Senior lawmakers introduce bill promoting Abraham Accords, deepening U.S.-Israel cooperation 

The legislation, championed by AIPAC, contains a package of pro-Israel priorities

Alex Brandon/AP Photo

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan and Bahrain Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, stand on the Blue Room Balcony during the Abraham Accords signing ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020, in Washington.

Senior members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee announced legislation on Monday that would extend and expand authorizations for U.S.-Israel cooperation, as well as supporting the expansion of the Abraham Accords and the creation of a new Memorandum of Understanding for future security assistance to Israel.

The U.S.-Israel Partnership and Abraham Accords Enhancement Act of 2023, sponsored by Reps. Joe Wilson (R-SC), Michael McCaul (R-TX), Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Dean Phillips (D-MN), Jim Baird (R-IN) and Colin Allred (D-TX), is a top legislative priority for AIPAC, which is holding its Policy Summit in Washington this week, according to an individual familiar with the situation. McCaul and Meeks are the top lawmakers on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, while Wilson and Phillips lead the Mideast subcommittee.

In the security realm, the bill states that it is U.S. policy to support Israel’s “right to self-defense” through military aid and security cooperation and to “seek a successor” to the current U.S.-Israel MOU, which expires in 2026. It also extends U.S. authority to maintain a stockpile of weapons in Israel through 2028.

In pursuit of expanding the Abraham Accords, the bill urges executive agencies to utilize State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development grant programs to expand ties between citizens of Israel and Arab and North African states.

The bill also states that “fostering support for the Abraham Accords and the normalization of diplomatic relations with Israel among the general public in Arab and Muslim countries is in the interest of the United States,” and suggests that interfaith dialogue — potentially promoted by the ambassador at large for international religious freedom — is a potential path to achieving such a result.

The legislation expands U.S.-Israel energy cooperative grant programs to include projects promoting nuclear technology, nuclear fusion and carbon capture, as well as extends the authority to fund cooperative projects among the U.S., Israel and developing countries through 2026. The bill also urges that Israel’s observer status at the African Union be reinstated.

It requests that the State Department report to Congress on how the U.S. is supporting India’s participation in the I2U2 group, and also report the status of regional security cooperation between Israel and Middle East and North African nations. 

The bill further states that Israel and the U.S. are both outside of the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, and requests the State Department provide to Congress a report on “diplomatic efforts to oppose politically-motivated investigations against the United States and Israel at the ICC.”

The legislation’s announcement coincides with AIPAC’s Policy Summit in Washington, which includes more than 400 lobbying meetings on Capitol Hill. 

Other lobbying agenda items for AIPAC include $3.8 billion in military aid and cooperative missile-defense funding for Israel in 2024 as per the terms of the U.S.-Israel memorandum of understanding; the U.S.-Israel Future of Warfare Act, which would create a $50 million fund for joint emerging technologies defense space; the Fight CRIME Act seeking to extend United Nations restrictions on Iran’s missile and drone programs, as well as expand the U.S.’ own sanctions; and the SHIP Act expanding sanctions on Iranian oil.

JI has learned that a Senate version of the SHIP Act, which was introduced last week in the House, will be introduced soon, authored by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH). 

AIPAC is also urging lawmakers to join forthcoming letters emphasizing the consequences for Iran of further advancing its nuclear program, to be led by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and James Lankford (R-OK) in the Senate and Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) and Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) in the House. The organization is also supporting a letter from Sens. Rick Scott (R-FL) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV) backing Israel’s inclusion in the Visa Waiver Program.

The Iran-related letters, obtained by JI, each urge the administration to step up its efforts to deter Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon, including asking U.S. allies to implement the snapback mechanisms included in the Iran nuclear deal to restore U.N. sanctions on Iran.

The Visa Waiver Program letter, obtained by JI, urges the Department to “prioritize finalizing Israel’s accession this year” to the program, and notes that Israel has satisfied, or is moving toward satisfying, the conditions necessary for joining the program. 

Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Jim Risch (R-ID) announced on Friday that they’re also aiming to introduce legislation to support the Abraham Accords.

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