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APN Legislative Round-Up - October 3, 2008

I. Bills and Resolutions; II. More Last Minute Maneuvering on Iran Sanctions; III. Kerry and Hagel on the Record on Mid East issues; IV. Blumenauer on the Record re: HR 7112; V. Update on APN Campaign: "Responsibility Over Rhetoric"

...for the week ending October 3, 2008

I. Bills and Resolutions
II. More Last Minute Maneuvering on Iran Sanctions
III. Kerry and Hagel on the Record on Mid East issues
IV. Blumenauer on the Record re: HR 7112
V. Update on APN Campaign: "Responsibility Over Rhetoric"

[Note: As probably everyone in America and much of the world know, Congress remained in session through last weekend and during the past week, in order to work on the economic bailout bill. It is not clear when Congress will adjourn or if members will return after the November election.]

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I. BILLS AND RESOLUTIONS
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(IRAN) HR 7112: Introduced 9/26/08 by Rep. Berman (D-CA) and 11 cosponsors, "To impose sanctions with respect to Iran, to provide for the divestment of assets in Iran by State and local governments and other entities, and to identify locations of concern with respect to transshipment, reexportation, or diversion of certain sensitive items to Iran." The bill text began circulating early afternoon on 9/26/08. The bill was then brought to the floor 9/26/08 at 7:41pm under suspension of the rules, debated/discussed for 40 minutes, and then by passed by a voice vote (no roll call recorded vote). For further details relating to the substance of the bill, see last week's edition of the Round-Up.

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II. MORE LAST MINUTE MANEUVERING ON IRAN SANCTIONS
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As discussed in last week's Round-Up, last Friday witnessed a last-ditch effort to pass major new sanctions legislation in the 110th Congress. As noted above, this latest attempt - HR 7112 - was passed in the House late Friday by voice vote. It was then sent to the Senate.

Most insiders and observers are betting the bill will not move in the Senate, both because Republicans do not want to give Democrats a victory on a major foreign policy issue at this stage (and particularly do not want to give a victory to Senator Obama, whose Iran divestment bill is part of HR 7112), and because the Bush Administration has openly opposed the bill -- more recently, and on the record, in the Statement of Policy (SAP) the administration issued regarding the S. 3001, the Defense Authorization bill. The SAP included explicit opposition to the Dodd-Shelby amendment which, in fact, is nearly identical to HR 7112.

Given the politics involved, it was not a great surprise when on 10/2/08 Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) made a motion on the Senate floor to pass HR 7112 by unanimous consent. His motion was immediately objected to by the Republican Senator manning the floor at that time, Sen. Allard (R-CO), offering Reid the opportunity to point out that it was the Republicans, not the Democrats, who were preventing the measure from passing. Their exchange is included in full, below.

It does not appear likely that their will be further attempts to move HR 7112. Hill sources report that there is at least one firm Republican hold on the bill, and possibly several others - some of which apparently are not going to be resolvable through further tweaking of the bill in committee (as referred to by Allard).

For additional analysis, see: http://irannuclearwatch.blogspot.com/2008/10/twelfth-hour-sanctions-politics.html

Reid-Allard exchange regarding HR 7112:

REID: I ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to the consideration of H.R. 7112, which is at the desk; that the Dodd-Shelby amendment which is also at the desk be agreed to, the bill, as amended, be read a third time and passed, the motion to reconsider be laid on the table, with no intervening action or debate, and that any statements relating to this matter be printed in the Record.

PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?

ALLARD. Mr. President, I object. The Banking Committee is working on new language which has not yet been cleared.

PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.

REID. I want the record to reflect that this is very important legislation to impose sanctions with respect to Iran, to provide for the divestment of assets in Iran by State and local governments and other entities, and to identify locations of concern with respect to transshipment, reexportation, or diversion of certain sensitive items to Iran. We have tried to get this done. It is very important. There has been objection by the Republicans. That is unfortunate.

The Reid-Allard exchange can also be viewed at: - Part 1: http://www.c-spanarchives.org/flash/player-time.html?start=2008-10-02%2014:25:38&stop=2008-10-02%2014:26:57&net=2 00:00:42 - 00:01:23 (the exchange is cut off in the middle) - Part 2: http://www.c-spanarchives.org/flash/player-time.html?start=2008-10-02%2014:25:38&stop=2008-10-02%2014:26:57&net=2 00:00:00 - 00:00:47 (repeats some but not all of what is in the first clip, and continues through the end of the exchange.

