Last week, I explained some of the mechanics of U.S. aid to Israel and why a president would find it difficult to use aid as leverage against Israel. I also explained why the traditional theoretical targets of leveraging aid—settlements and a two-state solution—were no longer relevant and their futility meant supporters of the Israeli right would be delighted to see those targets in the center of a fierce debate over U.S. aid.
Those ideas raised other questions. While my original focus was U.S. military aid to Israel, what about loan guarantees? Might that be a more fruitful path to pursue? Does a president’s relative inability to use military aid as leverage mean it is a dead issue, or might there be other avenues? Is it pointless to even discuss U.S. military aid to Israel? These are some of the questions raised in response to my article, and they lead to some important answers.
As midterm elections near, it is becoming clear that there is an opportunity in Washington to take the first few steps toward measurable change in U.S. politics around Israel and Palestine. Increasingly belligerent Israeli actions toward the Palestinians and toward Jews who oppose the occupation, a U.S. administration with unabashedly pro-settler leanings, and the decision by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to shift away from bipartisan efforts in the U.S. and depend on unflinching Republican support have combined to create a strong groundswell in the Democratic party for a change in policy.
This groundswell has not yet made a significant impact in Washington. Occasional letters of admonishment from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (who is not a Democrat, but caucuses with them in the Senate), or Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) have little impact on the ground. Meanwhile, after New Jersey Senator Cory Booker was photographed at a progressive conference holding a sign that read, “From Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have got to go,” he scrambled to disavow the sign, claiming he didn’t know what it said. Read more at LobeLog
On February 17, 2016, ten members of the House of Representatives, led by Hank Johnson (D-GA), joined with Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry requesting that the State Department look into violations of the Leahy Law by Israel and Egypt. The Leahy Law stipulates that if a military unit of a recipient of US military aid is shown to have committed a “gross violation of human rights,” aid may not be provided to that unit, and any aid given to the country in question cannot be used for the unit that committed the violation(s). The letter specifies several cases in which Egyptian or Israeli units are accused of such violations. The Foundation for Middle East Peace issued the following statement in support of the letter.
Senator Patrick Leahy
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington, DC: The Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP) strongly supports the congressional letter to Secretary of State John Kerry requesting assurances that Leahy Law restrictions are being applied to Israel and Egypt. The letter, led by Representative Hank Johnson and signed by nine other representatives and Senator Patrick Leahy, notes specific incidents where grave violations of human rights by Israeli and Egyptian forces are alleged have occurred and calls on the Department of State to investigate these accusations and to determine what action, if any, should be taken under the Leahy Law. Continue reading →