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Copyright © 2019 The American Israel Public Affairs Committee

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



CONGRESS ADOPTS FINAL FY19 DEFENSE BILL WITH PRO-ISRAEL PROVISIONS


On Aug. 1, Congress passed the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2019, including important pro-Israel provisions. These critical provisions will help protect Israel against mounting security threats. The bipartisan measure authorizes $500 million for U.S.-Israel missile defense cooperation and up to $50 million for U.S.-Israel counter-tunnel cooperation.


The measure authorizes full funding for cooperative missile defense programs in accordance with the 2016 U.S.-Israel Memorandum of Understanding on security assistance. It authorizes funding for both R&D and procurement for the Iron Dome, David’s Sling, Arrow-2 and Arrow-3 missile defense systems. These programs enable Israel to defend its citizens while advancing America’s own missile defense capabilities.


Counter-tunnel 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.


The legislation also includes other important pro-Israel provisions. It extends authorization for the U.S. War Reserve Stockpile in Israel by five years and authorizes an additional $1 billion in U.S. weapons stockpiles in Israel. It calls for a joint assessment of the quantity and type of precision-guided munitions necessary for Israel to defend itself against Hezbollah, Hamas and other terrorist groups. For the first time, this measure authorizes the establishment of a cooperative R&D program with Israel to develop capabilities for countering unmanned aerial systems.


SENATE ADOPTS IMPORTANT ISRAEL SECURITY ASSISTANCE LEGISLATION


On Aug. 2, the U.S. Senate adopted the U.S.- Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2018 (S. 2497), which seeks to ensure that Israel has the means to defend itself, by itself, against growing and emerging threats—including Iran’s presence close to Israel’s northern border. This bipartisan legislation authorizes increases in U.S. security assistance to Israel, and it encourages expanded weapons stockpiles and new U.S.- Israel cooperation in anti-drone technologies, cybersecurity and space.


Major provisions include:

  • Authorizing U.S. security assistance to Israel for 10 years, as called for in the 2016 U.S.-Israel Memorandum of Understanding on security assistance.

  • Authorizing a joint assessment of the quantity and type of precision-guided munitions necessary for Israel to defend itself against Hezbollah, Hamas and other terrorist groups; mandating rapid acquisition and deployment procedures for such munitions.

  • Extending authorization for the U.S. War Reserve Stockpile in Israel by five years and authorizing an additional $1 billion in stocks; authorizing the president to add precision guided munitions to the stockpile for potential Israeli use in a conflict with Hezbollah.

  • Urging the NASA administrator to continue working with the Israel Space Agency to identify and cooperatively pursue peaceful space exploration and science initiatives.

  • Authorizing the president to establish a counter-drone program with Israel.


UNITED STATES REIMPOSES SANCTIONS ON IRAN


On Aug. 7, in accordance with the president’s announcement in May to leave the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the United States reimposed the first round of sanctions against Iran. These sanctions target Iranian access to U.S. dollars, the purchase of Iranian sovereign debt, and the import of luxury Iranian goods—such as gold, precious and semi-finished metals, automobiles, commercial airplanes, Persian carpets and foodstuffs. As a result, many major European companies—including Daimler and Peugeot— announced their intent to end business in Iran. The United States is set to fully reimpose prenuclear deal sanctions and secondary sanctions against Iran on Nov. 5.


THE UNITED STATES CONDEMNS HAMAS ROCKET ATTACKS, STANDS WITH ISRAEL


On Aug. 8-9, the Gaza-based terrorist group Hamas launched more than 200 rockets into Israel—resulting in at least 23 Israeli casualties and significant damage. Striking deep into Israel—north to Ashkelon and east to Be’ersheba—terrifying explosions and rocket alarms brought daily life to a sudden halt as more than 100,000 Israelis were forced into bomb shelters.


“We condemn the launching of missile attacks into Israel and call for an end to the destructive violence,” Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Heather Nauert told reporters. “We fully support Israel’s right to defend itself and to take actions to prevent provocations of that nature.”


Even while on August recess, members of Congress from both parties also spoke out against Hamas’ aggression and in support of Israel’s right to self-defense.


Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), stated, “I strongly condemn the indiscriminate Hamas rocket attacks against Israel over the last hours, which have already injured dozens of civilians and risk the lives of thousands. Further, I support Israel’s right to self-defense. No one should have to live under this threat, and no country should be asked to sit on its hands while citizens face a barrage of rockets.”


“We stand with Israel. As a key national security partner, we must strongly support Israel’s right to defend itself. With the latest rocket attacks, Hamas continues to escalate conflict rather than seek peace” said Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), also of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.


House Democratic Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer (DMD) also added: “I condemn unequivocally the Hamas rocket attacks from Gaza against Israeli civilians. Israel is completely justified to use force to defend itself against these violent attacks as well as attacks launched across its northern border from Lebanon & Syria.”


SENATE APPROVES FUNDING INCREASE FOR SANCTIONS ENFORCEMENT


On Aug. 1, the Senate approved a Financial Services appropriations bill including a 12 percent increase in funding for the Treasury Department’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. The funding is a 29 percent increase when compared to spending levels two years ago. This is the primary U.S. agency charged with enforcing U.S. sanctions, including on Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas. The funding, however, is $2 million less than the level passed by the House earlier this month; the final figure will be settled in conference.


SECRETARY POMPEO SUPPORTS IRANIAN VOICES


On July 22, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a major speech on Iran policy Sunday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. In his remarks in California, Pompeo outlined the extent of Iran’s regional aggression, gross human rights abuses and economic corruption and mismanagement. “Economically, we see how the regime’s decision to prioritize an ideological agenda over the welfare of the Iranian people has put Iran into a long-term economic tailspin. During the time of the nuclear deal, Iran’s increased oil revenues could have gone to improving the lives of the Iranian people. Instead they went to terrorists, dictators, and proxy militias,” Pompeo said.


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