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Copyright © 2019 The American Israel Public Affairs Committee

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



SENATE COMMITTEE OVERWHELMINGLY PASSES IMPORTANT ISRAEL SECURITY ASSISTANCE LEGISLATION


On July 10, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee adopted by a vote of 20-1 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.


Authored by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Chris Coons (D-DE), the bipartisan legislation authorizes agreed-upon increases in Israel’s security assistance—in accordance with the 2016 U.S.-Israel Memorandum of Understanding on security assistance—and encourages expanding weapons stockpiles and new U.S.-Israel cooperation in anti-drone technologies, cybersecurity and space.


On May 9, the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed its own version of this legislation, authored by Reps. Ileana RosLehtinen (R-FL) and Ted Deutch (D-FL).


INTELLIGENCE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEARS 2018 AND 2019 INCLUDES PRO-ISRAEL AMENDMENTS


On July 12, the House of Representatives passed the Matthew Young Pollard Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019 (H.R. 6237) containing two key pro-Israel amendments.


The first amendment—offered by Reps. Brad Schneider (D-IL), Mark Meadows (R-NC), Norma Torres (D-CA) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ)—instructs the Director of National Intelligence to report on Iran’s support for its terrorist proxies in Syria and Lebanon, including Hezbollah. The amendment also requires an assessment of Iran’s threat to Israel and other U.S. regional allies.


Offered by Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), the second amendment requires an annual report from the Director of National Intelligence that details Iranian expenditures on military and terrorist activities outside the country. This would include Hezbollah, Houthi rebels in Yemen, Hamas and proxy forces in Iraq and Syria.


THE U.S. AND ISRAEL RENEW COOPERATIVE EFFORTS IN SPACE EXPLORATION


On July 12, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine met with Israel Space Agency (ISA) Director-General Avigdor Blasberger in Jerusalem to discuss opportunities to enhance U.S.-Israel collaboration in space exploration.


Following the meeting, NASA and ISA issued a joint statement expressing their commitment to strengthening joint education and research in Earth and space science. They discussed potential collaboration on the International Space Station as well as potential private-sector partnerships in both countries.


The joint statement also noted “the important role of Israeli technology already provided through U.S. contractors to NASA missions, such as cooling technology aboard the Curiosity Mars rover, which continues to return breakthrough science.”


In his remarks, Bridenstine added that “NASA has a great deal of interest in Israeli technologies.” Bridenstine’s visit marked his first international visit since assuming the position of NASA Director in April. During his time in Israel, Bridenstine also met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Minister of Science, Technology and Space Ofir Akunis.


THE UNITED STATES AND ISRAEL ESTABLISH JOINT CENTER OF EXCELLENCE IN ENERGY AND WATER


On June 25, the U.S. Department of Energy and Israeli Ministry of Energy formally agreed to establish the U.S.-Israel Center of Excellence in Energy, Engineering and Water Technology, ushering in a new era of cooperative energy research and development.


U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and Israeli Minister of Energy Yuval Steinitz signed the agreement at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C. The agreement finalized a multiyear effort to establish the U.S.-Israel Center of Excellence, which was originally authorized by the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2014.


The Center will foster research and development in a wide range of energy technologies including fossil energy, energy cybersecurity, water, and energy storage. Its establishment represents a significant achievement for the U.S.-Israel relationship as well as an important achievement in national security by securing funding for research in these critical industries.


“The partnership between our two countries has long advanced the cause of freedom, dignity, and peace and, as we are highlighting today, the joint quest for science and innovation,” Secretary Perry said.


In March, the U.S. Congress appropriated $4 million in funding for the Center of Excellence—a sum that will be matched by the Israeli government, along with additional private-sector contributions. Altogether, the Center expects to receive at least $16 million annually in the early stages.


SENATE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE SUPPORTS HOMELAND SECURITY COOPERATION


On June 21, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed its Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appropriations bill, which includes funding for U.S.-Israel Homeland Security (HLS) cooperation.


Should the relevant provision make it to the president’s desk, Congress will have quadrupled its annual funding of U.S.-Israel non-defense programs in a period of just two years. The road to this unprecedented HLS funding began in 2014 when the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act authorized DHS to develop pilot programs with Israel. Following this, DHS initiated a three-year pilot with Israel’s Ministry of Public Safety (MOPS) that supported first-responder and wearable-technologies collaboration.


With the pilot now winding down, this year’s congressional funding will provide for the long-term viability and growth of the program, and enable its expansion into the areas of cybersecurity, border security, maritime security, biometrics and video analytics.


The program is administered by the Israel U.S. Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Foundation, with MOPS matching the U.S. funding. It provides grants to U.S. and Israeli institutions collaborating on the above-referenced emerging technologies, making both countries safer and developing ecosystems of bilateral partnership in areas of high security and economic importance.


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