices of the PLO representative office in Washington, DC, suggesting that the act "is part of the Palestinian leadership's scheme to manipulate international acceptance and diplomatic recognition of a yet-to-be-created Palestinian state while refusing to directly negotiate with Israel or accept the existence of Israel as a democratic, Jewish state."  The entire press release is copied below.
This is not the first time that Ros-Lehtinen has railed over the Palestinian flag.  As noted in the 7/23/10 edition of the Round-Up:
On 7/23/10 Ranking Minority Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) issued a press release rebuking the Obama Administration for permitting a symbolic (and only symbolic) changes in the conditions governing the operations of the PLO office in Washington, DC (permitting the office to now fly the Palestinian flag - consistent with the practice of the Bush and the Obama Administrations of flying the flag when Palestinian officials are visiting; and permitting it to refer to itself as the "General Delegation of the PLO" as opposed to the "PLO Representative Office" - both terms that have no significance and imply no diplomatic status under the Vienna convention).  Ros-Lehtinen did not content herself with merely objecting to the changed conditions, but also capitalized on the opportunity to demonize President Abbas, call for the PLO to be kicked out of the United States "once and for all" and (in a non-sequitur) demand that the US embassy in Israel be immediately moved to Jerusalem. 
Full text of Ros-Lehtinen 1/18/11 press release
Ros-Lehtinen Says PLO Flag Raising Part of Scheme for Recognition without Meeting Obligations
(WASHINGTON) - U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued the following statement criticizing the decision of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to officially hoist the Palestinian flag outside its office in Washington, DC:
"Raising this flag in DC is part of the Palestinian leadership's scheme to manipulate international acceptance and diplomatic recognition of a yet-to-be-created Palestinian state while refusing to directly negotiate with Israel or accept the existence of Israel as a democratic, Jewish state.
"The Palestinian leadership's ongoing drive to win recognition from foreign governments, and its latest push to condemn Israel at the UN, is part of the same strategy aimed at extracting concessions without being required to meet international commitments.
"I remain deeply disappointed that the Palestinian leadership continues to reject the opportunity to negotiate directly and in good faith with the Israeli government to resolve all outstanding issues and achieve security and peace. Instead, Palestinian leaders reject negotiations, they make excuses, and they seek shortcuts to statehood.
"The U.S. has reinforced Ramallah's rejectionism through economic and political support, including support for the PLO office in Washington, instead of requiring that they meet all conditions in U.S. law. Governments worldwide will interpret such actions as tacit U.S. recognition of a Palestinian state. These actions send precisely the wrong message to foreign governments.
"It's long past time to change course, uphold our own laws by holding Ramallah accountable for its commitments, and encourage other responsible nations to do likewise."
[part of press release] NOTE: On August 9, 2010, Ros-Lehtinen, U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (NY), then-Republican Leader John Boehner (OH), then-Republican Whip Eric Cantor (VA), and 32 other Members of Congress, wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, requesting that the State Department reconsider its decision to grant certain privileges to the PLO office in DC and, instead, fully implement U.S. law by closing the PLO office due to the PLO's failure to meet its obligations. Ros-Lehtinen authored the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006, which conditioned U.S. assistance to the Palestinian leadership on the latter's compliance with its obligations to renounce and combat violent extremism, abide by its existing agreements, and recognize Israel's right to exist.
6.  APN on Palestinian Statehood and the Way Forward
Following is policy language that has been newly adopted by the APN board and published 1/13/11:
The achievement of a negotiated solution that ends the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and delivers two viable states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and with security, is the central goal of Peace Now in Israel and of Americans for Peace Now (APN).
The urgency of the Israeli-Palestinian situation today cannot be overstated.  The current status quo is fragile and wholly unsustainable.  The peace process is at an impasse.  Settlement construction continues.  Violence and tensions on the ground are rising.  With the immediate concerns of growing instability in Gaza and predicted instability in Lebanon, Israelis and Palestinians alike are again talking about impending war.  Dramatic and decisive action by the Obama administration is vital to stop the deterioration and provide a way forward.
At present, much attention is focused on Palestinian efforts to build international recognition of a state of Palestine, including in the United Nations.  These efforts reflect, first and foremost, the loss of credibility of the current peace process and the understandable and growing conviction that negotiations will never deliver statehood.  Palestinian leaders, like leaders anywhere, need to address the concerns of their people and provide them a tangible path forward. 
While we recognize why the Palestinian leadership has adopted this strategy, we know that international recognition of Palestine is not and cannot be an alternative to a negotiated settlement.  The issues of borders, refugees, security and Jerusalem will not be resolved by the international recognition of Palestine - they will only be resolved through negotiations that involve both Israel and the Palestinians.   Unilateral actions, by either side, will never be a substitute for negotiations or resolve the conflict - something that the Palestinian leadership itself has recognized even in the context of this effort.   
