The 112th Congress, Second Session: 3 January 2012 – 3 January 2013

The 112th Congress was in session from 1/2011 to 1/2013. The first session (convened on 1/5/11 and adjourned on 1/3/12) was covered in JPS 164. The second session, covered below, opened on 1/3/12 and adjourned on 1/3/13, bringing the 112th Congress to a close.

During the second session of the 112th Congress, 79 measures relevant to Israel, the Palestinians, and the Arab-Israeli conflict were acted on, a similar total to recent sessions. Of these, 71 were newly introduced and 8 were carried over from the first session in 2011.

Congressional measures fall into 2 broad categories: those that have the force of law if passed (bills and joint resolutions), and those that, if passed, are nonbinding, merely stating the views of Congress on a given issue (simple and concurrent resolutions). Bills and joint resolutions tend to be more consequential, and a smaller percentage of them pass. Simple and concurrent resolutions typically ‘‘urge,’’ ‘‘recognize,’’ ‘‘support,’’ or ‘‘encourage’’ persons and events, and while they cannot become law, they are important indicators of the mood of Congress.

Of the 79 relevant measures, 48 were bills or joint resolutions, 8 of which passed into law (up from 3 in the first session). The remaining 31 measures were simple or concurrent resolutions, 11 of which passed (up from 8 in the first session).

It is worth noting that not all of the measures listed below focus primarily on the issues of concern to this monitor. Of the 79 measures considered, 19 address multiple or broader issues, with Israel, the Palestinians, Iran, and the wider region representing only a portion (and sometimes only a fraction) of the measure in question. All 19 of these bills or joint resolutions, which, having the force of law if passed, tend to be (as noted above) more consequential.

Eight of the 19 addressing multiple or broader issues are appropriations and authorizations bills, annual acts of Congress that provide legal authority and funding for U.S. programs and agencies. This session, relevant funding was provided by appropriations bills involving such issues as national defense, energy and water development, State Department and foreign operations, and disaster relief. A number of these have great import for the region, but by their very nature they cover many regions of the world, of which the Middle East is only one. Of the 8 appropriations and authorizations bills relating to our subject matter that were introduced in 2012, 2 passed. First, the National Defense Authorization Act (*H.R. 4310 of 3/29/12) provided the authority to transfer support funds to Israeli missile defense programs and expanded sanctions on Iran. Second, the Continuing Appropriations Resolution (*H. J. Res. 117 of 9/10/12) allowed for the extension of the FY 2012 budget, averting a government shutdown and approving funding for Israel, the Palestinian Authority (PA), other countries in the Middle East, and federal agencies servicing the region.

Besides the appropriations and authorizations bills, the other 11 bills in this category focus on specific sectors (e.g., cybersecurity, Western Hemisphere security, homeland security, older Americans, the Food and Drug Administration, and agricultural reform and jobs). In these bills, the topic or topics of relevance to the monitor, which are not necessarily directly related to the subject of the bill in question, may be dealt with in a single paragraph or amendment.

Overview of Legislative Trends

Measures acted upon during the second session of the 112th Congress relating to Israel, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the wider region can be divided into 3 broad categories: those that benefit Israel directly or indirectly, those that serve Israel’s interests by undermining its adversaries, and those responding to the recent turmoil in the Middle East. Much of this legislation is aimed, in one way or another, at strengthening the U.S.-Israeli alliance.

An overview of the measures that passed this session is as follows: Of the 8 bills that were passed by both chambers of Congress and signed into law, 3 principally benefited Israel, 2 undermined Israel’s adversaries, 1 memorialized the Holocaust, and 2 were large appropriations or authorizations bills that covered many topics. Of the 11 simple or concurrent resolutions that passed, 3 undermined Iran individually, 1 targeted Iran and Syria together, 2 targeted Hizballah, 2 supported Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza in 11/2012, 2 commemorated Israeli history, and 1 saluted Greece for its history of good relations with Israel and Muslim countries.

Benefiting Israel

As in past years, this was the largest category of measures presented in the monitor. Just over half the 79 total measures, or 39, benefited Israel either directly or indirectly. Of these 39, 24 were bills or joint resolutions and 15 were simple or concurrent resolutions. Overall, the 39 measures seen as strengthening or benefiting Israel can be divided into 3 main groups, as follows:

  • Quantifiable Benefits. Twenty bills and joint resolutions—carrying the force of law if passed—are in this group, 4 of which passed. These bills strengthened the U.S.-Israel relationship by transferring direct military aid, increasing Israeli citizens’ special privileges, and extending financial and diplomatic benefits. Specific examples of measures in this category would have increased levels of aid for the Iron Dome missile defense system (H.R. 4229 of 3/21/12, *H.R. 4310 of 3/29/12), extended U.S. loan guarantees to Israel (H.R. 4197 of 3/16/12, *H.R. 4133 of 3/5/12), or allowed Israeli citizens special rights to investigate copyrighted devices (S. 2292 of 4/17/12). Also included in this subcategory is direct aid to Israel, addressed in the annual bills that appropriate military support funds and authorize the expansion of U.S.-Israel cooperative programs.
  • Commemorating Israeli and Jewish History. Fourteen bills and nonbinding resolutions were in this group. Four of these were bills, of which 1 passed, and 10 were simple or concurrent resolutions, of which 2 passed. These measures recognized the heroic actions of individuals or countries during the Holocaust, commemorated tragic events in Israeli history, and increased support for programs serving Holocaust survivors. One successful example called on the International Olympic Cmte. to hold a moment of silence for the anniversary of the athletes killed at the 1972 Munich Olympics (*S. Res. 504 of 6/25/12). Another indicative resolution would have permitted use of the Capitol rotunda in a Holocaust memorial service (H. Con. Res. 108 of 3/19/12).
  • Supporting/Approving Israeli Actions. All 5 measures of this group were simple or concurrent resolutions. The 2 successful resolutions in this group passed in 11/2012 after the escalation of violence between the Israeli military and militants in Gaza. The violence prompted swift response from Congress, where both the House and Senate unanimously passed resolutions condemning Hamas’s aggression and supporting Israel’s right to conduct Operation Pillar of Defense (*S. Res. 599 of 11/15/12, *H. Res. 813 of 11/16/12).


