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EXCLUSIVE: Lamborn and 34 GOP lawmakers urge Biden against resuming U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority

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Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-CO, is urging President Joe Biden to continue to support a strong U.S.-Israel relationship and to hold the Palestinian leadership accountable for supporting terrorism in the region, according to a letter exclusively obtained by this reporter. He is joined by 34 Republican House lawmakers who have co-signed the letter.

“We write today encouraging you to build upon the solid partnership that currently exists between the United States and Israel,” Lamborn writes in Wednesday’s letter. “We sincerely hope you will strengthen the strong relationship the previous administration worked so diligently to achieve, and maintain the historical progress that was made on the path to lasting peace in the Middle East.”

He adds, “In 2015, you stated that ‘Israel is absolutely essential—absolutely essential—[for the] security of Jews around the world … Imagine what it would say about humanity and the future of the 21st century if Israel were not sustained, vibrant and free.’ We couldn’t agree more, and we hope your administration will back up your words with policy actions and personnel appointments reflecting this view.”

However, despite Biden’s previous support for Israel, members of his administration threaten the alliance between the two countries, Lamborn says. Biden’s Special Envoy to Iran Robert Malley and Director for Intelligence on the National Security Council Maher Bitar are both problematic for that longstanding relationship, according to Lamborn, who says the Biden administration should “reconsider” those appointments.

Lamborn cites Malley’s “friendly relationships with members of Hamas,” a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization based in Gaza. Malley, when he was working for the nonprofit International Crisis Group in 2008, met with members of Hamas. He received backlash for the meeting and soon resigned from his post as an informal adviser to then-presidential candidate Barack Obama. After Obama’s presidential election victory, Malley was named Senior Advisor to the President for the Counter-ISIL Campaign in Iraq and Syria.

More recently, despite the success of the Trump administration’s Middle East diplomatic policies, Malley said the Biden administration would likely “walk back or dilute parts of the normalization deals” brokered between Israel and a number of Arab countries, according to a December 2020 New York Times report. Notably, Malley clarified that he wasn’t then speaking on behalf of the Biden administration.

“If the goal in the region truly is peace, why would we tap negotiators whose goal is to undo a peace agreement between Israel and some of her Sunni Gulf neighbors? America needs a negotiator trusted by all parties involved, not just the Iranians. Mr. Malley is not the man for the job. We also share strong concerns that he may even have violated the Logan Act when he met with Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the UN in 2019,” the letter reads.

Meanwhile, Bitar has a “track record” of supporting the antisemitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel (BDS). BDS was founded by activists who have routinely called for an end to the Jewish state. Further, in his Oxford University thesis, Bitar wrote of the “Nakba” or “the catastrophe” of Israel’s founding.

Lamborn was the leading sponsor of the Taylor Force Act which became law in 2018. The law conditions U.S. aid to the Palestinians on the ending of their leadership’s “pay for slay” programs, which was named after American veteran and student Taylor Force, who was killed by a Palestinian terrorist while on a college trip to Israel.

The PA reportedly pays thousands of dollars each month for a jailed terrorist and to the families of “martyrs.” In total, the PA’s “pay for slay” program amounts to nearly $360 million per year, according to 2018’s budget.

Lamborn says he’s “disappointed, but not surprised by President Biden’s desire to undermine America’s strong relationship with Israel,” in an exclusive statement to this reporter, adding “During the course of the Obama administration, America repeatedly appeased Iran and ignored the atrocities of the Palestinian Authority and their ‘pay-to-slay’ program. As the author of the Taylor Force Act in Congress, I strongly oppose restarting funding to the Palestinian Authority. In addition, Biden’s decision to tap pro-Iranian advisors for top positions indicate his goal of propping up not only the PA, but Iran as well. America must stand by our friend and the greatest democracy in the Middle East, Israel.”

In Wednesday’s letter, Lamborn calls a debate on the issue of “pay for slay” “shocking.” And he makes clear that taxpayer dollars shouldn’t pay the “stipends to those who murder Jews in cold blood, with the incentive being the more Jews murdered the greater the reward. This will be paid to the murderer for the rest of their life, or to their family in the event of their death during execution of their crime.”

“Your administration, should it seek to restore payments of any kind to the [Palestinian Authority], must ensure that the Palestinians are not paying stipends to terrorists,” the letter says.

“With these specific priorities in mind, we urge you to maintain and strengthen the close relationship we have with Israel. Any deviation from the current trajectory of our partnership would dramatically undermine the historic progress towards peace in the Middle East that has been made in recent years. We are hopeful your administration will avoid the tragic foreign policy mistakes made by previous administrations with a ‘blame Israel first’ approach to managing the Israel/Palestinian conflict. It has been clearly demonstrated that such an approach will only end in failure, while standing up for our dear friend Israel can lead to significant positive changes that benefit all parties.”

“President Biden, we urge you to recognize the importance of the U.S. relationship with Israel. We are eager to see your words supported by policy actions and personnel decisions and we stand ready to work with you to that end,” Lamborn concludes.

