Act of 2006
legislation (HR 4681/S. 2370) introduced in the aftermath of the
Palestinian elections has started to move, albeit in a modified
form. Washington Representative Rob Levy provides a detailed
update on the status of these bills. Brit Tzedek also has
developed background materials on humanitarian aid and the
elections to help you understand the context for and
significance of this legislation. We hope this information will
provide clarity on the importance of participation in Brit
Tzedek's National Advocacy Days June 18-20 in Washington,
Palestinian Humanitarian Aid:
Vital to Israelis and Palestinians Alike
Implications for the Peace Process
Q and A: 2006 Palestinian
Sanctions Legislation Faces Opposition but Moves
By Rob Levy, Washington
What is going on in
Much to the surprise of supporters and
opponents alike of the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006
(H.R. 4681/S. 2370), Congress did
not jump at the opportunity to pass this punitive legislation,
introduced in response to the Hamas victory in the Palestinian
elections last January. Whereas most bills facilely labeled
"pro-Israel" have already secured a majority of Congressional
co-sponsorships by the time they are introduced, these bills
took over two months to reach that mark, despite the intensive
lobbying efforts on their behalf.
The original version
of the House bill, H.R. 4681, contained a series of extremely
restrictive regulations that would cut all funding to the
Palestinian people and sever all US diplomatic relations with
the Palestinian government, including with moderate Palestinians
such as President Mahmoud Abbas. The bill was slow to gain
momentum, yet after weeks of backroom negotiations, the House
International Relations Committee passed, 36-2, a significantly
less restrictive version of H.R. 4681. Notably, the amended bill
allows a waiver for US aid directed towards independent
elections and the peace process, reduces (albeit slightly) the
onerous process for granting humanitarian assistance to NGOs
working in the West Bank and Gaza, and provides a waiver for the
prohibition on the PLO office in Washington.
bill, S. 2370, upon introduction represented a vastly moderated
version of the original House bill. S. 2370 provides waivers
similar to the amended House text, and also carves out important
exemptions for dealing with President Mahmoud Abbas, a moderate
who supports peace with Israel and condemns terror.
Interestingly, there continues to be speculation that further
amendments may make the Senate bill even less restrictive.
Despite the positive steps taken away from the original
House legislation, both S. 2370 and H.R. 4681, as currently
written, significantly restrict the U.S. role in bringing
Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table and
directing them to a two-state resolution of the conflict. Their
sanctions and restrictions weaken moderate pro-peace Palestinian
voices and embolden extremists, tie the President's hands in
dealing with emergency security crises, and drastically cut
critical US assistance to the Palestinian people, which helps
build Palestinian civil infrastructure.
There has been a lot of speculation
about why Congress did not pass these bills in great haste, as
it typically does for legislation labeled "anti-terrorism" or
"pro-Israel." First of all, these bills propose drastic legal
changes to US foreign policy, unlike past resolutions on this
issue, which have simply provided Congress' perspective on the
situation without changing law. Some in Congress have clearly
recognized the ramifications of this legislation and the
subsequent need for deliberation over its provisions.
Furthermore, expressions of concern by the Israeli government, the Quartet, and the US Administration have
brought significant pressure to bear on Congress.
Tzedek's active opposition to this bill also clearly played a
role in the bill's moderation. Our grassroots activists have
held home district meetings, made phone calls and written
letters to get the message to Congress that the American Jewish
community does not monolithically support legislation which
places obstacles in the path to peace, despite our collective
horror and dismay at the election of Hamas. The letter to President Bush signed by 400
rabbis from across the country and the denominational spectrum,
and sent to the Hill, certainly brought that point home.
Organized by Brit Tzedek's Rabbinic Cabinet, the
rabbis' letter urged "constructive engagement" with the new
Palestinian government and continued humanitarian assistance to
the Palestinian people.
What's next for
Congress returns from its spring recess
today, and, unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, the legislation
now has a majority of co-sponsors in the House (271 out of 434) and
the Senate (79 out of 100), making
its passage likely. Members of Congress are under a great deal
of pressure to sign on to what has been labeled as "anti-Hamas,"
"anti-terror" legislation. In addition, the Hamas refusal to
condemn last week's suicide bombing in Tel Aviv and
justification of it as an act of "self-defense" has done little
to foster a more supportive climate.
The timetable for
voting on this legislation, however, is still unclear and
largely dependent on the actions of the Administration and new
House Majority Leader John Boehner. We will keep you apprised of
What's next for Brit
Brit Tzedek is gaining influence in
Washington and we hope that you will help us bring our message
of a negotiated two-state solution to the Hill by participating
in Brit Tzedek's National Advocacy Days
on June 18-20, 2006, in Washington, DC. See full agenda here.
we will bring the voice of our over 33,000 supporters directly
to the halls of power. Participants will hear from DC insiders
about current Congressional and Administration thinking on the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict, learn how best to influence policy
decisions, and then head over to the Hill to carry our message
directly to our lawmakers.
With your help, Brit Tzedek
will continue to oppose this legislation.
- If you have not yet done so through our online Action Alert,
please contact your
Representative and urge them not to support H.R.
- If your Representative is not yet a cosponsor (view list of
cosponsors), call your
Representative and urge him or her not to support and
not to cosponsor H.R. 4681, the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism
Act. Please mention that you are a constituent and an
American Jew. You can find your Representative and their phone
- If you live in a chapter area, please volunteer to help your
chapter leadership set up meetings with your Members of
Congress. If you have any questions on who to contact, write email@example.com.
- If you are not near a chapter, but would like to start one,
please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, The Jewish Alliance
for Justice and Peace
11 E. Adams Street, Suite
Chicago, IL 60603
Phone: (312) 341-1205
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