Congressional Update – October 30, 2015

1. Israel

Solidarity with the Israeli People (H.Res. 485): On October 21, Representative Martha McSally (R-Arizona) and 44 cosponsors introduced a resolution expressing solidarity with the people of Israel in the wake of recent terrorist attacks and condemning the Palestinian Authority for inciting an atmosphere of violence. The measure has been referred to the House Foreign Affairs the Committee on Foreign Affairs. The amended text accuses the PA of “unabated” incitement against Israel for many years and describes the current violence as an “incitement-induced wave of terrorism.” The resolution (among other things) calls on the PA to: discontinue all incitement; repudiate acts of violence against Israelis; “engage in a sustained effort to publically and officially rebuke anti-Israeli incitement to violence”; continue security cooperation with Israel; and “agree to unconditionally renew direct talks with Israelis, including the reconstitution of the Trilateral Commission on Incitement.”

Passage of the resolution followed the Committee’s hearing titled “Words have Consequences: Palestinian Authority Incitement to Violence”. Upon passage of the resolution Chairman Royce said: “The escalation of violence against Israelis is praised, encouraged, and even fueled by Palestinian Authority officials. This resolution rights condemns this incitement and the outbreak of violence, and expresses support for those who are working to encourage peace and cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians. It is critical that we stand by our ally Israel in this challenging time.”

2. Palestine

Congressional Letter Blaming Palestinian Incitement for the Violence in Israel: Representatives Ed Royce (R-California) and Eliot Engel (D-New York) the Chairman and Ranking Democrat, respectively, are seeking cosigners on a letter (backed by AIPAC) to President Abbas blaming PA incitement for inflaming the situation on the ground and stating, “Now is the time for the Palestinian Authority to take concrete steps to avoid further violence. This starts with a sustained effort to publicly and officially repudiate these attacks, ending the unacceptable incitement to violence emanating from Palestinian Authority officials and institutions, continuing important security cooperation with Israel and agreeing to unconditionally renew direct talks with the Israelis.” The letter is the main act on item on the AIPAC website with AIPAC urging people to write to their representatives to urge them to sign the letter. The text of the letter is here: http://www.aipac.org/~/media/Publications/Policy%20and%20Politics/Legislative%20Action/2015/Royce_Engel_LetterToAbbas.pdf

Senate Resolution Supporting Israel during Israel-Palestinian Violence: A group of senators is backing a resolution supporting Israel during the increased Israeli-Palestinian violence. Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-New Hampshire), Michael Bennet (D-Colorado), Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Mark Kirk (R-Illinois), Patty Murray (D-Washington), Marco Rubio (R-Florida), Charles Schumer (D-New York), and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) are supporting the resolution to show solidarity with Israel after the recent series of attacks. The press release and text of the draft resolution are here: http://www.blumenthal.senate.gov/newsroom/press/release/blumenthal-ayotte-bipartisan-group-of-senators-introduce-resolution-in-solidarity-with-israel-condemning-palestinian-terror-attacks

Restrict Aid to the Palestinian Authority: On October 22, Representative Daniel Donovan (R-NY) sent a letter to Secretary Kerry urging him to express to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu the “total support of the American people during this difficult period.” The letter also states “it should be the policy of the United States to condition any further assistance to the Palestinian Authority on the cessation of incitement to riot and the requirement that they end all support of those who target Israeli civilians.” Donovan also called on Kerry to “impress upon the Palestinian Authority the need to protect all religious sites, regardless of creed.” The text of the letter and Donovan’s press release is here: https://donovan.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/donovan-pushes-restrict-aid-palestinian-authority-unless-they-stop

Cut Aid to the Palestinian Authority: Representative Kay Granger (R-Texas), Chairman of the House Appropriations, State, Foreign Operations Subcommittee, and Subcommittee Ranking Democrat Nita Lowey (D-New York), sent a letter to Palestinian President Abbas warning that assistance would suffer if Abbas did not agree to “resume direct negotiations with Prime Minister Netanyahu,” “refrain from highly-inflammatory language” and “redouble your efforts to uphold nonviolence.” The State Department has informed Congress that it would be cutting aid to the PA by $80 million.

3. Ambassadorial Nominations: On October 28 the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the nominations of Peter William Bodde, to be Ambassador to Libya, Marc Jonathan Sievers, to be Ambassador to the Sultanate of Oman, and Elisabeth I. Millard, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Tajikistan. The next step in the process will be approval by the Committee followed by approval by the full Senate. However, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has vowed to block says he will block all of President Barack Obama’s nominees to the State Department — there are about 40 ambassadors in the queue — in protest of the Iran nuclear deal. Cruz’s threat to block nominees is nothing new. He frequently uses this form of protest against the President’s policies that he does not like. Therefore, it is questionable if the ambassadorships to these important posts can be confirmed by the full Senate in a timely manner. Note: Any one Senator can put a “hold” on an Executive Branch nominee often times delaying confirmation indefinitely.