We believe, moreover, that, in the absence of an agreement, the campaign for recognition holds dangers for both sides, including the risk of unintentionally emboldening Palestinians and Israelis who oppose the peace process, oppose a two-state solution, and welcome confrontation.  
The appropriate response by those concerned with this new Palestinian strategy is not simply criticizing the Palestinians and demanding they desist, but, rather, working urgently to re-accredit US peace efforts and launch a peace process that can quickly deliver results.   With current peace efforts at an impasse, this will require dramatic and decisive action by the Obama administration, including, for example, laying down U.S. permanent status parameters or a U.S. peace plan.  Absent such a renewed and reinvigorated process, support for recognition of Palestine, outside a negotiated peace agreement, can be expected to gain significant momentum.  Eventually, Israel could find itself opposing recognition of Palestine by the UN - a difficult case for Israel to make, given that it was the UN that gave birth to Israel after Israel's founders went to that body with their own demand for recognition. 
Finally, we reject the growing chorus of voices suggesting that the two-state solution is dead and arguing for discussion of alternatives.  We accept that the two-state solution will not survive indefinitely as facts on the ground continue to change. That is why we have long opposed settlement building, and it is why we oppose the various agreement-avoidance strategies offered by Prime Minister Netanyahu, including his plan for "economic peace" and his preference for "interim steps."  However, any honest discussion of alternatives to the two-state solution leads to one ineluctable conclusion: there is no alternative - only illusions.  This conclusion should be a clarion call for all those who care about Israel to press for redoubled efforts to resolve this conflict, before the two-state solution is truly lost.
To read our full policy:
APN on the Campaign for international recognition of a Palestinian state
APN on the Way Forward
No Alternative to the Two State Solution
7.  Ros-Lehtinen's East Jerusalem Settlement Connection
On 1/10/11, Politico broke the story that East Jerusalem settler financier Irving Moskowitz and his wife (Cherna) are top donors to the new chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL).  Politico reported that campaign finance records show that Moskowitz and his wife donated $9600 to Ros-Lehtinen in the 2010 election cycle, and in addition, Cherna donated $5000 to the National Action Committee PAC (Nacpac), which contributed $10,000 to Ros-Lehtinen in 2009-2010.
On 1/12/11 the Jerusalem Post followed up on the Politico story, noting that since 2006, Moskowitz and his wife have contributed $20,200 to Ros-Lehtinen.
The story comes in the context of the recent demolition of the Shepherds Hotel in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.  The site was acquired by Moskowitz in the 1980s (under conditions that have been questioned by many) and he has since sought to develop it into a large new settlement in the heart of this Palestinian neighborhood - in what will be the first settlement construction in this neighborhood since 1967. 
At each step of the way the plan has generated objections and denunciations from across the international community, including from the Bush Administration and the Obama Administration.  The action of demolishing the hotel on 1/9/11 - something that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu had the power to prevent, if had wanted to do so - was viewed by many as the crossing of a red line.  The fact that the person behind this act is a top donor to the new HCFA chair is thus generating interest and criticism. 
On 1/18/11, J Street launched a campaign calling on Ros-Lehtinen to return the funds.  This, in turn, sparked its own debate.
8.  Odds & Ends
> On 1/25/11 Ros-Lehtinen will be the featured speaker on a conference call hosted by the Israel Project (TIP) - an organization that is strongly supportive of the policies of the current Israeli government.  The topic will be: "The Current Situation in the Middle East and the Iranian Nuclear Threat." 
> On 1/20/11 Ted "and that's just the way it is" Poe (R-TX) made a statement entitled "Spending and Foreign Aid" in which he argued against all foreign aid except aid to Israel (and maybe some other unspecified countries).  Poe stated:  "Mr. Speaker, finally Congress says it will rein in out-of-control spending. My neighbors in Texas are a little cynical and say, 'Prove it.' One suggestion I keep hearing is regarding foreign aid. My friend, Sammy Mahan, a towing service operator, told me to quit giving money to dictators. Well, there's a thought.  There are 192 countries, and the United States gives money to roughly 150 of them. With our economic times, 15 million unemployed and the debt monster looming over us, it's time we reevaluate the citizen money we give away.   Someone has said that 'foreign aid is taking money from the poor people in rich nations and giving it to rich people in poor nations'. And many of these receivers of taxpayer money don't even like us. As my friend, the gentleman from Texas, Mr. Louie Gohmert says, 'We don't need to pay them to hate us. They'll do it on their own.' We even give money away to China. We should reevaluate the money we give each nation. I suspect Israel and maybe a few others would and should receive U.S. help, but the rest need to go it on their own. After all, we should take care of America first.  And that's just the way it is."
> From the Hill 1/9/11: The World from The Hill: Appropriators sound support for Israel missile defense
>Yediot Ahronot 1/10/11: Congress hints: No cuts in Iron Dome aid
Don't forget to check the APN blog for breaking news and analysis about issues related to Israel, the Middle East, and the Hill.