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III. KERRY AND HAGEL ON THE RECORD ON MID EAST ISSUES
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On 9/25/08, with little fanfare, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Subcommittee on the Near East and South Asia held a hearing entitled "The Middle East Peace Process: Progress and Prospects." The sole witness at the hearing was Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch. The hearing, which was unusual in itself, given that Middle East issues have been dealt with almost exclusively in the full committee, rather than the subcommittee, was notable primarily for the lengthy policy statements made by Subcommittee Chairman Kerry (D-MA) and Ranking Minority Member Hagel (R-NE). For Hagel, who has a long track record of serious leadership on Middle East issues, this hearing represented his farewell appearance on the committee dais, as he is not running for re-election.

Excerpts from Sen. Kerry's remarks:

On the importance of Israeli-Palestinian peace: "It's obviously hard to overstate the importance of bringing about a lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. This is important to everybody concerned, directly by living in the region or indirectly because of their connections to the region and because of our mutual security concerns as a consequence. The vast majority of the people of Israel and the Palestinian people share the goal of bringing two states living side by side into peaceful and secure existence. And the question is what we can do to help get them there."

On the Bush Administration's Middle East policy: "I appreciate that in recent months, the last year and a half perhaps, the administration has been making a real effort to move that process forward, starting with the hosting of the Annapolis conference last November and continuing in the months since.It was obviously a source of very significant frustration to many of us on this committee and in the Congress that for a period of almost six years, this issue was, to some degree, ignored and certainly on a backburner at best. And that has made the problem more difficult to solve, particularly in the timeframe left, but we are where we are and we need to focus on what those opportunities may be."

On efforts to support President Abbas: "When I met with Abu Mazen right after he was elected in 2006, he looked me in the eye and he said: Senator, I know what you want me to do - 'you' being you, the United States, the Western world - you want me to disarm Hamas, but you tell me how I'm supposed to do that. I don't have any cars, don't have any police, don't have any radios, communications, training, or sufficient security forces to do the job. And many believe that we have -- we, collectively, those of us extolling the virtues of peace and pushing for it and engaged in the process, Quartet or otherwise -- have contributed to the deterioration of the situation in Gaza by pushing the Palestinians to hold elections when they weren't ready. We've all seen the results: Hamas in control, more rockets falling on Israel, a major new roadblock on the path to peace."

On the Israel-Syria track: "We also know that there are enemies of peace who have a history of derailing the process, including Iran and Syria, and they continue to support Hamas and Hezbollah. That's why the Israeli dialogue with Syria through Turkey is so important. If successful, those negotiations could remove an historic adversary of Israel in support of terrorist groups, help to isolate Iran and create additional leverage for negotiations on the nuclear program and generate real momentum for the peace process itself. As I've said many times, the U.S. should be ready to play a direct role in these talks if we can help to reach a deal."

On Israel settlement policy and the U.S. response: "We also know that Israel's continued building of new settlements is, as Secretary Rice described it just a day or so ago, not helpful to the peace process. I think that's an understatement. In July I heard that there had actually been a dramatic increase in the number of new settlement permits approved in the months since Annapolis, compared with the entire year before. When new settlements go up, folks, it makes the Palestinian Authority look weak and ineffective, strips them of any of the legitimacy we pretend that we're trying to -- or not pretend; wrong word -- that we are encouraging them to develop, and discourages the Palestinian people as a whole, and it undermines the viability of two-state solution."

On the responsibility of the next U.S. Administration: "...we know that successful negotiations are going to require a redoubled commitment to sustained high-level engagement by the United States. This must be an absolute top priority for the next administration. I'm confident that it will be."

On the goal of the peace process (two states): ".[agreeing that the goal of peace negotiations is two states is] not a big deal right now. I mean, that ground was broken a long time ago. And the talks fell apart in 2001, in January, just before the Clinton administration left and largely because the players in those talks knew because of what had happened, from people who didn't want them to succeed and the levels of violence in Israel, that Sharon, Prime Minister Sharon was going to win the election. And it was impossible for Arafat to try to deal, which he knew he couldn't go back to Ramallah and sell to anybody, because Prime Minister Sharon had already publicly rejected the Oslo Accords. So the equation has been since then, you know, sort of one driven frankly by Prime Minister Sharon and the Likud originally and then Kadima, as it came to be, because of differences there in how to proceed. But this notion that everybody has decided they want two states doesn't satisfy anybody anymore, in terms of an accomplishment or a big change. I mean, that's six years, eight years old. The debate now is over, how Swiss cheesy is this state going to look? And what sort of, you know, rights and access are going to go with it, et cetera? And what happens to the settlements and so forth? [.]"

