The House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday passed a package of five bipartisan bills aimed at outlining the House’s position on various aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and how it’s affected by the anti-Israel boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement.
Here’s a look at each of the bills:
Endorsing the Two-State Solution & Warning Against Israeli Annexations: Rep. Alan Lowenthal’s (D-CA) resolution (H.Res. 326) would express the sense of the House that only a two-state solution can ensure Israel’s survival as a secure Jewish and democratic state and fulfill the legitimate aspirations for a Palestinian state. It would also express that U.S. peace proposals must endorse a two-state solution or else a peaceful end to the conflict will be further out of reach. Additionally, it’d warn the Trump administration against encouraging unilateral Israeli annexations in the West Bank. It has 151 Democratic cosponsors.
Expressing the BDS Movement as Counterproductive to the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process: Rep. Bradley Schneider’s (D-IL) resolution (H.Res. 246) would express the sense of the House that the anti-Israel BDS movement undermines the possibility for a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process by demanding concessions from only one party and encouraging Palestinians to reject negotiations in favor of international pressure.
Additionally, it would reaffirm the House’s support for a two-state solution resulting in a democratic, Jewish state of Israel and a viable, democratic Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace, security, and mutual recognition. It has 341 bipartisan cosponsors, including 174 Democrats and 170 Republicans.
Increasing Support for Israel: Rep. Ted Deutch’s (D-FL) bill (H.R. 1837) would increase economic and security support for Israel by $3.3 billion per year above what was agreed in the 2016 U.S.-Israel Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), and authorize a $1 billion increase in weaponry over five years for the U.S. War Reserve Stockpile in Israel. It has the support of 273 bipartisan cosponsors, including 141 Republicans and 132 Democrats.
Sanctioning Foreign Entities Funding Hamas & the Palestinian Islamic Jihad: Rep. Brian Mast’s (R-FL) bill (H.R. 1850) would impose sanctions on foreign persons, agencies, or foreign government entities that knowingly and materially assist designated terror groups Hamas (which controls Gaza) and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, or an affiliate or successor of one of those groups. It has the support of 40 bipartisan sponsors, including 30 Republicans and 10 Democrats.
Expressing Support for Israel’s Improved Relations with Arab & Muslim Majority Nations: Rep. Alcee Hastings’ (D-FL) resolution (H.Res. 138) would reaffirm support for a two-state solution and urge the Palestinian Authority & regional Arab & Muslim majority nations to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and support the normalization of bilateral relations.
Many Arab & Muslim majority nations (including Iran & Saudi Arabia) have no diplomatic relations with Israel (which typically reciprocates) but some do ― most notably, Egypt & Jordan have both recognized the state of Israel and signed peace treaties with it, while Afghanistan, Iraqi Kurdistan & the United Arab Emirates accept Israeli passports under some circumstances. This legislation has the support of 32 bipartisan cosponsors, including 29 Democrats and three Republicans.
While all of the bills were advanced to the floor unanimously by the committee on voice votes, there will likely be less consensus if they reach the floor given statements made by two freshmen Democratic lawmakers regarding the anti-BDS resolution (H.Res. 246).
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), a Palestinian-American, called the non-binding resolution “unconstitutional” and said it’s intended to “silence opposition to Israel’s blatantly racist policies and demonize both Palestinians and Ethiopians.” And Somali-American Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) said the bill provides “an opportunity for us to explain why it is we support a nonviolent movement, which is the BDS movement.”
“[T]he resolution doesn’t restrict any First Amendment rights, it simply allows members of Congress to be on the record opposing a movement that attempts to delegitimize Israel’s very right to exist. Time and time again, I hear from college campuses around the country, from students. They are Zionists. So am I. They support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. So do I. And they feel intimidated and scared to express that support when people are threatening them. “Palestine from the river to the sea”? A chant that is routinely heard at BDS rallies? It envisions a world without Israel. That’s what is controversial. I reject it. This committee should reject it, and the whole House should have the opportunity to reject it as soon as possible.”
It’s unclear when the House will vote on the bills, but in January the Senate passed a bill — the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act (S. 1) — on a bipartisan 77-23 vote which included a provision aimed at combating the BDS movement by allowing state & local governments block to enforce measures to divest assets from, prohibit investment in, or restrict contracting with:
- An entity engaged in a commerce- or investment-related boycott, divestment, or sanctions (BDS) activity targeting Israel; or
- An entity that owns or controls, or is owned or controlled by, or is under common ownership with such an entity.
The Senate bill has been held up in the House because of an apparent “blue slip” violation because spending provisions are supposed to originate in the House under the Constitution, so its supporters offered an bipartisan companion bill (H.R. 336) to avoid that problem if the bill is brought up.
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: iStock.com / Gelia)
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