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Copyright © 2019 The American Israel Public Affairs Committee

Washington Brief: A Recap of News From the Hill and Beyond


On Sept. 28, President Trump signed into law the Fiscal Year 2019 Defense Appropriations bill as part of a larger spending package. The bill overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives on Sept. 26 and the Senate on Sept. 18.

The spending bill contains a total of $500 million for U.S.-Israel missile defense cooperation, in accordance with the 2016 U.S.- Israel Memorandum of Understanding on security assistance. These funds will support both research and development for and procurement of the Iron Dome, David’s Sling, Arrow-2 and Arrow-3 cooperative missile defense systems—important programs that help Israel defend its citizens against rockets and missiles while also advancing America’s own missile defense capabilities.

This legislation also includes a total of $47.5 million for critical U.S.-Israel anti-tunnel cooperation. This funding will enable America and Israel to continue their joint efforts to defeat the threat posed by terrorist organizations like Hamas and similar threats America faces in the Middle East and beyond.


On Oct. 11 and Sept. 25, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives respectively adopted the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Amendments Act of 2018 (S. 1595), which seeks to cut off the flow of resources to the Iran-backed terrorist group.

This bipartisan measure is particularly important in light of Hizballah’s (also spelled “Hezbollah”) destabilizing regional actions and its massive arms build-up in Lebanon. The legislation strengthens and expands the scope of economic and financial sanctions imposed by previous legislation: the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015. It targets foreign governments that knowingly provide significant arms, combat or financial support to Hizballah, as well as foreign individuals and companies that aid its fundraising or recruitment activities.

The bill was made possible by the leadership of the authors of the legislation, Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Reps. Ed Royce (R-CA) and Eliot Engel (D-NY).


On Oct. 11, the U.S. Senate adopted the Sanctioning the Use of Civilians as Defenseless Shields Act (H.R. 3342). The bipartisan legislation—authored by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Joe Donnelly (D-IN) with an amendment by Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN)—mandates sanctions against members of Hamas and Hezbollah responsible for the use of human shields as well as agencies of foreign states that support these groups in this heinous practice.

Hamas and Hezbollah are blatantly violating international law by placing their terrorist infrastructure among civilian populations. In any future conflict in Gaza or Lebanon, the lives of innocent civilians will be endangered because of the reckless and illegal behavior of these terrorist organizations.

The House of Representatives already passed similar bipartisan bills that address these terrorist groups’ use of human shields separately: the Hamas Human Shields Prevention Act, authored by Reps. Joe Wilson (R-SC) and Seth Moulton (D-MA), and the Sanctioning Hizballah’s Illicit Use of Civilians as Defenseless Shields Act, authored by Reps. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Tom Suozzi (D-NY). The House must now vote on the comprehensive Senate version of the legislation.


On Oct. 3, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the United States would be withdrawing from the 1955 Treaty of Amity with Iran, in response to Iran’s use of the treaty against the United States at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Earlier in the day, the ICJ—the principal judicial body of the United Nations—issued an interim decision ordering the United States to ease its sanctions on Iran, which sued the United States for allegedly violating the decadesold treaty, reached prior to the 1979 Islamic Revolution. “This is a decision, frankly, that is 39 years overdue,” the secretary said at the State Department.

Pompeo stressed that the ICJ has no jurisdiction in the affair and that its ruling violates U.S. sovereignty. He also noted that the United States would work to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iranian people, irrespective of the court’s ruling. “The United States has been actively engaged on these issues without regard to any proceeding before the ICJ. We’re working closely with the Department of the Treasury to ensure that certain humanitarian-related transactions involving Iran can and will continue.”


On Oct. 4, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) took action against Hizballah’s financial support network by designating Muhammad Abdallah al-Amin as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist for providing material support to a previously designated Hizballah financier.

In addition to al-Amin, OFAC designated seven Lebanon-based companies that al-Amin owns or controls.

“Our action should serve as a warning that we will impose consequences on anyone engaging in business relationships with al-Amin or other Hizballah support networks. Treasury has taken more actions against Hizballah this year than ever before, and we are fully committed to shutting down this terrorist network,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Sigal Mandelker.

“Hizballah is an Iranian proxy, and this Administration is focused on exposing and disrupting its terrorist funding networks,” Mandelker added.


On Oct. 10, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that $165 million in aid to the Palestinians would be withheld, invoking the recently enacted bipartisan Taylor Force Act. The law, which passed in March, prohibits any United States assistance that directly benefits the Palestinian Authority until it stops its abhorrent practice of paying terrorists or their families as compensation for killing Israelis. Pompeo’s announcement marks the first public disclosure of specific figures related to the enforcement of that law.


On Oct. 3, NASA and the Israel Space Agency (ISA) signed an agreement to cooperate on Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL’s unmanned spacecraft, which is expected to launch this December and land on the moon in February 2019.

NASA will be contributing scientific technology to the project, including a laser retroreflector array and Deep Space Network support to help the vehicle with landing and communication. NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will also take scientific measurements of the spacecraft as it lands. SpaceIL and ISA will share lunar magnetic field data with NASA for its long-term archive. NASA and SpaceIL will later collaborate on analyzing the scientific data gathered from the mission.

The deal was signed by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and ISA Director Avi Blasberger during the 69th International Astronautical Congress in Germany. This agreement follows NASA and ISA’s memorandum of understanding to promote cooperation between the two agencies, signed by Bridenstine during his visit to Israel in June.


American officials expressed their condolences after a Palestinian terrorist killed two Israeli citizens and injured another at the Barkan Industrial Park in the West Bank on Oct. 7.

A model of coexistence, the businesses of the Barkan Industrial Park employ some 8,000 people, roughly half of them Israeli and half Palestinian, working equally alongside one another.

Administration officials condemned the murder of 29-year-old mother-of-one Kim Levengrond Yehezkel and Ziv Hagbi, a 35-year-old father of three.

“The Barkan Industrial Zone has been a model of Israeli–Palestinian coexistence since 1982, with thousands working and prospering together. Today a terrorist shattered that harmony by brutally murdering two Israelis at work. Our deepest condolences to the families of the victims,” U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said on social media.

Similarly, Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt added, “The Barkan industrial center is a beacon for coexistence and a model for the future. Today’s terror attack is reprehensible and should be universally condemned. Join me in praying for the wounded and sending comfort to the families of the victims.”

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