Excerpts from Sen. Hagel's remarks:

On the current situation in the Middle East:

".You [Welch] have said things like people need to see progress to develop confidence. There is a sense of morale that's important in all this. They have to see their lives getting better in the Middle East, or wherever in the world, when there has been despair and war, conflict. And as I evaluate the last eight years in the Middle East, I come to a conclusion that the Middle East today is more dangerous, more complicated more combustible, more unstable than maybe ever, but certainly more than any time in the last years. If you go through the countries, I mean.

"Syria -- we don't have an ambassador in Syria. It's good that we had a meeting today with the Lebanese president with President Bush. I would not think that's a resounding statement of things are going well in Lebanon. Hezbollah is now well entrenched in Lebanon. We have over 150,000 troops still in Iraq, spending $10 (billion) to $12 billion a month in Iraq. I wouldn't consider that yet a great success with the administration saying, well, we can't take anymore troops out even though, as Secretary Gates said this week, Afghanistan, Pakistan represent as dangerous a threat to our country as any part of the world. But yet we don't have enough troops to send there to help out our commanding general, who says he needs three new brigades.

"Iran: I don't think Iran is particularly more inclusive in its attitude nor in the reality of what they've been doing the last eight years. Gaza: I'm not sure we're better off in Gaza today with Hamas in charge. Israel still is uncertain about what kind of government it's going to get, who's going to be the government.

"So as you add all this up, I have a little maybe different assessment of where we are today in the Middle East. And going back to some of your comments about circles of control and people don't see progress and other points, we've done a good job the last eight years focusing on expectations, conferences, promises, policies, intentions. But we seem not to be able to get anywhere with it. 

"You know, and I get to the Middle East fairly often. And when people see, in Israel and the West Bank, more checkpoints, more settlements, as Senator Kerry has noted, eight years ago, there wasn't a fence.

"And by the way, I make these evaluations not assigning any responsibility or blame to any particular country or leader or individual. But I think I'm stating a pretty good inventory of fact here.

"So how do we break this? For example, Hamas: Do we think Hamas just fades away? Are we willing to deal with Hamas? Or how are we going to deal with Hamas? I don't think they're going to just assume that they're going to be in any deal. Why, for example, you talked about Turkey brokering an engagement with Israel and Syria. Why didn't we do that? If that's so important to this administration, obviously enough that you're taking some credit for it in your commentary, why don't we have an ambassador there? Why are we still withholding our ambassador? [.]"

More on Syria, Hamas, and Hezbollah:

".On Syria, if in fact we, as you have noted, are encouraging the Turks with their incentives, regarding Israel and Syria; if in fact as I have been told directly by Prime Minister Olmert, on two different occasions over the last two years, that engaging Syria is clearly in the interest of Israel, for obvious reasons, then I'm not sure how we then play much of a role in this, standing on the sideline with no opportunity to help incentivize a change in behavior. And by the way, you and I both know that the, actually, the Syrians have been helpful in some ways on that Iraqi border. But I guess the bigger part of this is, where does this all go?

 "It's the same question on Hamas and Hezbollah. Hamas and Hezbollah are there. That is a reality. You note that Hamas -- it may not be particularly beloved, but the fact is, they are in control in Gaza. The fact is, Hezbollah is firmly entrenched in Lebanon. What are we thinking about in the way of dealing with those realities -- not, as I said earlier, policies, not intentions, not aberrations -- but where and how do we move from this point to this point?

"And in the case of Syria, the next administration is going to have to deal with these realities, because I actually, as opposed to some of the points that you made -- and you're certainly correct about some of the progress -- significant progress in North Africa, but I wasn't speaking about North Africa -- I think we've gone backwards in many dangerous areas. And I think the Syrian ambassador issue is one where we could take some creative thinking and apply it, as you say, into comprehensive strategies."

On the Israeli-Palestinian track: "To me, that means if we are going to see progress on the Israeli- Palestinian front, and attempt to bring these issues to some higher ground, which obviously we are going to end the year, evidently, with no new agreement that I'm aware of, then, just as you say, step by step -- but we have to see progress in that. We have to be creative. There has to be some incentive. There has to be some movement. Status quo doesn't exist. Things either get better, or they get worse.

