One of the many questions coming out the Obama/Netanyahu meeting this week is whether the Obama administration will actually use some of the leverage it holds over the Israeli government to exert pressure. The clearest example would be conditioning or withholding the nearly $3 billion in aid that the US gives Israel each year. Josh Ruebner, National Advocacy Director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, says that US aid to Israel not only possibly contravenes US law, but also undermines US foreign policy. From Ruebner’s oped “Rethinking the costs of peace” in the Detroit Free Press:
Yet the provision of U.S. weapons to Israel at taxpayer expense has
done nothing to bring Israelis and Palestinians closer to achieving a
just and lasting peace. Rather, these weapons have had the exact
opposite effect, as documented recently by Amnesty International, which
pointed to U.S. weapons as a prime factor “fueling” the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. . .
On average, for each day that President Bush sat in the Oval Office, Israel killed one Palestinian civilian, often with U.S. weapons. Before Congress appropriates any additional military aid to Israel, it should insist upon President Obama providing a comprehensive and transparent review of the effects U.S. weapons transfers to Israel have on Palestinian civilians. The Arms Export Control Act limits the use of U.S. weapons given to a foreign country to “internal security” and “legitimate self-defense.”
If, after reviewing the impact of Israel’s misuse of U.S. weapons, the President and Congress cannot find the political will to sanction Israel for its violations of the Arms Export Control Act and prohibit future arms transfers as is required by law, then there are still steps that the U.S. government should take to ensure that any future transfers are not used to commit human rights abuses but instead to promote U.S. policy goals. For example, previous U.S. loan guarantees to Israel have stipulated that funds cannot be used to support Israeli activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Conditioning U.S. military aid to Israel in the same way would prevent these weapons from being used to kill innocent Palestinian civilians.