Political Tides Change, but Not the "Silly Season"

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The legislative "silly season" occurs at the end of each session of Congress, and the end of the second session is far worse than the first. This year was no exception. There were the requisite number of last-minute shenanigans, many of which were caught in time and defeated. But each year a few are not.

This year one of the stealth amendments that got through is a deliberate effort to derail attempts to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace. It happened in the last few days of the Congress, and right under the noses of senior members of the House and Senate. Most distressing of all, it happened in violation of congressional rules which say that conference committees must restrict themselves to matters voted on by one of the Houses. This means they are not at liberty to add new ideas of their own, although that is exactly what happened with this amendment. This blatant violation of congressional rules to appease the pro-Israel lobby in Washington was the single most disgusting Middle East-related event of the last awful weeks of the 101st Congress, but not a single voice of dissent was heard.

The amendment was secreted in H.R. 4653, a bill to extend the law governing America's export controls. This law has long been a favorite vehicle of the pro-Israel political forces in Congress for riding roughshod over US ties with the Arabs, and this year they struck again. Not a single Arab-American lobbyist was in position even to raise an alarm, let alone prevent passage of this provision, whose requirements were obviously designed to deepen the estrangement between the United States and the PLO.

Entitled "Attacks Against Israelis and Illegal Activities in the United States," the amendment lists a series of events in Israel and occupied Palestine so detailed that one suspects it must have been provided by the Israeli Embassy. It requires the president to "submit to the Congress an analysis of the impact on efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East" of these events within 60 days of the enactment of the bill. Not surprisingly, not a single event listed concerned Palestinians as victims of Israeli attacks.

The second part of the amendment requires the secretary of the Treasury to submit to the Congress, within the same 60 days, a report on whether or not there is evidence of PLO involvement in the United States in an imaginative list of illegal activities such as drug trafficking and money laundering. Again, there is no requirement for a similar report on Israeli involvement in such hypothetical activities, or even in such documented Israeli activities as massive Israeli spying in the United States as revealed again, only this summer, in a book by former Mossad operative Victor Ostrovsky. …