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Legislative Roundup - May 20, 2005

I. New Bills and Resolutions; II. House Mark-Up; III. Dear Colleagues (including on Disengagement); IV. Frist on the Record (Jordan)

for the week ending May 20, 2005

I. New Bills and Resolutions
II. House Mark-Up
III. Dear Colleagues
IV. Frist on the Record (Jordan)


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I. NEW RESOLUTIONS
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(Anti-Semitism) H. Res. 282: Introduced May 17th by Reps. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Tom Lantos (D-CA) and 26 cosponsors, "Expressing the Sense of the House of Representatives regarding manifestations of anti-Semitism by United Nations member states and urging action against anti-Semitism by United Nations officials, United Nations member states, and the Government of the United States, and for other purposes." Referred to the House International Relations Committee. [Note: this is the House version of a measure being circulated in the Senate by Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) and discussed in last week's edition of the Round-Up].

(Boycott) H. Res. 279: Introduced May 16th by Rep. Higgins (D-NY) and 20 cosponsors, "Condemning the recent vote by the British Association of University Teachers to boycott Bar-Ilan University and Haifa University." Referred to the House International Relations Committee.

(Iran) H. Res. 162: Introduced May 19th by Rep. Jim Saxton (R-NJ), cosponsored by Reps. McCotter (R-MI) and Menendez (R-NJ), "Expressing the sense of Congress that the ongoing nuclear efforts of the Islamic Republic of Iran constitute a threat to the national security of the United States and to international peace and security." Referred to the House International Relations Committee.

(Israel) S. Res. 151: Introduced May 19th by Senate Majority Leader Frist (R-TN) and 6 cosponsors "recognizing the 57th Anniversary of the Independence of the State of Israel." Submitted in the Senate May 19th, considered, and agreed to without amendment and with a preamble by Unanimous Consent. (see H. Con. Res. 149, discussed below, for the House version of this measure). The "resolved" clauses include a statement that the Senate "strongly supports efforts to bring peace to the Middle East, including the disengagement plan of the Israeli government, the Roadmap, and the recent Quartet decision to appoint World Bank President James Wolfensohn as Coordinator for Gaza Disengagement."


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II. HOUSE MARK-UP
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On May 18th the House International Relations Committee held a mark-up in which they considered _ and reported out of committee by Unanimous Consent _ three Middle East-related measures:

- H. Con. Res. 149, "Recognizing the 57th anniversary of the independence of the State of Israel" - H. Res. 273, "Urging the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon, support for free and fair elections in Lebanon, and the development of democratic institutions and safeguards to foster sovereign democratic rule in Lebanon." - H. Res. 282, "Expressing the Sense of the House of Representatives regarding manifestations of anti-Semitism by United Nations member states and urging action against anti-Semitism by United Nations officials, United Nations member states, and the Government of the United States, and for other purposes."


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III. DEAR COLLEAGUES
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(Disengagement) On May 19th Reps. Menendez (R-NY) and Pryce (R-OH) began circulating a Dear Colleague entitled "Support a Successful Disengagement Plan." The Dear Colleague is seeking signatures on a letter to President Bush that concludes saying that the authors "understand the desire by some to rush to deal with final status issues soon after disengagement. We urge you to resist that pressure..."

(Palestinians) On May 19th Reps. Van Hollen (D-MD) and Waxman (D-CA) began circulating a Dear Colleague entitled "The Palestinian Authority Must Curb Anti- Semitic Rhetoric!" The Dear Colleague seeks signatures on a letter to President Bush (to be sent to the President on May 23rd, before the visit of PA President Mahmoud Abbas) urging him to "make sure that the serious problem of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement by Palestinian media outlets is a high priority in your discussions."

The letter notes the recent PA decision to remove an Arabic translation of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion from an official Palestinian website as a positive development but points to a particularly egregious May 13th mosque sermon - televised live on PA TV - as an example of the continuing problem. (The letter fails to note that in subsequent days the PA has strongly criticized the sermon, taken steps to ban the cleric from further appearances, has committed to banning all such incitement from PA TV, and has asked the Religious Ministry to ban this particular preacher from giving sermons.) The letter also repeats accusations that PA textbooks "fail to acknowledge Israel's existence."

(Environment) On May 16th Rep. Blumenauer (D-OR) began circulating a Dear Colleague seeking signatures on a letter to be sent to Prime Minister Sharon, President Abbas, and King Abdullah of Jordan. The letter expresses concern for the fate of the lower Jordan River and urges the three leaders "to work to meet the requirements for designating the river as a UNESCO World Heritage site and to take other steps to ensure the continued viability of this shared treasure."


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IV. FRIST ON THE RECORD
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On May 17th Senate Majority leader Bill Frist (R-TN) spoke on the Senate floor about his recent trip to Jordan, thus completing a remarkable travelogue that began the previous week (see last week's edition of the Round-Up for details; the complete text of the remarks can be found in the Government Relations section of the APN website - www.peacenow.org).

Sen. Frist noted:

"We began the Jordan leg of our trip with a visit to King Abdullah. Son of the much admired King Hussein, King Abdullah has been a trusted and valuable friend to the United States and a steadfast partner in the war on terrorism. We discussed Jordan's progress toward economic reform. Jordan is embarking upon free market reforms and encouraging the growth of small business and entrepreneurs. We know in the American experience that entrepreneurship is that engine of economic and job growth. I am encouraged by the progress that King Abdullah is making, and I am hopeful the Jordanian economy flourishes. As it does so, it will become a model of reform throughout the Middle East.

"We also talked about the importance of the U.S.-Jordanian partnership in the peace process. King Abdullah's father exhibited great courage and foresight as he led his nation to peace with Israel in the 1990s. Because of Jordan's relations with Israel and its special ties to the Palestinians, Jordan can be a substantial contributor to the peace process. By coordinating our efforts, I believe Jordan and the United States can help the parties build momentum toward a peaceful resolution.

"During a dinner meeting with King Abdullah, we were joined by Jim Wolfenson, the former head of the World Bank. Dr. Wolfenson was recently selected, as my colleagues know, by President Bush to handle the upcoming Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, focusing on the quartet of partners and building the appropriate support. I applaud the President for his choice in this emissary. Not only is Dr. Wolfenson eminently capable, but he knows many of the important players directly, professionally, and personally, and he appreciates the stakes and I am confident he can get the job done.

"Dr. Wolfenson understands the transition must go well. If it does not, violent unrest and instability could destroy this, what I believe is a historic chance for peace. The Jordanians have been an invaluable partner in Operation Enduring Freedom. They have made tremendous contributions to the Iraqi people's efforts to secure a free and prosperous Iraq.

"...I do applaud President Bush for his vision and for his unwavering belief in the dignity and rights of all people. From Darfur to Damascus, from Baghdad to Beirut, liberty is the hope of mankind. Here in the Senate, I encourage and urge my colleagues to continue to do our part to ensure that these principles help shape the future of the Middle East. I believe together, with our partners around the globe, we can spread prosperity and peace. I believe it is the only way."


For more information contact APN Government Relations Director Lara Friedman at 202/728-1893, or at LFapn@earthlink.net