To return to the new Peace Now website click here.

APN Legislative Round-Up for the week ending September 24, 2010

Apologies for the late Round-Up -- we are on high holiday schedule at APN (so closed last Thurs/Fri).

1. Bills & Resolutions
2. (Unhelpful) Senate Letter on Peace Process
3. (Partisan) Isakson Letter on Iran
4. Ros-Lehtinen Promises House Resolution on "Jewish State"
5. The settlement freeze ends. What about peace talks?

Special Note:  Last week
APN launched it's new "Facts on the Ground" map project. You can use it online or download it for use on your iphone/ipad (and eventually on your droid) to explore data we have collected about settlement activity in the West Bank.
1.  Bills & Resolutions
(IRAN) S. 3810: Introduced 9/21/10 by Sens. Gillibrand (D-NY) and Cardin (D-MD), "to restrict participation in offshore oil and gas leasing by a person who engages in any activity for which sanctions may be imposed under section 5 of the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996, to require the lessee under an offshore oil and gas lease to disclose any participation by the lessee in certain energy-related joint ventures, investments, or partnerships located outside Iran , and for other purposes" (short title: the Gulf Security and Iran Sanctions Enforcement Act).  Referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
(EGYPT) S. Res. 586:  Introduced 7/20/20 by Sen. Feingold (D-WI) and currently having 13 cosponsors, "A resolution supporting democracy, human rights, and civil liberties in Egypt."  Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.
(IRAN in Defense Authorization bill) S. Amdt. 4634 to S. 3454: Submitted 9/21/10 by Sens. Corker (R-TN) and Kyl (R-AZ), to insert language into the bill relating to missile defense in Europe and the US, in particular with respect to Iranian missile threats. Would lay out US policy, including a requirement that the Department of Defense "should continue the development, testing, and assessment of the two-stage Ground-Based Interceptor in such a manner as to provide a hedge against potential technical challenges with the development of the SM-3 Block IIB interceptor missile as a means of augmenting the defense of Europe and of the homeland against a limited ballistic missile attack from nations such as North Korea or Iran."  Would also require a report to Congress certifying whether or not the President had taken specific actions regarding relevant missile programs.
2.  (Unhelpful) Senate Letter on Peace Process
On 9/20/10 Senators Boxer (D-CA), Isakson (R-GA), Casey (D-PA), and Burr (R-NC) began circulating a Dear Colleague seeking cosigners on a letter to President Obama regarding the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian peace effort.  Senate staff report that the letter was strongly supported by AIPAC, which lobbied heavily for members to sign on (the text of the letter was also posted almost immediately on the AIPAC website - strong evidence that the letter was an AIPAC initiative).  The letter was sent to President Obama 9/27/10 (according to the original Dear Colleague it was supposed to close on 9/23/10, but it was apparently held open longer) and signed by 87 senators (the full list of signers is also posted on the AIPAC website).
While the letter expresses general support for the current peace effort, the letter's main point is clear (in the 4th paragraph):  " is critical that all sides stay at the table.  Neither side should make threats to leave just as the talks are getting started."  
What is conspicuously absent from the letter - and all of the AIPAC talking points about it - is any reference to the need to extend the moratorium, or even more coded language about the need for both sides to refrain from taking actions that undermine the credibility of the talks or make it more difficult for the other side to remain at the table.  This, despite the fact that as recently as last week at the UN General Assembly President Obama made clear that he believes Israel should extend the moratorium.
Some senators who signed the letter may have failed to notice that the final part of the fourth paragraph was the key part of the letter, or may have failed to grasp what those words implied (and what the absence of anything about the moratorium implied).  However, all subsequent AIPAC releases about the letter leave zero question: the goal of this letter is to set up a situation in which, if the moratorium is not extended (which as of this writing it has not been) and if as a result Abbas pulls out of talks, the Senate is set to blame Abbas 100% for the collapse of talks, with zero blame on Netanyahu for his failure to extend the moratorium.
<!--[if !supportLists]-->--- The press release sent out 9/27/10 by AIPAC applauding the letter summarizes the letter states that:  "The letter to President Obama, signed by 87 senators, underscores the commitment that PM Netanyahu has demonstrated to remaining in negotiations despite difficult circumstances and calls on Pres. Abbas to match that commitment and stay in the talks." 
<!--[if !supportLists]-->--- <!--[endif]-->AIPAC's suggested thank-you letter for supporters to send to senators who signed the Obama letter notes that "The letter...emphasizes the critical importance of direct talks between the parties and the need for both sides to remain in the negotiations even in the face of difficulties....Palestinians should follow the prime minister's example and refrain from issuing threats to leave the negotiating table. Continuing Palestinian demands and preconditions to stay in the talks will only serve to undermine these peace efforts..."
The other key points in the letter are the call for Arab financial support for peace efforts and the endorsement of Secretary Clinton's commitment that there will be no agreement imposed on the parties.

