House Republicans announced a petition drive Wednesday aimed at forcing Democrats to vote on a bill to derail the anti-Israel movement here in the U.S.
The GOP says it wants to have the House vote on a bill that would renew military and financial assistance to Israel, while giving states and localities the legal greenlight to refuse to do business with individuals and organizations who subscribe to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement working against Israel.
The legislation has already cleared the Senate on a strong bipartisan vote, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has shown no inclination to take it up in her chamber.
Republicans are using what’s known as a discharge petition, which is a way to try to force floor action even when the majority’s leadership refuses. To succeed, backers must get signatures from a majority of the House. That means garnering about 20 Democrats along with all Republicans.
“The Senate responded quickly and decisively with appropriate legislation to counter the dangerous BDS movement, but Speaker Pelosi has refused to bring this bipartisan bill to the House Floor and House Democrats stood idly by as their colleagues made senseless anti-Semitic remarks,” Minority Whip Steve Scalise said in a statement announcing the petition.
Democrats have struggled to balance general support for Israel with the sentiments of some new members of their caucus — namely Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat who has been accused of several instances of anti-Semitism in her criticism of Israel.
At the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s conference last month, Democratic leaders sought to fend off the label of anti-Semitism by pledging their support to Israel’s national defense and condemning the BDS movement.
“When the curtain is pulled back, everyone can see what the movement truly is,” Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said at AIPAC. “A front for delegitimizing the Jewish people’s right to self-determination.”
But instead of the GOP’s legislation, Democratic leaders said they’re backing a weaker non-binding resolution condemning BDS but without any legislative muscle behind it. That non-binding legislation would also endorse a “two-state solution” to the ongoing dispute between Israel and the Palestinians.