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AIPAC applauds lawmakers for backing full US aid to Israel, without conditions

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A letter urging an unconditional aid came after handful of prominent Democratic Party lawmakers spoke at a virtual national conference of the left-wing, pro-Israel group J Street over the weekend.

“As the United States meets pressing global challenges, we strongly believe that robust U.S. foreign assistance is vital to ensuring our national security interests abroad,” the letter stated.

By JNS

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the largest pro-Israel advocacy group in the U.S., applauded the overwhelming majority of members of the House of Representatives on Thursday who signed a letter urging U.S. aid to Israel to be fully funded in the federal budget without condition, contradicting a handful of prominent Democratic Party lawmakers who spoke at a virtual national conference of the left-wing, pro-Israel group J Street over the weekend.

The letter, drafted by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) and House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), was sent to Appropriations Committee chair Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and ranking member Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), with signatures from 331 members of Congress.

It harkened back to the guarantee that the United States made in 2016 under the Obama administration in the U.S.-Israel Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which was later overwhelmingly passed by Congress under the 2020 U.S.-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act and codified into law by the National Defense Authorization Act.

“As the United States meets pressing global challenges, we strongly believe that robust U.S. foreign assistance is vital to ensuring our national security interests abroad,” the letter stated.

According to the letter, the MOU guarantees $3.8 billion in security assistance to Israel each year for 10 years for a total of $38 billion. Of the annual amount, $3.3 billion is for foreign military assistance and $500 million for cooperative missile-defense programs in what will be the fourth year since the agreement.

The letter cited tensions with Iran, its terrorist proxies, an explosion on an Israeli ship in the Gulf of Oman, the launch of three anti-tank missiles at an Israeli Defense Forces’ vehicle in 2019 by Hezbollah, and Hezbollah’s estimated arsenal of 130,000 rockets and missiles as reasons the aid is needed both for Israel’s security and American interests.

“Congress is committed to maintaining Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge and its ability to defend itself, by itself, against persistent threats. Our aid to Israel is a vital and cost-effective expenditure which advances important U.S. national security interests in a highly challenging region,” the letter stated. “For decades, presidents of both parties have understood the strategic importance of providing Israel with security assistance.”

The letter also reiterated U.S. President Joe Biden’s promise of not placing conditions on aid to Israel, calling such a consideration “irresponsible” given the serious threats it faces.

“Just as foreign assistance is an investment in advancing our values and furthering our global interests, security aid to Israel is a specific investment in the peace and prosperity of the entire Middle East. U.S. support for Israel makes the region a safer place and bolsters diplomatic efforts aimed at achieving a negotiated two-state solution, resulting in peace and prosperity for both Israelis and Palestinians,” the letter concluded.

Speaking at the virtual J Street national conference on Monday, former Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) indicated that they were willing to place conditions on the aid Congress has promised Israel.

“I strongly believe that we must also be willing to bring real pressure to bear, including restricting U.S. aid, in response to moves by either side that undermine the chances for peace,” Sanders said in his virtual speech. “The truth is that the United States gives an enormous amount of military aid to Israel. It also provides some humanitarian and economic aid to the Palestinians. It is totally appropriate for the United States to say what that aid may and may not be used for.

“In terms of aid to Israel, in my view, the American people do not want to see that money being used to support policies that violate human rights and treat the Palestinian people as second-class human beings.”

Warren called for restricting military aid to Israel if the aid is being used in a way that prevents the parties from moving towards a two-state solution, which she said included being used in the West Bank.

“If we’re serious about arresting settlement expansion and helping move the parties towards a two-state solution, then it would be irresponsible not to consider all of the tools we have at our disposal,” she said.

“By continuing to provide military aid without restriction, we provide no incentive for Israel to adjust course,” she said. “The United States cannot stand for security, human rights, and dignity, and at the same moment turn a blind eye to the suffering of Palestinians under Israeli occupation.”

Halie Soifer, CEO of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, drew a distinction between the opinions of Sanders and Warren with the rest of the Democratic Party, including others who spoke at the conference.

“The Democratic Party Platform, adopted unanimously in 2020, made clear that Democrats strongly support the 10-year, $38 billion Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and Israel finalized by [former]President [Barack] Obama and then-Vice President [Joe] Biden in 2016,” Soifer wrote in an email. “That is JDCA’s position, and it’s the position of the Biden White House.”

She added that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also spoke at J Street’s two-day conference. Soifer said they “expressed support for the ironclad partnership between the two countries which epitomizes how Democrats view the U.S.-Israel relationship.”

U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told JNS in an emailed statement that he rejects conditioning assistance to Israel.

“The U.S. government maintains robust and wide-ranging engagement with government of Israel, and any and all concerns are shared frankly and honestly and frequently. There is no need or justification for conditioning our assistance.”

Similarly, U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.), vice chair of the House Armed Services Committee, said in an emailed statement that putting conditions on aid to Israel would threaten security and U.S. interests in the region.

“Israel is America’s most vital ally in the Middle East. The aid we provide, roughly $3.8 billion each year, is an investment in the national security of both our countries and serves as a strong deterrent in the region,” wrote Luria. “Israel’s continued stability and economic strength were critical in securing the historic Abraham Accords, which normalized relations with Israel and several Middle Eastern countries. Conditioning aid to Israel would be a grave mistake and would threaten security and U.S. interests in this volatile region.”

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