More than 300 U.S. lawmakers, in a letter, called on Washington to continue helping Israel without conditions or cuts, a week after progressive Democratic lawmakers proposed a bill to regulate U.S. aid in a bid to put end human rights violations against Palestinians.
Letter to House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro signed by 328 lawmakers urged Democrats and Republicans to fully fund the $ 3.8 billion in annual security assistance to Israel which were authorized in 2016 as part of a 10-year memorandum. agreement between then-President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The move comes amid efforts by Progressive Democrats to hold Israel to account for the treatment of Palestinians, including the detention of Palestinian children in the occupied West Bank.
The letter said that as assistance is needed for Israel to defend itself from “persistent threats,” “reducing funding or adding conditions on security assistance would be detrimental to Israel’s ability to defend itself. against all threats ”.
He cited an alleged Iranian attack on an Israeli ship in the Gulf of Oman in February and anti-tank missiles launched by Lebanese Hezbollah against an Israeli military vehicle in 2019.
“US security assistance to Israel helps counter these threats, and our rock-solid security partnership serves as a deterrent against even greater attacks against our common interests,” the letter said.
‘Aid to Israel is vital’
He also pointed out that Israel provides the United States with “unique intelligence and advanced defensive weapon systems.” He added that US aid to Israel will help promote regional stability and address common challenges facing Iran and its proxies in the Middle East.
“Our aid to Israel is a vital and profitable expenditure that advances important US national security interests in a very difficult region,” lawmakers from both the Republican and Democratic parties wrote.
“For decades, the presidents of both sides have understood the strategic importance of providing Israel with security assistance,” they continued.
The statement was chaired by Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Ted Deutsch, Democratic Chairman of the Middle East Subcommittee.
While McCaul and Deutch acknowledged that some decisions made by the Israeli government could be problematic, they underscored President Joe Biden’s commitment to provide unconditional security assistance.
“As President Biden said, ‘I am not going to put in place conditions for security assistance given the serious threats Israel faces, and that would be, I think, irresponsible,” he said. the letter.
During his presidential campaign, Biden categorically ruled out conditioning aid to Israel. He dismissed as “bizarre” Bernie Sanders’ proposal to deny US military aid to Israel if the government does not moderate its treatment of the Palestinians.
Human rights violations
Earlier this week, Senior US Senators Elizabeth Warren and Sanders called for conditions on US military aid to Israel and for the aid to be used to lobby against movements that undermine peace.
Their calls came days after US Congresswoman Betty McCollum introduced a bill calling for a ban on the use of US taxpayer money in human rights abuses against Palestinians and financing the annexation or demolition of Palestinian houses.
The developments also follow an announcement by the Biden administration earlier this month of its intention to resume funding for the United Nations agency that supports Palestinian refugees.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States will provide $ 150 million in humanitarian aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which has faced dire financial straits since former US President Donald Trump cut US aid in 2018.
UNRWA provides aid and other services, including health care and education, to an estimated 5.7 million Palestinian refugees in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, Lebanon and Jordan.
The United States has always been a strong supporter of Israel, but Trump took the relationship to new heights – and had a very close relationship with Netanyahu, Israel’s longtime right-wing prime minister.
The Trump administration recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December 2017 and moved the American embassy there. Trump also recognized the settlements – considered illegal under international law.
Jerusalem remains at the heart of the decades-long conflict in the Middle East, with the Palestinian Authority (PA) insisting that East Jerusalem – illegally occupied by Israel since 1967 – should serve as the capital of a Palestinian state.