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Part 5: What Are U.S. Policy Options Regarding Military Aid to Israel?

If credible evidence exists that Israel misuses U.S. weapons to commit grave and systematic human rights abuses in violation of U.S. laws; if the $30 billion in U.S. military aid pledged to Israel from 2009 to 2018 could be put to better use to reduce the debt or fund unmet domestic needs; if U.S. military aid to Israel creates disincentives for Israel to support U.S. foreign policy objectives; if even Israelis cast doubts on the benefits of U.S. military aid for their country's strategic, political, and economic options; and if Israel should not be held to a different standard, but be held accountable to the rule of law like other countries, then the United States must stop giving Israel carte blanche with its military aid.

This policy paper, along with the accompanying data presented by the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation at http://www.weaponstoisrael.org, presents ample evidence that Israel has misused and continues to misuse U.S. weapons in violation of the Foreign Assistance Act and Arms Export Control Act to commit grave and systematic human rights abuses, including, but not limited to:  the injuring and killing of tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians since 2000, the deliberate destruction of Palestinian civilian infrastructure, the denial of Palestinians' right to freedom of movement, and the construction of Israeli settlements on expropriated Palestinian land.  

Because violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention and Universal Declaration of Human Rights can never be considered "legitimate self-defense" and because Israel commits these human rights violations against Palestinians not in the context of "internal security," but outside its agreed-upon armistice lines to further entrench and prolong its 44-year foreign military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, Congress and the President should take immediate steps to end all U.S. military aid to Israel until, at the very least, it abides by UN Security Council Resolution 242 and implements the stated U.S. foreign policy objective encompassed in that resolution—of ending the Israeli military occupation of these Palestinian territories.

Given that Congress and/or the President are unlikely to take this bold and necessary step due to the heavy-handed influence of weapons manufacturers and organizations such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which lobby for additional weapons to Israel with no accountability for their misuse, there are still several lesser steps that Congress and the President can and should adopt in the framework of the FY2013 budget, the request for which includes $3.1 billion in military aid to Israel.  These policy options, spelled out below, would ensure that Israel is held accountable for its prior violations of U.S. laws and that any future military aid to Israel provided by the United States does not contribute to future Israeli human rights violations.  

Policy Option #1: Restrict the Use of U.S. Weapons to Israel's Sovereign Territory

To ensure that U.S. weapons are not being used to commit human rights abuses against a protected civilian population, Congress should state that U.S. weapons should not be used by Israel in its military occupation of the Palestinian Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem.  By so doing, Congress would still be affirming Israel's right to use these weapons for "legitimate self-defense" against an attack by a foreign country or for "internal security" consistent with the terms of the AECA.  

There is precedent for restricting Israel's use of U.S. assistance within its own sovereign territory through the loan guarantee program.  As cited above, in the April 2003 supplemental war appropriation bill authorizing $9 billion in loan guarantees to Israel, Congress stipulated that these funds can be used "only to support activities in the geographic areas which were subject to the administration of the Government of Israel before June 5, 1967."

Congress should insert the same or similar language to that of the loan guarantee program in Israel's FY2013 Foreign Military Financing (FMF) earmark to ensure that such funds are not being used in violation of the AECA to maintain a foreign military occupation and to commit human rights abuses against an occupied people.    

Policy Option #2: Investigate Prior Violations of the AECA Before More Money Is Appropriated

Despite Israel's manifold misuses of U.S. weapons since 2000, as documented above, the State Department has not publicly informed Congress of any violation of the AECA.    

Members of Congress can take no action against violations of the AECA until the Executive Branch notifies them of a violation.  Therefore, to ensure that Congress adheres to the letter and spirit of the AECA, Members of Congress should insert the following language into the FY2013 budget line-item for FMF to Israel:

"No amounts appropriated under this bill shall be disbursed prior to the State Department transmitting to Members of Congress and making public the results of a complete, accurate and transparent investigation into Israel's possible violations of the Arms Export Control Act since September 29, 2000."