3.  (Partisan) Isakson Letter on
Apparently not content with weighing in exclusively on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, on 9/22/10 Sen. Isakson (R-GA) circulated an email seeking co-signers on a letter to President Obama regarding Iran (the email said the letter would be sent on 9/23/10).  The text of the letter is available on Sen. Isakson's website (and not on AIPAC's, supporting the impression that AIPAC did not lobby Senators to sign on).  According to Sen. Isakson's press release, the letter was co-signed by Senator Chambliss (R-GA).  According to Senate staff, it reportedly attracted a total of 12 co-signers, all Republican. 
Isakson's letter makes the case that "all options should be on the table in halting Iran's nuclear ambitions." The letter expresses the hope that Obama will ensure full implementation of the new Iran sanctions bill passed by Congress earlier this year (something Obama is required to do, by law, without any additional urging).  It also urges Obama to prevent Iran from funding Hamas and Hezbollah (something that is already required under US terrorist financing laws).  And finally, it urges the president to "state unequivocally that the United States and its allies will prevent Iran from threatening its neighbors by destabilizing the region and igniting a nuclear-arms race."
4.  Ros-Lehtinen Promises House Resolution on "Jewish State"
On 9/22/10 Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), ranking minority member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs (i.e. the person who will chair the committee if Republicans take the House back in November) issued a press release announcing that she is seeking bipartisan support for a resolution demanding that the Palestinians recognize Israel's "right to exist as a Jewish state."  Ros-Lehtinen asserts (incorrectly) that such recognition is required by U.S. law.
It is worth noting that in 2009, Ros-Lehtinen issued a press release calling for aid to the Palestinians to be conditioned on Palestinian leaders recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.
For some background on the demand for the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish State, see here.  For a discussion of the demand by Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad last week, see this post by Matt Duss at the Wonk Room.  Fayyad notes:
"It was a lot more profound than just recognizing Israel's existence. We had recognized then Israel's "right to exist in peace and security." It's a very high form of recognition, if you will. Mutual recognition among nations is typically not that way. Countries recognize each other, members of the United Nations, and life goes on. In this particular case, we Palestinians, through the PLO, acting on behalf of all Palestinian people, in the occupied Palestinian territory and everywhere, recognized Israel's right to exist in peace and security.
"In passing, let me tell you what we got in return at the time. You'd think that in return for this recognition, we'd have gotten recognition on the part of Israel, the government of Israel, of our right to statehood, as Palestinian people. I think it's only logical to think that way. That wasn't the case. If you actually review the so-called declaration...of mutual recognition, you will find that actually, on the Israeli side, it involved Israel recognizing the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people, that's all. That is all.
"You recognize a country's right to exist in peace and security, and the way that country chooses to define itself as a product of that country's own internal political processes, I mean, that's more than any country can be expected -- we're not even yet a country, and we're not promised to be one in the context of that declaration -- more than any country can be expected to offer."
5.  APN: The settlement freeze ends. What about peace talks?
On 9/27/10, APN circulated/posted the following piece, urging supporters to contact President Obama and urge him to double down on efforts to save peace talks:
Last night the Israeli government failed to extend its ban on new settlement construction in the West Bank.

This is bad news. Israelis and Palestinians are negotiating over the future of the West Bank. Renewed settlement construction sends a dangerous message about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's commitment to peace talks.

It's not yet clear whether Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will now pull out of the talks. Some press reports say that he will consult with key regional players during next week's Arab League summit before making a final decision.

That suggests that there may be some diplomatic maneuvering room for President Barack Obama to keep the talks going. This is important. Negotiations are the only way to end the occupation and reach peace for
Now is the time for Obama to double down and make sure that peace talks have a chance.

Click here to send your message to President Obama.

While we push for peace talks, we must not ignore settlement construction. The expansion of settlements is not only a hurdle for the current round of peace talks; it jeopardizes the very feasibility of a two-state solution.

Today, our colleagues in
Israel are making that case. They are out in the streets. They are speaking out on television, on the radio, and in Israel's most important newspapers. They are urging Netanyahu to renew the freeze.

Addressing a Peace Now rally today in
Jerusalem, former Knesset Member Ran Cohen said that this is a critical moment for Israel. "Now the road to peace seems open, and we don't need to close it." He called on Netanyahu to "look deep inside himself and see what's good for Israel and make the right decision."

This sentiment was echoed by Nechama Ben-Eliahu, whose granddaughter was killed by a Hamas suicide bomber in 2003. "This has to be a country where our grandchildren can live," she said.  "I hope the prime minister will find the necessary mental strength to do the right thing," she added.

Their work builds on the new transparency that
APN's revolutionary iPhone and web app brings to the settlement issue. Our app continues to draw the interest of the media and rank-and-file activists alike.  The enormous interest in this app shows the power that new technology can have for peace. From now on, nobody can sweep settlement expansion under the rug.

This is a critical moment with high stakes for
Israel's future.  American leadership is needed.
Don't forget to check the APN blog for breaking news and analysis about issues related to Israel, the Middle East, and the Hill.
Past editions of the Round-Up are archived and available online at:
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 or contact Lara Friedman, APN Director of Policy and Government Relations, at 202/728-1893, or at