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APN Legislative Round-up for the Week Ending November 19, 2010

1. Bills and Resolutions
2. Update on House Letter on Jonathan Pollard
3. House Letter to Clinton and Gates Opposing Saudi Arms Deal
4. Yet Another (!) Bizarre Statement from Rep. Gohmert (he hates those Palestinian "illegal settlements") &
5. Text of H. Res. 1731

1.  Bills & Resolutions
 
(Palestinian Statehood) H. Res. 1731: Introduced 11/18/10 by Rep. "And-that's-just-the-way-it-is" Poe (R-TX) and three cosponsors (Berkley, D-NV, Ros-Lehtinen, R-FL, and Weiner, D-NY), "Reaffirming Congressional opposition to the declaration of a Palestinian state, and for other purposes."   Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.  Full text of the resolution is included in section 5, below.  As of this writing H. Res. 1731 is not mentioned on the AIPAC website as a legislative initiative that AIPAC is supporting.  However, the content of the resolution closely parallels the page on the AIPAC website entitled "Continued U.S. Support for Direct Talks Key to Peace."
 
(Iran Regime Change) S. 3008:  Introduced 2/11/10 by Sens. Cornyn (R-TX) and Brownback (R-KS) and currently having 20 cosponsors, "the Iran Democratic Transition Act of 2010."  Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.   The bill, among other things, seeks to make regime change in Iran an explicit US policy goal (the bill states that US policy should be "to promote the emergence of a freely elected, open, and democratic government to replace the political system of the Islamic Republic of Iran.")  On 11/18/10 Sen. Brownback delivered a statement on the Senate floor commending his colleagues for passing "the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act of 2010" and making the case for why that piece of legislation is important.  At the end of his statement Brownback added the following remark:  "...Senator Cornyn and I have introduced the Iran Democratic Transition Act, which supports the transition to a freely elected democratic government in Iran by assisting eligible Iranian democratic opposition organizations with communications and distribution of information. It is an important bill to aid the courageous people of Iran, and it is my hope that in the coming weeks the Senate will be able to bring this bill to the floor for a vote..."
 
(Saudi Arms Deal) H. J. Res. 99: Introduced 11/18/10 by Rep. Weiner (D-NY) and two cosponsors (Berkley, D-NV and Carney, D-PA), "Disapproving the issuance of a letter of offer with respect to a certain proposed sale of defense articles and defense services to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia."   Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.  As of this writing H. J. Res. 99 is not mentioned on the AIPAC website as a legislative initiative that AIPAC is supporting.  However, AIPAC's site does include a section applauding a House letter (discussed below) asking the Obama Administration to reconsider the proposed arms sales and urging supporters to write to thank members who signed the letter.  Weiner announced that he would be introducing this legislation in a press release detailed in the 9/17/10 edition of the Round-Up.  For a review of the steps necessary for Congress to block a proposed arms sale, see this report by the Congressional Research Service.
 
(First Gulf War) H. Res. 1672: Introduced 9/28/10 by Rep. Michaud (D-ME) and having 38 cosponsors, "Commemorating the Persian Gulf War and reaffirming the commitment of the United States towards Persian Gulf War veterans."  Passed by voice vote 11/17/10.
 
(Iraq violence) H. Res. 1725: Introduced 11/18/10 by Rep. Smith (R-NJ) and six cosponsors, "Condemning and deploring the murderous attacks, bombings, kidnappings, and threats against vulnerable religious communities in Iraq, in particular the attack against Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad on October 31, 2010, and for other purposes."  Referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on the Judiciary.
 
2.  Update on House Letter on Jonathan Pollard
 
As noted in the 10/10/10 edition of the Round-Up, on 9/27/10 Reps. Frank (D-MA), Pascrell (D-NJ), Towns (D-NY) and Weiner (D-NY) circulated a Dear Colleague seeking cosigners on a letter to President Obama urging the president to release convicted spy Jonathan Pollard.  The letter was circulated throughout the recess and closed this week, reportedly attracting a total of 39 signers (all reportedly Democrats).  The letter was reportedly supported by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, National Council of Young Israel, B'nai B'rith International, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, the Zionist Organization of America, Agudath Israel of America and the Rabbinic Council of America. (Americans for Peace Now, which is a member of the Conference of Presidents, did not support the letter and does not take a position on the Pollard issue).
 
