WASHINGTON – As the 117th Congress is starting its legislative work, both the Jewish Democratic Council of America and the Republican Jewish Coalition are preparing to promote their agenda.
Neil Strauss, a spokesperson for RJC, told The Jerusalem Post that one of the priorities for the organization would be the Palestinian International Terrorism Support Prevention Act. The Act, which passed the House of Representatives during the Trump administration but did not pass the Senate, would sanction individuals and entities that support Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and affiliated terrorist groups. Republican Rep. Brian Mast of Florida sponsored the bill together with Democrat from New Jersey Josh Gottheimer, and it is one example of bipartisan work.
Strauss noted that RJC “support[s] the strict implementation” of the Taylor Force Act, “and oppose[s] the efforts trial-ballooned by the Biden administration and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Meeks to dilute or circumvent the law.” Passed in 2018, the law freezes State Department funds to the Palestinian Authority unless it ends its longstanding practice of compensating the families of terrorists convicted in Israeli courts.
Another piece of legislation that is being considered, Strauss said, is having to do with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). “We expect to support efforts in Congress to prevent a resumption of funding without major changes in the way the organization works,” he said. The Trump administration cut all funding to UNRWA back in 2018, questioning the organization’s “fundamental business model” of servicing an “endlessly and exponentially expanding community” of declared Palestinian refugees.
Finally, said Strauss, the organization supports efforts to maximize funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant program, which provides funds for security enhancements for Jewish organizations. Multiple Jewish organizations advocated raising the grants from $180 million to as much as $360m. annually.
Halie Soifer, CEO of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, told the Post that when it comes to domestic policy, “Jewish Dems understand that we’re facing multiple crises related to our security, health, economy, and environment and support US President Joe Biden’s efforts to simultaneously confront these challenges.”
“JDCA is prioritizing efforts to combat white supremacy and domestic extremism, including strengthening the legal mechanisms to combat antisemitism, end the nexus between gun violence and white supremacist violence, and enacting racial justice reforms,” she said. Soifer added that the JDCA supported the reversal of Trump’s immigration policies, “starting with Biden’s repeal of the Muslim Ban, reinstatement of DACA protections, and plans to reunite families at the border, because these policies are consistent with our Jewish values.”
“Regarding foreign policy, Jewish Dems know that “America first” under Donald Trump meant “America alone,” and this has weakened our national security and that of our allies, including Israel,” said Soifer. “Jewish Dems support President Biden’s leadership in restoring multilateralism as a core tenet of US foreign policy, and using smart diplomacy to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions and other nefarious activities,” she added. “We also strongly support President Biden’s commitment to the 10-year, $38 billion US-Israel Memorandum of Understanding, and efforts to preserve prospects for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
Another area of focus, said Soifer, would be COVID-19 relief. “Amid the largest health crisis of our lifetime, we also support President Biden’s efforts to protect American lives and livelihoods from the hardship caused by COVID-19, including federal mask mandates, developing a national vaccination strategy, offering financial relief and student loan forgiveness, and increasing the minimum wage. Jewish Dems also support President Biden’s efforts to strengthen environmental protections and reenter the Paris Climate Agreement.”