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Copyright © 2019 The American Israel Public Affairs Committee

Washington Brief: A Recap of News from the Hill and Beyond (Nov. 16 - Dec. 14, 2017)

Members of Congress Support Jerusalem Recognition

There was overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress following the president’s Dec. 6 announcement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Below is a select list of statements by members of Congress:

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), Senate Democratic Leader: “As someone who strongly believes that Jerusalem is the undivided capital of Israel, I am calling for the US Embassy in Israel to be relocated to Jerusalem."

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), President pro tempore of the U.S. Senate: “I am thrilled with the President’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and his plan to move the US Embassy there. When I spoke to General McMaster yesterday, I was able to ask him a number of logistical details about the move. During my conversation with the National Security Advisor, I expressed my full support for the President’s decision, which takes into careful consideration the needs of America’s allies—both in the region and around the world. I have long supported the recognition of Jerusalem as the official Israeli capital, most notably as a co-sponsor of the Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act, which my colleagues introduced to the Senate in January. The President’s action, which reaffirms US legislation that has been on the books since 1995, sends a clear signal that we are prepared to defend the interests of the United States and its allies.”

Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), Chairman, Senate Foreign Relations Committee: “Today’s announcement recognizes what has been true for almost 70 years, namely that Jerusalem is Israel’s seat of government. On a bipartisan basis, Congress has repeatedly voted overwhelmingly to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and I applaud the president’s initiative in making this a reality. Maintaining a close working relationship with our regional partners and ensuring the security of our embassy personnel and facilities will be critical as the administration takes steps to operationalize this decision, and I look forward to working with them toward that end.”

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Ranking Member, Senate Foreign Relations Committee: “The President’s announcement today implements what Congress affirmed in 1995 with the passage of the Jerusalem Embassy Act: Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel and the location of the U.S. Embassy should reflect this fact. Going forward, it is critical that all religious and ethnic groups continue to have access to Jerusalem.

“I expect that in advance of the President’s announcement appropriate planning and precautions were taken to ensure the safety of U.S. personnel and facilities, and also that careful consideration and consultations focused on not exacerbating conflicts in a region already suffering from unprecedented levels of violence.

“I look forward to learning more about the Administration’s plans for restarting direct negotiations for a just, sustainable two-state solution.”

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Speaker of the House: “This is a day that is long overdue. Jerusalem has been, and always will be, the eternal, undivided capital of the State of Israel. The city’s status as the religious epicenter of Judaism is an historical fact—not a matter of debate. Today’s announcement is a recognition of reality that in no way inhibits efforts to reach a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. I commend President Trump for taking this important action, and for exploring next steps to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), House Majority Leader: “Today the President recognized a reality: Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. The House and Senate have on three separate occasions supported recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, including by enacting the Jerusalem Embassy Act in 1995 to move the United States embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. If acknowledging truth inspires violence, it is those who commit the violence, not the truth, that are at fault.”

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), House Majority Whip: “By Recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, @POTUS has shown we’re willing to back up our allies”

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), House Democratic Whip: “Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel, something that the United States Congress has reaffirmed and a fact of history that cannot be denied. Our country must play a constructive role in supporting Israel as it seeks the peace and security its people deserve by continuing to promote a two-state solution through direct, bilateral negotiations that will end any question of Jerusalem’s status.”

Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman, House Foreign Affairs Committee: “I welcome the administration’s decision to recognize Israel’s self-identified capital. Sovereign nations have a right to determine their seat of government, and our close ally Israel should not be treated differently. Relocating the U.S. Embassy should be done carefully, and in a way that advances our national security interests in a dangerous and unstable region. The president wants peace between Israel and the Palestinians. And so do I. But no solution can be imposed. Actors in the region must want to put conflict and bloodshed in the past. That’s why the House passed the Taylor Force Act yesterday, telling the PA that their abhorrent pay to slay policy must stop. The administration’s recent engagement with key players is encouraging, and I hope it grows in the coming weeks. A lot of difficult work lies ahead.”

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Ranking Member, House Foreign Affairs Committee: “I support the decision to recognize Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel and to move the U.S. embassy there. This decision is long overdue and helps correct a decades-long indignity. It recognizes where Israel’s government—the parliament and the prime minister—is based, as well as the ancient and unbreakable connection between the Jewish people and Jerusalem. I look forward to a plan to ensure the safety and security of our embassy personnel.

“I urge parties in the region to be calm and work toward a sustainable two-state solution that can bring peace to Israelis and Palestinians.”

Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Ted Deutch (D-FL), Chairman and Ranking Member, House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa: “The President’s decision today is a recognition of existing U.S. law that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and that the U.S. embassy should ultimately be located in the capital. There is no debate that the Jewish people have a deep-rooted religious, cultural and historic tie to Jerusalem, and today’s decision reaffirms that connection. The fact is that Jerusalem – an ancient and holy city to all three monotheistic faiths – will remain the capital of the Jewish state in any iteration of a negotiated two-state solution. Today’s decision does not preclude our shared goal of two states for two peoples to be negotiated between the parties themselves. Now is the time for urgent progress towards the President’s stated objective of achieving a real and lasting peace.”

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), Ranking Member, House Appropriations Committee: “Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the State of Israel and the Jewish people. I was proud to vote for the Jerusalem Embassy Act, which demonstrated Congress’ unified position that Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of Israel, and today’s announcement is consistent with existing U.S. law. We must remain focused on the goal of two states for two peoples – the Jewish state of Israel and a Palestinian state – living side-by-side in peace, security, and mutual recognition. The Administration must focus its efforts on bringing both sides to the table, as only the parties themselves can agree to end this conflict.”

