Posted by on January 11, 2013 in Blog

One of the silver linings of the incoming 113th Congress was that Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), the controversial chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, had reached the term limit of her position and would be stepping down from the chairmanship. Her replacement, Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) came with his fair share of problems, including votes for the war in Iraq and against troop withdrawals, proposals to make the Patriot Act permanent, and direct participation in anti-Muslim rallies in California.

Nevertheless, many welcomed any change at all, since Ros-Lehtinen’s tenure as committee chair produced some egregious legislative initiatives, particularly concerning the Arab world. Ros-Lehtinen tried time and again to restrict aid to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and wanted to completely de-fund the United Nations for supporting Palestinian statehood. She has historically been extremely wary of the Arab Spring, and has openly expressed concern that a “more democratic” Arab world would be dangerous to Israel. She has also introduced legislation aimed at countering Iran and “Hezbollah’s operations in Latin America,” which do not in fact exist in any serious operational capacity. She’s currently engaged in a dual effort to kick the Palestinian delegation out of Washington DC, and cut foreign aid to all 138 countries that voted for Palestinian statehood at the UN.

Unfortunately, The Hill revealed this week that Ros-Lehtinen has been appointed to serve as the chair of the committee’s Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, despite a total lack of demonstrated knowledge (or interest) in any MENA countries other than Israel and Iran. With the influence of both Royce and Ros-Lehtinen, it will doubtless be an interested – and frustrating – two years for Congressional action on the Middle East, a troubling reality at a time when real leadership is needed most.

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