Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Diehard Anti-Palestinian Congress Members Concentrate on Money Bills

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Diehard Anti-Palestinian Congress Members Concentrate on Money Bills

Article excerpt

A shift in emphasis seems to be occurring on the part of Congress' die-hard Israel Firsters. Previously, they seemed content to offer up a continuous stream of anti-Palestinian bills, resolutions, and amendments designed to burnish their pro-Israel credentials. As M.J. Rosenberg observed in the Israel Policy Forum, it hasn't mattered whether the measures "are likely to actually become law, whether they advance U.S. policy goals or whether, if implemented, they would benefit Israel. The point is to go on record as blasting Palestinians in the hope that pro-Israel donors and voters believe that anything that hurts Palestinians helps Israel and that they will reward them accordingly."

Now, however, this group seems to be concentrating its fire on the money bills, perhaps reasoning that they have more visibility and have a greater likelihood of being passed than more obscure bills and resolutions.

As reported in previous issues of this magazine, the supplemental appropriations bill passed in May and the foreign aid and the foreign affairs authorization bills currently making their way through Congress all have been larded with anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian amendments that go well beyond the already onerous provisions included in previous funding bills. This group, spearheaded by Reps. Shelley Berkley (D-NV), Tom Lantos (D-CA), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), and Anthony Weiner (D-NY), seems oblivious or indifferent to the changes taking place in the Israel-Palestine arena. They seem to believe, again quoting Rosenberg, "that humiliating [Palestinian President Mahmoud] Abbas and the Palestinians helps Israel. For them, Israel and Palestine is a zero-sum game: help one, hurt the other. They could not be more wrong."

Of course, many Jewish members of Congress do seem to understand that helping Abbas and the Palestinians at this time benefits Israel. For example, among the 100 representatives voting against the Berkley amendment to the authorization bill that would require that no more than 25 percent of any aid to the Palestinian Authority be spent during any calendar quarter were such staunch Jewish supporters of Israel as Reps. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Howard Herman (D-CA), Barney Frank (D-MA), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Steven Rothman (D-NJ) and Robert Wexler (D-FL).

As a result of this change of emphasis, no new anti-Palestinian bills or resolutions have been introduced recently and, of the bills previously described, none have made any progress except those regarding Jerusalem. This year's version of the perennial "Jerusalem the Capital of Israel" bill, H.R. 588, introduced in February by Rep. Thomas Reynolds (R-NY), has gained seven co-sponsors beyond those named in the July issue of the Washington Report, for a total of 42, including Reynolds. It would require any U.S. diplomatic facility in Jerusalem to be under the supervision of the ambassador to Israel, Jerusalem to be identified as the capital of Israel in official U.S. documents listing countries and their capitals, and, upon request, on the birth certificates of Americans born in Jerusalem. New co-sponsors are Reps. Robert Andrews (D-NJ), Bob Beauprez (R-CO), Dan Burton (R-IN), Dennis Cardoza (D-CA), Joe Crowley (D-NY), Tim Murphy (R-PA) and Major Owens (D-NY).

S.J. Res. 14, introduced in the Senate in April by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), has gained two co-sponsors, for a total of five, including Brownback. It would "provide for the recognition of Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel before the U.S. recognizes a Palestinian state." New co-sponsors are Sens. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Rick Santorum (R-PA).

Another Bill Targets Aid to Egypt

Although anti-Palestinian bills and resolutions have languished, Egypt, Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia remain targets. Not content with loading title foreign aid appropriations and foreign affairs authorization bills (H.R. 3057 and 2601, respectively) with anti-Egyptian aid amendments that would dramatically alter the U. …

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