Interestingly, at some point during the recess the letter and the accompanying Dear Colleague were significantly edited.   As noted in the 10/1/10 edition of the Round-Up, the primary focus of the original letter (and Dear Colleague) was the argument that Pollard has been treated unfairly, noting that there is "a great disparity from the standpoint of justice between the amount of time Mr. Pollard has served and the time that has been served - or not served at all - by many others who were found guilty of similarly activity on behalf of nations adversarial to us, unlike Israel."  The letter went on to suggest that the activities of members of the recently-uncovered Russian spy ring recently - a group of foreign nationals seeking to gain information about US activities - are analogous to those of Pollard, a US citizen who in his capacity as a trusted government employee with a access to highly classified information committed espionage against his own country.  Finally, the letter suggested that "at a time when Israel, our democratic ally, is being faced with difficult decisions" releasing Pollard would be taken in Israel "as a further affirmation of the strong commitment the U.S. has to ties between us" and "such an affirmation could be especially useful at a time when those decisions are being made." 
 
The revised letter (and Dear Colleague) omits much of this language.  The final version of the letter to Obama reads:
 
"We write to urge you to use your constitutional power to extend clemency to Jonathan Pollard, thereby releasing him from prison after the time he has already served. Mr. Pollard committed serious crimes and he has expressed remorse.  Such an exercise of the clemency power would not in any way imply doubt about his guilt, nor cast any aspersions on the process by which he was convicted.  Those who have such views are of course entitled to continue to have them, but the clemency grant has nothing to do with that.
 
"We believe that there has been a great disparity from the standpoint of justice between the amount of time Mr. Pollard has served and the time that has been served - or not served at all - by many others who were found guilty of similar activity on behalf of nations that, like Israel, are not adversarial to us. It is indisputable in our view that the nearly twenty-five years that Mr. Pollard has served stands as a sufficient time from the standpoint of either punishment or deterrence.
 
"In summary, we see clemency for Mr. Pollard as an act of compassion justified by the way others have been treated by our justice system.  We urge you to use the clemency power in this case."
 
3.  House Letter to Clinton & Gates Opposing Saudi Arms Deal
 
Over the recess a Dear Colleague letter led by House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Berman (D-CA), Ranking Member Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Middle East Subcommittee Chairman Ackerman (D-NY) and Ranking Member Burton (D-IN) was circulated among House members seeking cosigners on a letter addressed jointly to Secretary of State Clinton and Secretary of Defense Gates.  The letter (text courtesy of AIPAC) urges Clinton and Gates to reconsider a proposed multi-year, $60 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia.  The initiative was strongly supported by AIPAC and ultimately attracted 198 signers (signers list courtesy of AIPAC).  AIPAC currently is encouraging supporters to contact members who signed the letter and thank them for doing so.
 
As noted in the 9/17/10 edition of the Round-Up, Congressional opposition to the deal (as well as AIPAC opposition) comes at a time when Israel is not, in fact, seeking to block the deal.  Indeed, the right-wing Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) produced an 11/4/10 brief on the proposed sale that noted, "Israel did not raise objections to the sale, except to say that it was 'not thrilled about it,' but U.S. officials were at pains to stress that there had been previous high-level consultations with Israel, and that the Jewish state's qualitative military edge was being maintained. Israel was also scheduled to receive the latest in aviation warfare, the F-35, in 2015, the same year the F-15SAs were scheduled to be sent to Saudi Arabia. The Israelis have apparently given the nod.'"   Despite this, Israel-related concerns about the deal are strongly expressed in the letter.
 
For further reading see this report by Josh Rogin in the Cable.
 
4.  Yet Another (!) Bizarre Statement from Rep. Gohmert (he hates those Palestinian "illegal settlements")
 
On 11/15/10, the very day that the House re-convened for its lame duck session, our old friend Rep. Gohmert (R-TX) took to the floor for yet another incoherent and rambling speech that covered a range of issues.   And as has so often happened in the past (here, here, here, here, here, and here), Rep. Gohmert could not resist the opportunity to offer his thoughts about Israel and the Palestinians (in the context of his own musings on US border security) - with comments that are as incoherent and illogical (and almost word-for-word the same as the ones he made back on June 30).  One can only wonder if Gohmert is offering the world a preview of what can be expected from the new Tea Partiers on this issue...
 
Gohmert (R-TX), 11/15/10
 
"...for so long, I've been greatly concerned with the hypocrisy of this administration and its telling Israel, Just let Palestinians build illegal settlements and take over areas that are not theirs. Just let them take over. I thought how hypocritical for our U.S. administration to tell Israel, Just let people take over areas of your country they're not authorized to take over, because we would never allow that here in the U.S.  
 
"This brings me to the only good thing about violent illegal alien drug smugglers taking over American soil: At least we're not hypocritical anymore when we tell Israel just to let people take over land that's not theirs, because now this administration can say, Look, Israel. We're doing it here. We're letting people take over American soil that they shouldn't, so you can do it, too.
 
"The fact is, of course, it shouldn't happen in either place. We have taken an oath to defend this country, this Constitution, against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and that includes illegal drug smugglers who are armed to the teeth at our border regions. We have an obligation. We took an oath."
 
