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Israeli flag near Old City

The GOP is Pushing Back on Biden's Mideast Policies

It was a busy week on Capitol Hill and not just because of the much-touted Senate deal on infrastructure legislation. Also this week, leading Republicans in the House and Senate brought forward legislation taking aim at two of the Biden administration's worst Mideast policies.

The first regards US taxpayer funding of UNRWA. We all know that UNRWA, the UN Relief and Works Agency, is an obstacle to peace in the Middle East. The massive organization works closely with terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah, operates schools that teach antisemitic hatred to Palestinian children, and has spectacularly failed to accomplish what should be the aim of refugee assistance agency - helping refugees overcome their circumstances by resettling them permanently.


Unfortunately, the Biden administration is going in the wrong direction on UNRWA policy. While President Donald Trump had wisely ended US assistance altogether, President Joe Biden just sent $150 million in US taxpayer dollars to UNRWA. The Biden team acknowledges some of UNRWA's serious deficiencies but promises that reforms to address them are right around the corner.


Republican Senators and Representatives almost without exception reject the Biden policy of restoring funding to UNRWA, and this week, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Republican Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID) and Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) introduced legislation that would implement a very different policy.


The Washington Free Beacon reports that the Risch/Roy UNRWA Accountability Act would: 

…cut off U.S. funding to UNRWA until the agency implements a series of reforms that include cutting ties to terrorist groups and ending its use of anti-Israel educational curricula and consents to a full-scale financial audit, according to a copy of the legislation obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. The bill would also require the Biden administration to certify in writing to Congress that UNRWA has ended its affiliation with all terrorist groups and rooted out anti-Semitism from its ranks...


The bill also redefines what it means to be a Palestinian refugee. UNRWA claims there are more than five million Palestinian refugees who require its services, a number that has been used to justify UNRWA's skyrocketing budget. A classified report by the US State Department put this number at closer to 20,000, according to reporting by the Free Beacon. Former secretary of state Mike Pompeo put the number at less than 200,000 in a tweet issued shortly before he left office.


Under the legislation, only those individuals displaced by the 1948 Arab-Israeli war would qualify for this status. This change would cut the number of refugees in need of UNRWA's services and set the stage for the embattled agency to be completely phased out—an effort UNRWA officials have pushed back against in recent years.

The other action this week concerns fighting BDS, the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. Today, Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) introduced the Anti-BDS Labeling Act. Jewish Insider's Marc Rod reports:

Seven Republican senators are seeking to codify import-labeling rules implemented by the Trump administration on products produced in West Bank settlements, Jewish Insider has learned.


In November 2020, the Trump administration changed US policy to allow goods produced in some Israeli settlements in the West Bank to be labeled as “Made in Israel.” Under the policy, products created in Palestinian Authority-controlled areas of the West Bank were labeled as products of the West Bank, and those produced in the Gaza Strip were marked as such.


Previous US policy from 1995 labeled all goods produced in the territory as “Made in West Bank.” A Biden administration memo on resetting ties with the Palestinian Authority reportedly recommended rolling back Trump administration’s policy change.


The new GOP bill, the “Anti-BDS Labeling Act,” would codify the policy change into federal law, blocking any administration from changing it by executive action. The bill, introduced on Tuesday night, is sponsored by Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR),  Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Rick Scott (R-FL), John Boozman (R-AR), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Bill Hagerty (R-TN) and Ted Cruz (R-TX).

We appreciate all the Republican Congressmen and Senators who are supporting the UNRWA Accountability Act and the Anti-BDS Labeling Act. Democrats will likely try to use their power to keep these bills bottled up, but that just illustrates the difference in vision and values between the two parties. 

Further reading:


WE’RE BACK! We are pleased to announce that the RJC National Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas is back — bigger and better than ever in 2021!

Save the date for a terrific weekend of politics and policy featuring top GOP leaders and outstanding VIP speakers. Watch your email for speaker announcements coming soon!

Stand Up to the Squad

Short Takes


Biden should reconsider planned reversal of bipartisan US policy on Jerusalem

Elliott Abrams and his colleague at the Vandenberg Coalition, Dr. Amanda J. Rothschild, have some things to say about the Biden administration plan to reopen a consulate in Jerusalem to serve Palestinians: it's ill-advised, illegal, and represents a distinct infringement on the sovereign rights of the Israeli state.

Florida and Texas threaten sanctions against Ben & Jerry's over Israel boycott

Texas and Florida have threatened sanctions against Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, after the brand announced that it would stop selling its products in the West Bank. 

Tehran’s crimes, acts of war, and other provocations

Cliff May at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies writes: "The question I suspect is not being asked in the White House: Did Washington’s failure to impose serious penalties on Iran’s rulers in response to the 2011 plot [to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to America on American soil] lead them to believe they risked little with the 2021 plot [to kidnap journalist Masih Alinejad]? And if no serious penalties are imposed on Iran’s rulers now, what might they try next?"







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