The 110th Congress, First Session: 4 January 2007 – 31 December 2007

The first session of the 110th Congress convened on 4 January 2007 with the swearing in of Democratic majorities (elected November 2006) in both houses, and ended on 31 December 2007. Democratic control of Congress did not alter longstanding legislative trends concerning the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Eighty-five measures pertaining to Palestine or Israel were introduced this session, 28 of which passed (32%, compared to 19% for all measures introduced this session). Of these 85 measures, 34 were bills or joint resolutions, which have the potential to become law. The remaining 51, simple or concurrent resolutions, cannot become law in their current form and are basically statements of opinion, some of which aim at influencing foreign policy, the formation of which is granted by the Constitution solely to the president.

Only three bills that contained sections relevant to Palestine or Israel became law during this session: the annual appropriations bills for the Depts. of Defense and State (H. R. 3222 on 7/30/07 and H. R. 2764 on 6/18/07, respectively), and the Energy Independence and Security Act (H. R. 6, 1/12/07). However, 12 other measures introduced this session (and recorded in this Congressional Monitor) had all or some of their provisions added by amendment to these three bills. The most important of these measures was the U.S.-Israel Energy Cooperation Act, the top legislative priority of the American Jewish Committee for 2007, which was introduced three times as a standalone bill (S. 838 on 3/12/07; H. R. 1838 on 3/29/07; and H. R. 2229 on 5/9/07) but failed to pass each time. Its main provisions, however, were eventually incorporated into the Energy Independence and Security Act.

Of the 34 measures that can have the force of law, 6 (18%) relate to the Holocaust, including 2 that lay the ground for reparations claims against insurance companies for unpaid claims and against railway companies that transported persons to Nazi concentration camps (France’s national railroad company is mentioned by name). Indeed, the session saw a spate of reparations bills (18% of the total). Aside from the 2 Holocaust-related claims bills, 4 additional bills involve reparations for U.S. victims of state-sponsored terrorism, one of which specifically targets the Amman-based, Palestinian-owned Arab Bank, one of the largest financial institutions in the Middle East.

While concurrent and simple resolutions cannot become law, they are important indicators of the mood of Congress and the issues it considers important. Of the 51 such measures, the largest number—13 (almost 21%)—relate to the Holocaust, paying tribute to those who helped save Jews, grieving for loss of life under the Third Reich, and so on. A close second (11 measures, or 20%) are resolutions condemning or calling for action against Iran, Hizballah, and Syria for directly or implicitly threatening Israel or making anti-Israeli pronouncements. Six measures (>10%) celebrate or congratulate Israel for various achievements. Others specifically advance Israeli goals by calling for an upgrade to Israel’s relationship with NATO, urging U.S. representatives at all international forums to insist on Jewish refugee claims alongside Palestinian claims, calling on the U.S. to press for Israel’s membership in the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, and so on.