Co-signers of the letter include Reps. Yvette Herrell, NM, Greg Steube, FL, Brian Babin, TX, Chip Roy, TX, David Mckinley, WV, Scott Perry, PA, Paul Gosar, AZ, Don Bacon, NE, Ted Budd, NC, Louie Gohmert, TX, Trent Kelly, MS, Lee Zeldin, NY, Glenn Grothman, WI, Barry Moore, AL, Matt Gaetz, FL, Tom McLintock, CA, Scott DesJarlais, TN, Ronny L. Jackson, TX, Gus M. Bilirakis, FL, Mike Bost, IL, Joe Wilson, SC, Andy Biggs, AZ, Jim Jordan, OH, Bob Good, VA, Fred Keller, PA, Ralph Norman, SC, Guy Reschenthaler, PA, Andrew S. Clyde, GA, Russ Fulcher, ID, Jeff Duncan, SC, Scott Franklin, FL, Michael Cloud, TX, Elise Stefanik, NY, Garrett Graves, LA.

Follow Jennie Taer on Twitter @JennieSTaer

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In Wake of Abraham Accords, Saudi Arabia Revises Textbooks

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Follow Steve Postal: @HebraicMosaic

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In the aftermath of the 2020 Abraham Accords, which Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman helped to broker behind the scenes, Saudi Arabia continues to slowly tilt towards reform. Most noticeably, it is continuing to improve its textbooks, previously a source of glorification of terrorism and anti-Jewish and anti-Christian hatred. According to a recent report analyzing the kingdom’s textbooks from 2022-2023, key reforms include the following:

Praise for jihad continues to be removed. The report notes that most problematic passages glorifying martyrdom and jihad had been removed from Saudi textbooks by 2021-2022, but this trend continues. Passages removed include a reference that “all sins of the martyr will be forgiven, except debt,” that jihad is “the climax of Islam” and that jihad means “fighting the enemies for the protection of religion, land, and worshipers.”

Problematic opinions on Jews and Christians removed. According to the report, Saudi Arabia has removed “almost all” defamatory anti-Jewish and anti-Christian textbook passages. Passages removed include: references that some Jews and Christians worship Satan and idols; that Allah turned some Jews into pigs and apes; that some Jews and Christians falsified Allah’s word; that Jews and Christians lied about prophets in the Torah and the New Testament; negative opinions of how Jews and Christians portray Jesus; implicit references of Jews and Christians as enemies of Islam; and that Jews and Christians are polytheists.

New criticism of the Muslim Brotherhood. In contrast to Qatar, who supports the Muslim Brotherhood, and Hamas, who is the Muslim Brotherhood branch that many Palestinians support, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates have all recognized the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. In line with that stance, Saudi Arabia’s textbooks become increasingly critical of the Islamist movement. One textbook stated that groups formed under the Muslim Brotherhood “wreaked havoc in the country and among the people, as known and evident in crimes of violence and terrorism around the world.” Further, that textbook comments that the Muslim Brotherhood is a “deviant group based on arguing with rulers, rebelling against leaders, stirring up strife in countries, destabilizing coexistence in the unified nation, and describing Islamic societies as ignorant.” A second textbook warns that the Muslim Brotherhood “instigate(s) civil wars in countries” and is “a terrorist group.”

New criticism of other “deviant groups.” Further, one Saudi textbook labelled “Hezbollah, Al-Qaeda, ISIS, the Tablighi Jamaat, and other parties and sects” are “deviant groups” and “terrorist sects and parties” that “seek to divide societies, incite them, and exploit religion for their interests.” Another textbook labelled “The Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda, ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra, Hezbollah, the Houthis, the Sururiyya” as “errant groups” that are “purportedly religious but are in fact the opposite.”

“Slight” reforms on opinions on Israel and Zionism. The report qualifies that reforms on the portrayal of Israel and Zionism are “slight” but that those reforms are “are an encouraging sign that progress may include attitudes toward Israel and Zionism [in the future].” Saudi textbooks removed a libel falsely accusing Israel of the 1969 arson of the al-Aqsa mosque (which was carried out by an Australian Christian fundamentalist), an excerpt defining “patriotic poetry” to include that which “oppos[es] the Jewish settlement of Palestine,” and passages glorifying the First Intifada at Israel’s expense. However, textbooks continue to not recognize Israel, not include it in maps, and refer to it as an “occupying” power.

While Saudi Arabia still has room for improvement in reforming its textbooks, it has made significant headway in its education about jihad, Jews and Christians in recent years. These reforms, coupled with increased religious tolerance from the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco, is a direct outgrowth of the Abraham Accords. The Biden administration should capitalize on this opening by formally bringing the kingdom into the Abraham Accords. Saudi Arabia’s ascension into the Accords would serve as a powerful check on Iranian and other Islamist forces, and advance American interests in the region.

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