On the job of the next US administration: ".this next administration, it seems to me, is going to have to break through a lot of the good intentions, and we're going to have to move to some higher ground and do some creative thinking through some comprehensive strategic foreign policy. And in the Israeli- Palestinian case, I don't know how you do that."

On Iran and related issues: "And.this is my word, not yours -- by compartmentalizing our relationships -- well, we'll do a little Syria here; we'll do Iraq over here; we'll do Iran here, we'll give Iran the privilege of talking to us based on our conditions. But Iran is connected in to all these trouble spots.  At the same time, the Iraqi government, which we take some credit for helping create, has a relationship with Iran every day. I mean, it is literally an Alice in Wonderland kind of thing. I mean, we act like that's not happening, but the Iraqi government is in and out of Tehran. That's what I consider a comprehensive strategy. Let me go to the Hamas and Hezbollah issues for a moment, because you tell me how we deal with this. You tell me how we are going to find ways to position Abbas, Fatah, whoever's in charge to give them some upper hands -- Lebanon -- in facing the reality of these two organizations. Obviously, Iran is connected into a good deal of this. So what would be your thought on -- take Hamas. We just let it go? We think they will just self-destruct? Where will we go? What do we do? They are a reality.".

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IV. BLUMENAUER ON THE RECORD RE: HR 7112 ==========================================================

On 9/29/08 Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) inserted a statement into the record, as part of the 9/26/08 debate over HR 7112. His excellent statement is included here, in full:

Mr. BLUMENAUER. Mr. Speaker, I would like the record to show that I oppose this bill. I am concerned that this bill is a continuation of the lopsided "sanctions-only"' approach to Iran that only undermines the potential for constructive engagement through diplomacy.

Iran poses a particular challenge because as much as we are horrified by the regime's support for terrorism, threatened by its nuclear adventurism, and troubled by the lack of democracy and human rights, we also know that the Iranian people are as opposed to foreign manipulation as they are to authoritarian rule and that both the Iranian and American people want to avoid war.

The steps that the Iranian regime should take are clear. They should stop their support for terrorism, end their development of nuclear weapons capability, and begin the process of free, fair, and open elections. But it is naive to think that the United States can merely tell them what to do, sanction them for not doing it, and expect success. We need, instead, to develop a smart, strong and constructive plan to deny Iran nuclear weapons and halt its support for terrorists, to help keep us and our allies secure.

The first place to look for lessons is our success with Libya, where a unified international front convinced one of the world's most dangerous state-sponsors of terror to give up its nuclear weapons program in exchange for the benefits of membership in the international community. Iran must be given a similar choice and we must provide both credible incentives for negotiations to work and muscular sanctions if they fail.

This bill offers a piecemeal approach: sanctions without credible negotiations. I oppose it and other short-sighted efforts in our approach to Iran.

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V. UPDATE ON APN CAMPAIGN: "RESPONSIBILITY OVER RHETORIC"
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On 9/11/08 APN launched a new initiative, aimed at the Obama and McCain campaigns, entitled "Responsibility over Rhetoric." APN believes that Israel and related issues have a legitimate place in the debate and discourse of a U.S. election. This place is as part of a serious discussion of how, if elected, the candidates would advance the non-partisan goals of promoting Israeli-Palestinian and Arab-Israeli peace. Unfortunately, during U.S. elections there are often people who want to play politics with the issue - using Israel and related issues to score political points. This is a cynical tactic that comes at the expense of the best interests of both the U.S. and Israel.

The first installment of this campaign (issued 9/11/08) addresses the U.S. role in the quest for Israeli-Arab peace.  The second installment (issued 9/18/08) addresses the U.S. and the Israel-Syria peace track. The third installment (issued 9/24/08) addresses the challenge of Iran. The fourth installment (issued 10/3/08) addresses Jerusalem.

To view all parts of this campaign, please visit the special APN Campaign 2008 section of our website: http://www.peacenow.org/campaign2008/index.asp

This week's installment on Jerusalem is included here, in full. APN would like to make clear that the issue was scheduled (and the document drafted) before last night's Biden-Palin debate during which Governor Palin raised the issue of building a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.

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Issue Brief: Jerusalem

Jerusalem has throughout history been the focal point of Jewish collective yearning and of Jewish collective identity. The Jewish return to the Old City and its holy sites after 1967 was of tremendous significance to Jews worldwide. No one can deny or undermine the Jewish connection to Jerusalem. Israel's capital is and forever will be the city of Jerusalem. The city will also be the eternal geographic heart -- physically and spiritually -- of the Jewish people.

