NEAR EAST REPORT AIPAC'S BIWEEKLY ON AMERICAN MIDDLE EAST POLICY

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Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle actively pursued a wide-range of initiatives that will further strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship.
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The U.S.-Israel energy partnership provides resources for joint research programs to find new alternative energy sources.

Heard On The Hill

Near East Report offers a look at recent legislation, resolutions and letters in Congress pertaining to the Middle East, the U.S.-Israel relationship and America’s ally Israel.

Congress Calls for Release of Gilad Shalit

The House and the Senate in late June passed resolutions (H. Res. 1359 and S. Res. 571) by voice vote that call for the immediate and unconditional release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was kidnapped by the terrorist-group Hamas four years ago. "Gilad Shalit is just one soldier, but his captivity tells you everything you need to know about Hamas," Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), who cosponsored the resolution with Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), said in a floor statement. Highlighting Hamas' stated goal of destroying the state of Israel, Ackerman noted that the terrorist organization has cruelly violated international law by failing to provide "access to Gilad Shalit by competent medical personnel and representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross."

Similarly, the Senate resolution, sponsored by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and George Voinovich (R-OH), calls the kidnapping "a blatantly illegal and extortionate effort to coerce the Government of Israel.” It also "condemns... the Governments of Iran and Syria, the primary state sponsors and patrons of Hamas, for their ongoing support for international terrorism." BACK TO TOP

Senators Call for $10 Million in U.S.-Israel Energy Cooperation

A bipartisan group of eight senators, led by Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA), signed a letter to the chairman and ranking member of a key senate appropriations subcommittee in support of U.S.-Israel energy cooperation for fiscal year 2011. The letter, sent on July 2 to Chairman Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Ranking Member Robert Bennett (R-UT) of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, calls for an $8 million increase in funding for collaborative research in renewable and alternative energy between the two nations.

In previous years, the United States and Israel each appropriated $2 million to the Binational Science Foundation (BSF) and the Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation (BIRD) in order to fund this research. This year, Israeli Minister of National Infrastructure Uzi Landau pledged that Israel would provide up to $10 million to match any funding provided by Congress. Noting that Israel has become a “world leader in renewable energy technology development,” the letter urges the subcommittee to allocate the full $10 million in funding for U.S.-Israel energy cooperation.

Senate Affirms Israel’s Right to Self-Defense

The Senate on June 24 passed a resolution (S. Res. 548) that supports Israel’s “undeniable right to self-defense,” and condemns the violent actions of the extremists aboard the Gaza flotilla. The resolution, sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), reaffirms the “special bond” between the United States and Israel, denounces Iran for its support of Hamas and condemns “Hamas for its failure to recognize the right of Israel to exist, its human rights abuses against the residents of Gaza and its continued rejection of a constructive path to peace for the Israeli and Palestinian people.” “Every country has the right to defend itself, and Israel is no different,” said Cornyn. “The calls from United Nations leaders and others for an investigation into the actions of Israel have been troubling. In my view, these calls have served only to question Israel's right to self-defense.”

House Urges Tehran to Uphold Human Rights

The House on June 24 passed a resolution (H. Res. 1457) calling on Tehran to give the Iranian people the human rights and democracy they deserve. "Congress must reaffirm its commitment to supporting democracy and freedom around the world, including in Iran," said Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA), the resolution's sponsor. The resolution urges the release of all political prisoners detained by the government of Iran and the end of harassment and violence against the people of Iran. It also calls for freedom and democracy in the country, including democratic and independent elections. "There is no freedom in Iran and as long as this regime is in power and [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad continues to be the dictator, the tyrant of the desert who threatens to destroy not only our ally Israel, but destroy the West as soon as he can get his hands on those nuclear weapons," said Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), the leading Republican sponsor of the resolution.

Lawmaker Warns of Hizballah Drug Cartel

Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC) on June 23 wrote a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano warning of the terrorist group Hizballah's growing presence and drug cartel in Central and South America and calling for the formation of a task force to study the issue. Hizballah "operates almost like a Mafia family in this region, often demanding protection money and 'taxes' from local inhabitants," the letter states. The letter notes that U.S. sanctions against Hizballah have made it difficult for the group to obtain or transfer funds through ordinary financial institutions, thus leading it to increase its "presence in drug trafficking to obtain funds that cannot be traced."

Gillibrand: Fund U.S.-Israel Energy Cooperation

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) on June 17 sent a letter to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development urging it to appropriate at least $2 million for U.S.-Israel energy cooperation in the fiscal year 2011 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill. "Our work with Israel, a world leader in green energy research and development, has great promise for the future of marketable alternative energy technologies," she wrote. " U.S.-Israel collaboration and the work of foundations such as BIRD and BSF have had a lasting and fundamental impact on our countries' economies and relationship." The letter notes that American companies have benefited from such funding in the past because it has encouraged innovation and economic growth. BACK TO TOP