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Senate to begin consideration of 2024 NDAA: what we’re watching

Proposed amendments include the Abraham Accords ambassador legislation and oversight for the implementation of the administration’s antisemitism strategy

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Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) walks off the Senate subway at the U.S. Capitol on May 02, 2023, in Washington, D.C.

The full Senate will vote tonight on a procedural measure to begin consideration of the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act. More than 20 proposed amendments relevant to Middle East policy and antisemitism have been introduced to the bill, although it’s unclear yet which and how many of the more than 600 amendments introduced will ultimately receive debate time and votes on the Senate floor.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) introduced a measure that would establish an ambassador for the Abraham Accords, Negev Forum and related normalization agreements, a provision already passed by the House but not yet introduced in the Senate. Menendez’s amendment includes some new language that is not part of the House bill, including mandating that the official may not be “dual-hatted” with other responsibilities.

An amendment from Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and James Lankford (R-OK) would require a slew of federal agencies to report to Congress on their work to implement the administration’s antisemitism strategy; the strategy had included action items for various federal agencies and departments.

“At a time when Jewish communities across our nation face a growing number of threats, harassment, and violence, we must take immediate action to push back against the rising tide of antisemitism,” Rosen told Jewish Insider. “My amendment would help ensure that federal agencies are taking swift and concrete steps to implement the first-ever national strategy to counter antisemitism and protect Jewish Americans.”

“Having a strategy and actually working the strategy are two different things,” Lankford said. “This amendment will ensure Congress and the public are made aware of the implementation progress from each agency and their work to define and call out antisemitism. We must have more than a plan in the drawer.”

Menendez and Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN) are seeking a strategy from the administration on combating Iran’s drone and missile programs in light of the upcoming expiration of U.N. sanctions, as well as a path to keeping those U.N. sanctions in place, similar to existing House legislation.

Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID) proposed establishing cooperative projects among the U.S. and Abraham Accords signatories to combat drone threats.

One amendment proposes new sanctions targeting Iranian cooperation with Russia, while others seek restrictions on the provision of U.S. funds to Iran, the sale of U.S. strategic petroleum reserves or agricultural land to Iran and Iranian gold mining in Venezuela, as well as preventing the normalization of relations with Syria.

Additional proposed amendments would advance various pieces of legislation that have been introduced in the Senate this year, on U.N. Relief and Works Agency reform, increasing reporting to Congress on Iranian nuclear enrichment and repealing Iran sanction sunsets

Proposals would also establish new U.S.-Israel cooperative programs on post traumatic stress disorder research and desalination.

Another amendment would designate Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain as major security partners, while a second would name Saudi Arabia a major non-NATO ally. Other senators seek a harder line toward Saudi Arabia, including efforts to combat alleged Saudi pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and reporting on the use of U.S.-provided weapons in Yemen.

Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) are seeking a report on Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank, a proposal that was withdrawn during a recent Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting.

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