Policy Option #3: Use U.S. Military Aid to Israel to Promote a Freeze on Israeli Settlements

Since 1967, every U.S. Administration has upheld the illegality of Israel's settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, decried them as obstacles to peace, and urged Israel not to expand settlements.  Despite this stance, Israel has continued to build and expand settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.  During the Oslo "peace process," the number of Israeli settlers doubled.  Currently, 650,000 Israeli settlers live in more than 150 illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, making a contiguous and viable Palestinian state impossible.  

On numerous occasions, Israel has pledged to halt the expansion of settlement building, most recently in the 2003 "road map," at the 2007 Annapolis peace conference, and during a 2010 self-defined limited "moratorium."  Yet these promises have gone unfulfilled as Israel continues to expand its illegal settlements.   

Members of Congress should hold Israel to its pledge to halt settlement activities and back the Obama Administration's position on settlements by inserting the following language into the FY2013 budget line-item for FMF to Israel:

"Amounts appropriated under this bill shall be disbursed only in quarterly installments after the Administration delivers to Congress a report verifying that during the previous quarter Israel has fulfilled its commitments under the ‘road map' and Annapolis peace conference to halt the building of new settlements in the Palestinian West Bank and East Jerusalem and to freeze the expansion of existing settlements in these areas, including so-called ‘natural growth' of these settlements.  Israel shall be ineligible to receive a quarterly installment of this appropriation if the President reports that Israel has undertaken any form of settlement expansion during the previous quarter."

Policy Option #4: Use U.S. Military Aid to Promote the Lifting of Israel's Illegal Blockade of Gaza

Since 2006, Israel has maintained a full-scale land, sea and air blockade of the occupied Gaza Strip in an illegal act of collective punishment against the 1.5 million Palestinian civilians who reside there.  This blockade has led to a dire humanitarian crisis and debilitated the economic life of the region.   

In January 2009, President Obama declared that "Gaza's border crossings should be open to allow the flow of aid and commerce." [94]"President Obama Delivers Remarks to State Department Employees," January 22, 2009, CQ Transcriptions, available at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/22/AR2009012202550.html (Click red citation number to open this link.)   Members of Congress should support this important policy goal by insisting that no military aid to Israel be disbursed until the blockade is eased and that the borders of the Gaza Strip remain open to humanitarian aid, civilian travel, and normal economic activities by inserting the following language into the FY2013 budget line-item for FMF to Israel:

"No amounts appropriated under this bill shall be disbursed prior to the President certifying in a public, written report to Congress that Israel has ended its blockade of the Gaza Strip and that its borders are open to the free flow of civilians in and out of the area, humanitarian aid, and for all normal economic transactions, including imports and exports of materials, and that all provisions of the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access are being implemented.  Amounts appropriated under this bill shall be disbursed thereafter only in quarterly installments after the Administration delivers to Congress a report verifying that during the previous quarter Israel has not reestablished its blockade of the Gaza Strip nor violated the terms of the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access."

As an immediate step toward achieving the U.S. policy goal of establishing a just and lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace, Members of Congress and the President should induce Israel to freeze settlement growth, end the blockade of the Gaza Strip, and end the human rights abuses associated with its military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip by enacting these provisions.

These provisions can successfully leverage U.S. influence over Israel through its FMF appropriation.  Blank checks to Israel have not succeeded in modifying its behavior to accomplish U.S. policy goals of promoting human rights and establishing peace.  In fact, just the opposite is true.  When the United States has leveraged its influence over Israel by either threatening to withhold aid or sanctioning it, Israel has changed its policies and behaviors to comport with U.S. policy objectives.  The continuation of the current policy of "all-carrots-no-sticks" will bring only the same failed results and policy frustrations.  The time for change is overdue. 




[94] "President Obama Delivers Remarks to State Department Employees," January 22, 2009, CQ Transcriptions, available at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/22/AR2009012202550.html