5.  Text of H. Res. 1731
 
111th CONGRESS
2d Session
 
H. RES. 1731
Reaffirming Congressional opposition to the declaration of a Palestinian state, and for other purposes.
 
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
November 18, 2010
 
Mr. POE of Texas (for himself, Ms. BERKLEY, Mr. WEINER, and Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs
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RESOLUTION
Reaffirming Congressional opposition to the declaration of a Palestinian state, and for other purposes.
 
Whereas a true and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties;
 
Whereas the leadership of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) have repeatedly refused to negotiate directly with the Government of Israel, demanding unprecedented preconditions from Israel in exchange for their return to direct negotiations;
 
Whereas Palestinian leaders have repeatedly threatened to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state and to seek recognition of a Palestinian state by the United Nations and other international forums;
 
Whereas Palestinian leaders are reportedly holding high-level discussions on pursuing recognition of a Palestinian state by the United Nations and other international forums;
 
Whereas UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry on October 26, 2010, expressed his support for recognition of a Palestinian state by the United Nations;
 
Whereas, on March 11, 1999, the Senate adopted Senate Concurrent Resolution 5, and on March 16, 1999, the House of Representatives adopted House Concurrent Resolution 24, both of which resolved that `any attempt to establish Palestinian statehood outside the negotiating process will invoke the strongest congressional opposition.';
 
Whereas Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton stated on October 20, 2010, that `There is no substitute for face-to-face discussion and, ultimately, for an agreement that leads to a just and lasting peace.';
 
Whereas Secretary Clinton stated on November 10, 2010, that `Negotiations between the parties is the only means by which all the outstanding claims arising out of the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict can be resolved . . . So we do not support unilateral steps by either party that could prejudge the outcome of such negotiations.';
 
Whereas, on November 10, 2010, the Israeli Knesset adopted a resolution `reject[ing] entirely the threats of some Palestinian leaders to declare unilateral Palestinian statehood . . . [affirming] that all points of dispute must be debated only within the framework of direct negotiations . . . [and] call[ing] on the Palestinian leadership to return to the negotiating table.';
 
Whereas Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, in a speech at Bar Ilan University in Israel on June 14, 2009, stated that `[A] fundamental prerequisite for ending the conflict is a public, binding and unequivocal Palestinian recognition of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people . . . Therefore, today we ask our friends in the international community, led by the United States, for what is critical to the security of Israel: Clear commitments that in a future peace agreement, the territory controlled by the Palestinians will be demilitarized . . . If we receive this guarantee regarding demilitarization and Israel's security needs, and if the Palestinians recognize Israel as the State of the Jewish people, then we will be ready in a future peace agreement to reach a solution where a demilitarized Palestinian state exists alongside the Jewish state.';
 
Whereas efforts to bypass negotiations and to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state or to appeal to the United Nations or other international forums for recognition of a Palestinian state would clearly and fundamentally violate the underlying principles of the 1993 Oslo Accords and the Middle East peace process, and represent another instance of the Palestinian leadership's noncompliance with its commitments under existing agreements; and
 
Whereas United States opposition to any unilateral Palestinian declaration of statehood or related measures should be reaffirmed strongly and unequivocally: Now, therefore, be it
 
Resolved, by the House of Representatives that Congress--
 
(1) reaffirms its strong opposition to any attempt to establish a Palestinian state outside the negotiating process;
 
(2) strongly and unequivocally opposes any attempt to seek recognition of a Palestinian state by the United Nations or other international forums;
 
(3) calls upon the Administration to continue its opposition to the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state;
 
(4) calls upon the Administration to affirm that the United States would deny any recognition, legitimacy, or support of any kind to any unilaterally declared `Palestinian state' and would urge other responsible nations to follow suit, and to make clear that any such unilateral declaration would constitute a grievous violation of the principles underlying the Oslo Accords and the Middle East peace process;
 
(5) calls upon the Administration to affirm that the United States will oppose any attempt to seek recognition of a Palestinian state by the United Nations or other international forums and will veto any resolution to that end by the United Nations Security Council;
 
(6) calls upon the President and the Secretary of State to lead a high-level diplomatic effort to encourage the European Union and other responsible nations to strongly and unequivocally oppose the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state or any attempt to seek recognition of a Palestinian state by the United Nations or other international forums; and
 
(7) supports the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the achievement of a true and lasting peace through direct negotiations between the parties.
 
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Past editions of the Round-Up are archived and available online at:
http://peacenow.org/legislative-round-ups
  
Americans for Peace Now promotes Israeli security through the peace process and supports the Israeli Peace Now movement.   For more information, visit the APN web site at www.peacenow.org or contact Lara Friedman, APN Director of Policy and Government Relations, at 202/728-1893, or at lfriedman@peacenow.org.