(For a full list of statements, visit www.aipac.org)

House Passes Bipartisan Bill to Counter Iran’s Malign Behavior

On Dec. 13, the U.S. House of Representative passed with broad bipartisan support the Iranian Leadership Asset Transparency Act (H.R. 1638).

The measure seeks to counter corruption amongst Iran’s senior leadership by publicly divulging the financial assets of the officials. Under the law, the Treasury Department would be required to publicly report on the assets of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Members of the Council of Guardians, Members of the Expediency Council and senior Iranian military officials. The bipartisan bill was sponsored by Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-ME) and includes amendments from Reps. Grace Meng (D-NY) and Brad Schneider (D-IL).

“Iran’s top regime leaders—the Supreme Leader and the country’s top political and military brass—have amassed huge wealth through their tyrannical rule and corrupt and covert structure,” said Rep. Poliquin.

“Reports have indicated these funds are being used to support and sponsor terrorism around the region and to undermine our own national security interests. Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, cannot be trusted and it’s important for the security of the region and for the United States for these secret funds to be exposed publicly to the world. I’m extremely pleased my colleagues in the House—Democrats and Republicans—passed this important legislation.”

House Seeks Information on Iran Airplane Sales

On Dec. 14, the U.S House of Representatives passed the Strengthening Oversight of Iran’s Access to Finance Act (H.R. 4324). The measure was authored by Rep. Roger Williams (R-TX) and includes an amendment by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL). The bill would require the Treasury Department to report to Congress on financial transactions authorized in connection with Iran’s purchase of commercial aircraft. Additionally, the bill also requires a certification that authorized transactions do not benefit sanctioned entities or individuals engaged in the transport of proliferation sensitive items.

Congress Supports Funding for U.S.-Israel Missile Defense Cooperation

On Nov. 16, the U.S. Congress authorized a total of $705 million for U.S.-Israel missile defense cooperation in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The Senate and the House of Representatives have now adopted the NDAA bill, which contains funding that represents a $558 million increase over the president’s budget request and $105 million over last year’s adopted funding level.

Adopted on a bipartisan basis, this funding would support both R&D for and procurement of the Iron Dome, David’s Sling, Arrow-2 and Arrow-3 cooperative missile defense systems—key programs that help Israel defend its citizens against rockets and missiles and also advance America’s own missile defense capabilities.

In addition to the support of missile defense cooperation, this legislation also extends the authorization of funding for critical U.S.-Israel anti-tunnel cooperation.

House Adopts Legislation Penalizing Support for Terrorism

On Dec. 5, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly adopted the bipartisan Taylor Force Act (H.R. 1164), which would eliminate funding that directly benefits the Palestinian Authority (PA) if it continues its abhorrent practice of paying stipends to terrorists or their families. This PA practice that incentivizes terrorism and sets back the pursuit of peace.

Lawmakers previously acted to reduce assistance to the PA by the total amount of payments it makes to terrorists and their families. However, that important step has not yet put an end to the payments, necessitating the increased pressure provided by the Taylor Force Act.

The bill was named in honor of U.S. Army veteran Taylor Force, who was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist in Tel Aviv last year. Versions of the bill have been adopted in the Senate by the Foreign Relations and Appropriations Committees.

U.S. Treasury Sanctions Major Iranian Counterfeiting Ring

On Nov. 20, the U.S. Department of the Treasury imposed new sanctions against a network of individuals and entities involved in counterfeiting Yemeni bank notes for use by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Qods Force.

“This scheme exposes the deep levels of deception the IRGC-Qods Force is willing to employ against companies in Europe, governments in the Gulf, and the rest of the world to support its destabilizing activities. Counterfeiting strikes at the heart of the international financial system, and the fact that elements of the government of Iran are involved in this behavior is completely unacceptable,” Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin said.

The counterfeiting ring discovered new ways to bypass European export control restrictions and acquired advanced equipment and materials to the print bank notes, potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

“This counterfeiting scheme exposes the serious risks faced by anyone doing business with Iran, as the IRGC continues to obscure its involvement in Iran's economy and hide behind the façade of legitimate businesses to perpetrate its nefarious objectives,” Mnuchin added.

The sanctions are pursuant to the global terrorism Executive Order (E.O.) 13224 and are consistent with the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.

U.S., Israel Increase Energy Cooperation in Africa

On Dec. 4, the United States and Israel entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to increase access to energy in sub-Saharan Africa.

The MOU will enable the Jewish state to join the Power Africa initiative, which is led by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Spearheaded by the United States, the initiative seeks to connect 60 million households in Africa to the electricity grid by 2030.

“Israel is becoming a partner in one of the biggest aid programs available today,” said Eli Groner, the director general at Israel’s Prime Minister’s Office. He added that joining the Power Africa initiative “is the manifestation of our unparalleled relationship with the U.S., assisting in the deepening of our ties with African nations.”

The new partnership will specifically allow both country to contribute to the shared goals of (1) increasing outreach and collaboration among U.S. and Israeli companies to improve access to finance and explore investment opportunities; (2) deepening collaboration to expand electricity access; (3) expanding on-grid renewable, and off-grid efforts to extend energy across sub-Saharan Africa; and (4) encouraging new projects involving Israeli and U.S. companies throughout the African continent.

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman added, “Through Power Africa, the Israeli government and Israeli firms will literally be able to light up the nations of Africa, bettering their lives and their livelihoods.”

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