Jerusalem also has deep political, historical, economic, and cultural significance to Palestinians -- who consider it the only possible capital of a future Palestinian state. The city has a deep religious meaning not only for Jews, but also for Christians and Muslims everywhere. These attachments are neither recent nor flimsy: for generations, long before the birth of the modern state of Israel, Christians and Muslims throughout the world have revered Jerusalem and its holy sites.

Peaceful coexistence in Jerusalem will be achieved only when all sides respect each other's beliefs and traditions. Similarly, Palestinian-Israeli peace will only be achieved when there is a negotiated solution to conflicting claims to Jerusalem -- a solution that takes into account the sensitivities and needs of all stakeholders.

While some Israelis and American Jews strongly reject any notion of dividing Jerusalem, the fact is that today, Jerusalem is an "undivided" city only in slogans. On the ground, it is a divided city in virtually every sense but the legal one. It is a city where one-third of the population is Palestinian. Large Palestinian urban areas lie just beyond Jerusalem's municipal border.

Jerusalem is a city in which Israeli policy since 1967 has consistently differentiated between Jewish and Palestinian residents in almost every aspect of their lives. As a result patterns of life there reflect two distinct populations -- Israelis and Palestinians -- living distinctly separate and rarely overlapping existences. Indeed, Israel's security barrier, which is virtually invisible to most Israelis in Jerusalem, runs through the heart of some Palestinian neighborhoods, dividing families and communities, cutting Palestinian Jerusalemites off from the city's West Bank hinterland, and in the process, destroying the generations-old fabric of life in East Jerusalem. 

A solution for Jerusalem, based on the principle of sharing or politically dividing the city, is entirely possible. Most proposed solutions for Jerusalem's future would put Arab neighborhoods under Palestinian control, Jewish neighborhoods under Israeli control, and the Old City under mutually accepted special arrangements worked out by Israelis and Palestinian leaders, in a manner that guarantees access to holy sites. The emergence of a Palestinian capital in Arab areas of and adjacent to Jerusalem would not undermine Israel's claim to Jerusalem as its capital. Rather, it could clear the way -- at long last -- for international recognition of Jewish Jerusalem as Israel's eternal capital. It would make Israel's capital a more Jewish city, solidify Israel's sovereignty over it, and allow Israel to shed the burden of ruling over hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who are not and do not desire to be Israeli.

Those who oppose such a solution are in effect calling for Israel to live forever by the sword, since a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is impossible without resolving the conflict over Jerusalem.  For Israel, the price of keeping every inch of Jerusalem will be the loss of the opportunity for a two-state solution that will guarantee Israel's security and viability as a Jewish, democratic state. This is too high a price for Israel to pay, especially when other realistic options exist.

Moreover, U.S. policymakers must recognize that what happens in Jerusalem does not stay in Jerusalem. Rather, it can have an enormous impact on attitudes and events elsewhere -- not only in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, but throughout the region and the world. For example, Israeli actions that are viewed as seeking to expand Israel's hold over East Jerusalem and the Old City reverberate throughout the world, undermining the credibility of peace negotiations and Palestinian moderate leaders, while bolstering extremists who continue to use Jerusalem as a potent symbol to energize followers. Similarly, a negotiated solution in Jerusalem could transform the city into a beacon of tolerance, coexistence, and peace.

For the sake of Israel's security and stability, a formula must be found to share Jerusalem between Israelis and Palestinians, and among Jews, Muslims, and Christians. Pragmatic, creative solutions exist to satisfy competing claims to Jerusalem and its holy sites; what is needed is the leadership, courage, and goodwill to explore them.

For the sake of U.S. vital interests, including concern for Israel and for security and stability in the region, the next U.S. president will need to show strong leadership and engage in effective diplomacy both to stop reckless actions -- like additional Israeli settlement construction in East Jerusalem -- and to promote a peace process that addresses the genuine concerns and interests of all the stakeholders.

APN urges the Presidential candidates to:

>>>> Refrain from making statements that could undermine future Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on the issue of Jerusalem;

>>>> Recognize that security in, and the stability of, Jerusalem is linked to the welfare of all of its inhabitants, and to the success of any Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations;

>>>> Support access to Jerusalem for all religions and respect for the delicate status quo regarding holy sites; and

>>>> Reject efforts to force the transfer of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem outside the context of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations - a move that could have broad destabilizing effects, threatening Israel's security, hurting U.S. interests and strategic relationships in the region, and compromising America's position as a mediator in future Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.


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