Washington Policy Weekly

I. Legislative Branch

1) Legislation

House Introduces Resolution Condemning Pro-Palestinian Slogan. Representative Anthony D’Esposito (R-NY) introduced H.Res.883, which condemns the use of the slogan “from the river to the sea” as a form of antisemitism. The resolution comes after the House censured Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) for using the slogan.

Resolutions Introduced Condemning Hamas. Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Michael Lawler (R-NY) introduced H.Res.885 and H.Res.889 respectively. Both resolutions condemn Hamas: H.Res.885 rebukes its “use of human shields” as a violation of international law, while H.Res.889 condemns the October 7 attack and calls for Hamas to immediately and unconditionally surrender.

2) Personnel and Correspondence

Congressional Calls for Ceasefire in Israel-Hamas War Grow. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) became the second US senator to call for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas War, citing the worsening humanitarian crisis, among other factors, as reason for the decision. Senator Merkley was soon joined by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), bringing the total number of members of congress calling for a ceasefire to 48.

II. Executive Branch

1) White House

White House and State Department Comment on Palestinian Safety in Gaza and West Bank. National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby told reporters that Israel has an obligation to not put civilians in southern Gaza in “harm’s way.” State Department Spokesperson Mathew Miller echoed Kirby’s comments, stating that Israel must account for the humanitarian needs in southern Gaza before conducting a military operation there. Addressing escalating tensions in the West Bank, both Kirby and Miller described extreme violence against Palestinians as “unacceptable.”

Senior Advisor Hochstein Visits Israel, Seeks to Prevent War with Lebanon. President Joe Biden’s senior advisor for energy and infrastructure, Amos Hochstein, traveled to Israel for meetings with senior Israeli officials. The officials discussed efforts to prevent a war between Israel and Lebanon. Hochstein’s visit came at a time of increased skirmishes between the Israel Defense Forces and Hezbollah on the Israeli-Lebanese border.

President Biden Comments on Hostage Agreement. President Joe Biden welcomed news of a deal to secure the release of hostages taken by Hamas during its October 7 attack on Israel. The president thanked Qatari and Egyptian officials for their partnership in reaching the deal, which includes a four-day pause in fighting and the release of at least 50 women and children held captive in Gaza. In exchange, Israel will release a number of Palestinian women and children currently being held in Israeli jails. The deal will also allow for a temporary increase in humanitarian convoys. Biden added comments on the deal later in the week, telling media that “the chances are real” that the temporary pause in fighting could be extended.

Biden Holds Calls with Egyptian and Qatari Officials. President Joe Biden spoke with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani. In both calls, Biden discussed the implementation of the hostage deal and humanitarian pause.

2) State Department

State Department States Principles for Future Transition Period in Gaza. State Department Spokesperson Mathew Miller laid out key principles that the Biden administration would like to see in an eventual transition period in Gaza. According to Miller, “At some point, [Israel’s] military operation will end. There will have to be a transition period before a – before the next status emerges.” In such a period, Miller asserted that “no reoccupation of Gaza, no control of Gaza by Hamas, no diminution in the territorial size of Gaza, [and] no siege of Gaza” are key principles to which Israel should adhere.

State Department Seeks Better Protection for Humanitarian Workers. US Envoy for the humanitarian situation in Gaza David Satterfield told reporters that the United States has requested that Israel create a “deconfliction mechanism” to better protect humanitarian workers in Gaza. Satterfield added that “it is tragic that there had to be deaths before this was done, but the important thing is that Israel does recognize the need and is active.” While such a mechanism to protect aid groups is in the works, Politico reported that the Biden administration has been providing Israel with information on humanitarian groups on the ground. The information has included the movement of aid groups and GPS coordinates of medical facilities, which have been targeted by the Israeli military.

State Department Addresses Situation in Western Sahara. State Department Spokesperson Mathew Miller commented on a recent UN-organized visit to Tindouf, Algeria. Miller discussed US support to the humanitarian response in the Sahrawi refugee camps in the region. He added that the United States “support[s] the UN-led political process on Western Sahara to advance an enduring and dignified solution without further delay,” and offered support for Morocco’s autonomy plan.

Blinken Speaks Saudi, Qatari, and Emirati Foreign Ministers. Secretary of State Antony Blinken held calls with Saudi, Qatari, and Emirati foreign ministers last week. With Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, Blinken discussed issues relating to Gaza, US commitment to an independent Palestinian state, and peace efforts in Yemen. With Qatari Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Blinken thanked Qatar for its efforts to broker the hostage deal and discussed the need for an increase in the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza. With Foreign Minister of the UAE Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Blinken discussed news of the hostage deal, Palestinian statehood, as well as joint efforts to address the ongoing conflict in Sudan.

3) Department of Defense

Secretary Austin Holds Routine Call on Situation in Gaza. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III spoke about the situation in Gaza with Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant. The officials discussed the United States’ ongoing support for Israel’s operations, efforts to prevent regional escalation, increasing humanitarian aid, and the protection of civilians. Later in the week, the officials discussed news of the release of hostages.

CENTCOM Announces Interception of Houthi-Launched Drone. US CENTCOM announced that US forces had shot down multiple one-way attack drones launched from Houthi controlled areas in Yemen. On November 26, the US Navy prevented the hijacking by pirates of a ship, the Central park, in the Gulf of Aden. The USS Mason destroyer subsequently arrested five men involved in the attempt.

Pentagon Announces Additional “Self-Defense Strike” in Iraq. Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh announced that US forces conducted a “self-defense strike” against an Iranian-backed militia vehicle and personnel in Iraq. The strike was a response to an earlier close-range ballistic missile attack launched by the militia on US and coalition forces at al-Assad Air Base. With the recent exchange of strikes, US forces have now been attacked 66 times since October 17th.

4) Department of the Treasury

Treasury Official Travels to Oman and Turkey to Discuss Terrorist Financing. Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson travelled to Oman and Turkey on Sunday to “further US efforts to deny Hamas and other terrorist organizations the ability to raise and move funds.”

5) United States Agency for International Development

Administrator Power Addresses Situation in Gaza. Administrator Samantha Power welcomed the announcement of a pause in hostilities in Gaza as “an opportunity to ramp up the safe delivery of life-saving humanitarian assistance to Palestinian civilians in grave need and facilitate the release of hostages captured by Hamas.” Power had previously highlighted the need for additional aid into Gaza, having recently spoken with representatives of UN humanitarian agencies and donor governments on the humanitarian crisis.