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Copyright © 2019 The American Israel Public Affairs Committee

Washington Brief: A Recap of News from the Hill and Beyond (June 17 - July 13, 2017)


Key Congressional Committees Advance U.S.-Israel Missile Defense Funds


On June 29, the House Appropriations Committee and the House and Senate Armed Services Committees advanced U.S.-Israel missile defense assistance and cooperation in the 2018 defense appropriations and authorizations bills. These funds will help Israel defend its citizens against rocket and missile threats, and contribute to America’s missile defense programs.


These committees provided a total of $705 million for research and development and procurement funding for the Iron Dome, David’s Sling, Arrow-2 and Arrow-3 U.S.-Israel cooperative missile defense systems. This funding represents a $558 million increase above the president’s budget request for these programs, and $105 million over last year’s adopted funding level. The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to consider its version of the defense bill later this year.


The inclusion of these vital funds was specifically made possible through the leadership of House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) and Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY), House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-TX) and Ranking Member Peter Visclosky (D-IN), House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX) and Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA), House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces Chairman Mike Rogers (R-AL) and Ranking Member Jim Cooper (D-TN), Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) and Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI), and Senate Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Strategic Forces Chairwoman Deb Fischer (R-NE) and Ranking Member Joe Donnelly (D-IN).

House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee Adopts Key Resolutions


On June 28, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Middle East and North Africa adopted a series of resolutions of interest to the pro-Israel community. H. Res. 359, authored by subcommittee Ranking Member Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), urges the European Union to designate Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization. H. Res. 218, authored by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA), recognizes the importance of the U.S.-Israel economic relationship and encourages new areas of cooperation.


On Iran, the subcommittee adopted three resolutions authored by the subcommittee’s chairman Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Rep. Deutch. H. Res. 185 calls on Iran to fulfill repeated promises of assistance in the case of Robert Levinson, the longest-held U.S. civilian prisoner in our nation’s history. H. Res. 274 condemns Iran’s state-sponsored persecution of its Baha’i minority and its continued violation of the International Covenants on Human Rights. And H. Res. 317 calls for the unconditional release of U.S. citizens and legal permanent resident aliens being held for political purposes by Iran.


White House Homeland Security Advisor Addresses Israeli Cyber Conference


On June 26, White House Homeland Security Advisor Thomas Bossert addressed Tel Aviv University’s annual Cyber Week conference.


In his remarks, Bossert announced the commencement of a U.S.-Israel bilateral cyber working group, led by White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Rob Joyce and Dr. Eviatar Matania, the head of Israel’s National Cyber Bureau. The U.S. delegation also included representatives from Departments of State, Commerce, Defense, and Homeland Security, as well as the FBI.


“We believe that the agility Israel has in developing solutions will result in innovative cyber defenses we can test here and then take back to America,” said Bossert.


“The trip represents the first step in strengthening bilateral ties on cyber issues following President Trump’s visit to Israel, and they make good on the promise he made to Prime Minister Netanyahu at their meeting on Feb. 15,” he continued. “The bilateral working group of experts from across the agencies will work with an eye towards developing a different operational construct: focused on finding and stopping cyber adversaries before they are in your networks; before they reach critical infrastructure, and identifying ways to hold bad actors accountable—a different conversation indeed.”


In addition to members of Israel’s National Cyber Bureau, the U.S. delegation also met with senior leaders from the Israel Defense Forces, Shin Bet and Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Justice and Defense. These high-level meetings focused on a range of cyber issues, including critical infrastructure, advanced R&D, international cooperation and workforce development.


Bipartisan House Letter to Treasury Secretary: Urge Re-imposition of FATF Countermeasures Against Iran


On June 16, Reps. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and David Kustoff (R-TN), both members of the House Financial Services Committee’s Terrorism and Illicit Finance Subcommittee, sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin urging the United States to push for the re-imposition of countermeasures against Iran at the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Plenary.

FATF is the international organization responsible for legal and regulatory guidelines on anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing. Until June 2016, Iran had been on a FATF blacklist—and subject to countermeasures—due to its terrorist financing and deficiencies in combatting money laundering. FATF suspended these countermeasures last June for a 12-month period, when Iran submitted an action plan designed to address some of these issues.


The letter states, “It is now clear that Iran—the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism—has not made substantive efforts to stop its money laundering activities or to cut off its support for their major terrorist proxies, including Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.”


It continues: “We urge the administration to push FATF to reinstate countermeasures against Iran. Furthermore, we urge your department to clearly warn international banks about the dangers of conducting business with Iran, especially with companies wholly or partially owned by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which controls significant portions of the Iranian economy. The IRGC remains under U.S. sanctions and any bank conducting business with the group risks losing access to the U.S. financial system.”


FATF ultimately announced at the end of the plenary its decision to continue the suspension of countermeasure against Iran.


Mattis, Lieberman Discuss “Regional Strategy” Amid Escalation in the Golan Heights


On June 27, U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman met at the annual Munich Security Conference to discuss “regional strategy” and the ongoing cooperation between the Israeli and U.S. militaries.


The meeting comes on the heels of three separate incidents on the Golan Heights in which errant shells fired from Syria landed in Israeli territory, forcing the Jewish state to respond against Syrian targets.


“We won’t hold back if necessary and when needed we will respond with all our might,” said Lieberman. “Anyone that wants to turn Syria into an Iranian base against Israel should think again.”


The issue of Iran’s expanding regional aggression was a major focus of Mattis’ April trip to Israel—his first since becoming defense secretary.


“Iran continues to threaten Israel and its neighbors with ballistic missiles, through its maritime and cyber activities and through proxies and surrogates, including Lebanese Hezbollah, a terrorist organization helping to keep [Syrian dictator Bashar Assad] in power in Syria,” he said in an April 21 joint press conference with Lieberman.


To counter this mounting threat, Mattis reaffirmed America’s commitment to Israel’s qualitative military edge: “The United States maintains absolute and unwavering commitment to Israel’s security and to its qualitative military edge over Iran or other threats…Our alliance with Israel is the cornerstone of a larger regional security architecture, which includes cooperation with Egypt, Jordan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf partners.”


United States Protests UNESCO Resolution on Tomb of the Patriarchs


The United States strongly opposed a decision by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to designate the Old City of Hebron and the Tomb of the Patriarchs as part of Palestinian territory and a Palestinian World Heritage site.


“The UNESCO vote on Hebron is tragic on several levels. It represents an affront to history. It undermines the trust that is needed for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process to be successful. And it further discredits an already highly questionable UN agency. Today’s vote does no one any good and causes much harm,” said U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.


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