Undermining Israel’s Adversaries

Thirty-one of the total 79 measures considered here contain provisions on this theme. Eighteen of the 31 were bills or joint resolutions, 3 of which passed, and 13 were simple or concurrent resolutions, 6 of which passed. Most prevalent among these are measures targeting Iran, followed by Syria and Iranian ‘‘proxies’’ such as Hizballah. The Palestinians are also in this category, but their situation is more complex, involving a consistent supply of U.S. aid and numerous behavioral conditions on the use of that aid.

Iran is second only to Israel in the number of measures specifically devoted to it, with increased pressure on Iran often framed in terms of Israel’s selfdefense. Iran figured explicitly in 20 of the 31 measures on this theme, and was the principal focus of 16 (including 1 that focused both on Iran and Syria). Eleven of the measures focused on Iran were bills and joint resolutions that would have become law if passed. Two of these did pass into law: the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act (*H.R. 1905 of 5/13/2011) and the Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act of 2012 (*H.R. 3783 of 1/18/2012), which also cited Hizballah. Three of the 9 resolutions mentioning Iran passed. Almost all measures specifically targeting Iran involved expanding sanctions and/or preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear capability.

In the perceptions and actions of Congress, Syria has long been treated similarly to Iran as an enemy of Israel. Although the ongoing civil war in Syria has introduced a new dimension, this treatment continues in 4 of the 8 measures dealing with Syria (the remaining 4 will be dealt with in the next section). Three of these measures involved the imposition of sanctions—2 bills and 1 simple resolution. Of these only the above-mentioned *H.R. 1905 and the resolution supporting it (*H. Res 750 of 8/1/12) passed.

Hizballah was mentioned in 9 measures—4 in connection with Iran, 2 in connection with Syria, 1 in connection with both Iran and Syria, and 2 alone. The 2 measures targeting Hizballah alone were simple resolutions that called on the EU to designate Hizballah a terrorist organization (*H. Res. 834 of 12/17/12, *S. Res. 613 of 12/11/12).

Five measures—4 bills and 1 nonbinding resolution—dealt with the Palestinians. Two of these focused exclusively on them: a simple resolution stating that the PLO should not be allowed to have an office in Washington (H. Res. 524 of 1/24/12), and the Palestine Peace Promotion and Anti-Incitement Act (H.R. 5303 of 4/27/12), which would have created an independent treasury fund for Palestinians through which all aid would flow until incitement ends. The other 3 bills in the group were large appropriations bills with provisions involving aid to the Palestinians. Like the abovementioned ‘‘anti-incitement’’ bill, they sought to condition U.S. aid on Palestinian performance with regard to the peace process. The only 1 of the 5 measures to pass was the Continuing Appropriations Resolution (*H.J. Res. 117 of 9/10/12).

Regional Reactions

Throughout 2012, Congress struggled to formulate a comprehensive U.S. response to the ongoing regional turmoil. Some lawmakers saw it as a potential threat to Israel’s security; others saw it as an opportunity to express American values. Specifically, events in Egypt, Syria, and Turkey attracted substantial attention from Congress. Sixteen of the 79 measures considered by this monitor carried provisions on this theme. Of these, 12 were bills and joint resolutions, 1 of which passed, and 4 were simple or concurrent resolutions, none of which passed.

In reaction to the popular uprisings, 8 bills and 1 resolution were introduced to deal with Egypt, 1 of which passed. These measures would have either cut off all U.S. military aid (S. 3576 of 9/19/12, H.R. 6646 of 12/11/12), conditioned aid on the 1979 Egypt-Israel peace treaty (S. 3670 of 12/12/12, H.R. 6657 of 12/13/12), or maintained levels of aid from previous years (*H. J. Res. 117 of 9/10/12, S. 3241 of 5/24/12).

The ongoing violence plaguing Syria in 2012 was another source of congressional uncertainty. Though there were 8 total measures dealing with Syria, only 4 were principally responses to the ongoing civil war. These 4 measures would have facilitated congressional oversight on any future U.S. intervention (S. 2224 of 3/22/12, H. Res. 770 of 8/2/12), imposed sanctions on human rights abusers (S. 2034 of 1/24/12), and imposed sanctions on Syria’s petroleum and finance sectors (S. 2152 of 3/2/12).

Since the 2010 attack on the Mavi Marmara aid flotilla, relations between Israel and Turkey have been rocky. In 2012, there were 3 measures introduced that constituted American attempts to manage that antagonism and to ensure Israeli dominance in the region. These 3 measures—1 bill, 1 simple resolution, and 1 concurrent resolution—would have either permitted the sale of defense materials to Turkey (H.R. 6649 of 12/11/12) or supported Cyprus’s efforts to defend itself from Turkish influence (H. Res. 676 of 6/5/12, S. Con. Res. 47 of 6/6/12). None of the 3 measures passed.