In defense of the US-Israel relationship, some 330 members of the House of Representatives – roughly three-quarters of its membership – signed a letter sent on Thursday to the chair and ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, which regulates public spending.
The letter – whose signatories are split fairly evenly between Democrats and Republicans – comes less than a week after Representative Betty McCollum (D-Minnesota) and 15 Democrat co-sponsors proposed a bill that looks to place conditions on US aid in an effort to seek accountability for Israeli treatment of Palestinians.
Noting that aid reduction or pre-conditions on security assistance would be “detrimental” to Israel’s safety, the letter states, “Congress is committed to maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge and its ability to defend itself, by itself, against persistent threats.”
As per that agreement, the terms of which were codified last year in the US-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act, Israel is due $3.8 billion in security assistance in the 2022 fiscal year. Of this, $3.3 billion goes toward military financing and $500 million for co-operative missile defense programs, the letter notes.
The “bipartisan” letter – led by representatives Ted Deutch (D-Florida) and Michael McCaul (R-Texas) – was boosted by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), an influential lobbying group that advocates pro-Israel policies to the US government.
AIPAC spokesman Marshall Wittmann told news website Jewish Insider that the letter is “a very strong bipartisan statement that full security assistance to Israel – without additional conditions – is in the national security interest of the United States.”
Reacting to the letter, former executive director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights Yousef Munayyer tweeted, “330 members of congress shamefully tell Israel: No matter how many kids you kill with US weapons, no matter how many homes you destroy, no matter how many crimes you commit, we will keep funding you. How disgusting.”
The US-based pro-peace IfNotNow movement, which was one of several progressive Jewish organizations to endorse McCollum’s bill, said it was “disappointed to see many progressive voices” on a letter “backing Israel to use US dollars to violate Palestinian rights.”
“Israeli actions demand accountability – as part of a common-sense foreign policy the US uses with other countries – not a blank check,” the group tweeted.
Meanwhile, Dylan Williams, a senior policy expert at J Street, another pro-peace group, said there was “no contradiction between this letter, which didn’t mention aid restrictions at all, and the McCollum bill.”
“You can oppose cuts or preconditions on providing aid while backing end-use restrictions to ensure it’s used as intended,” Williams tweeted.
However, that sentiment was not shared by the majority of social media users who denounced the letter.
A number of tweets decried the US as enabling an “apartheid state,” with one user saying it was further proof that both Democrats and Republicans “lack any moral back bone.”
Another user invoked the Leahy amendments – a Cold War-era set of statutory provisions that prohibit the US government from funding foreign bodies credibly implicated in committing gross human rights violations – to accuse Congress of “publicly breaking its own law.”
Several commenters noted that “taxpayer money” used as foreign aid needed to come with conditions.
There were also those supporting the letter and its signatories, some of whom were thanked for their “voice of wisdom.”
As noted by the letter, President Biden had promised last May to not “place conditions for the security assistance given the serious threats that Israel is facing,” deeming such actions as “irresponsible.”
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