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Elizabeth Warren becomes the third Democratic candidate to broach the subject of conditioning aid to Israel

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Last month, the progressive think tank Data for Progress released report showing that a net majority of Democratic voters are receptive to the idea of cutting aid to Israel in order to curb their human rights violations.

These statistics certainly didn’t line up with the Beltway consensus on the issue, where it’s assumed that touching the issue could amount to political suicide. When the report was published, only two presidential candidates had floated such an idea: South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who said he’d block any funding that might be used to annex the West Bank, and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who has floated the idea of conditioning aid to impact Israel’s policies multiple times.

We can now add a third name to that list: Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.

On a Saturday, Warren said she was open to the idea of conditioning aid if Israel continued to expand its settlements:

Right now, Netanyahu says he is going to take Israel in a direction of increasing settlements, [but] that does not move us in the direction of a two-state solution. It is the official policy of the United States of America to support a two-state solution, and if Israel is moving in the opposite direction, then everything is on the table…Everything is on the table.

There’s no details here, but there weren’t really for Buttigieg or Sanders either. While Warren and Buttigieg have floated the idea in response tangible developments (settlement expansion, West Bank annexation) Sanders has said that he’d have the option on the table to assure that Israel treats the “Palestinian people and that region with respect.” That’s obviously pretty vague, but it does leave open the possibility of aid being conditioned for various infractions, as opposed to just the ones identified by Warren and Buttigieg.

There’s obviously a sizable possibility that this is all just hollow rhetoric from the candidates, but it’s part of a notable shift nonetheless. In addition to public opinion seemingly shifting on the issue, there have also been recent legislative attempts to hold Israel accountable for its human rights abuses. Chief among them is H.R.2407, a piece of legislation introduced by Minnesota Rep. Betty McCollum. The bill would would amend the Foreign Assistance Act so that United States’ taxpayer money would no longer be used to detain children in foreign countries, including Israel.

Shortly before leaving office Barack Obama signed a $38 billion military aid package with Israel, which is scheduled to last through 2028.

Responding to a question from Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard during last week’s Democratic debate in Ohio, Elizabeth Warren answered, “So, look, I think that we ought to get out of the Middle East. I don’t think we should have troops in the Middle East. But we have to do it the right way, the smart way.” The comment drew criticism from Joe Biden.

Michael Arria

Michael Arria is the U.S. correspondent for Mondoweiss.

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5 Responses

  1. Citizen on October 22, 2019, 8:08 am

    What Dick & Jane Don’t Know; ‘Poor Little Israel’ isn’t poor, financially or diplomatically–in fact it’s also not surrounded by enemies: The candidates , hopefully, may yet allow themselves to speak of this when claiming they may use foreign aid as leverage to advance a more balanced approach to Israel.

    • Misterioso on October 22, 2019, 9:41 am

      “‘Poor Little Israel’ isn’t poor,…”

      Just a couple of reminders:

      Newsweek, May 10/18

      “More Israelis are moving to the U.S.—and staying for good”

      “Spurred by the high cost of living, low salaries, and political and demographic trends, Israelis are Newsweek leaving the country in droves.” By Yardena Schwartz.

      EXCERPTS: “Israel celebrates its 70th birthday in May with the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. Yet the country is grappling with an existential crisis—one that doesn’t involve Iranian nukes or Palestinian protests. Spurred by the high cost of living, low salaries, and political and demographic trends, Israelis are leaving the country in droves, trying to build their lives elsewhere, mostly in the United States. Many of these young Israelis are moving to big cities, and yet, even in these often expensive places, they see more opportunities to advance.”

      “…And in addition to the Israelis now living stateside, according to the country’s Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, hundreds of thousands have moved to Europe, Canada and elsewhere.

      “The country’s brain drain isn’t new. For years, many of its most talented scholars and researchers moved to the U.S., where the salaries are far higher and there are more jobs at top-tier universities. One report by Dan Ben-David, an economist at Tel Aviv University, found that the emigration rate of Israeli researchers was the highest in the Western world. Recently, however, the exodus has expanded to include average young people, many of whom say there’s simply no future in Israel.

      “Though this embattled country has become known as the ‘Startup Nation’ —it has more early-stage tech companies per capita than any other country—the average Israeli has little connection to that prosperous field. According to government data, 8 percent of Israelis work in high-tech, which pays up to seven times the national average salary of $2,765 a month (before taxes). Israel has one of the highest poverty rates and levels of income inequality in the Western world. Meanwhile, it also has one of the highest costs of living. Tel Aviv ranks ninth among the world’s most expensive cities, higher than New York and Los Angeles; five years ago, it ranked 34th. The situation is so dire that a 2013 survey by the financial newspaper Calcalist (the most recent Israeli study conducted on this topic) found that 87 percent of adults—many with children of their own—depend on substantial financial support from their parents.”

      “Congressional Research Service, U.S. Foreign aid to Israel, Jeremy M. Sharpe, Specialist in Middle East Affairs, April 10, 2018.”

      “Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II. To date, the United States has provided Israel $134.7 billion (current, or non inflation-adjusted, dollars) in bilateral assistance and missile defense funding. Almost all U.S. bilateral aid to Israel is in the form of military assistance, although in the past Israel also received significant economic assistance. At a signing ceremony at the State Department on September 14, 2016, representatives of the U.S. and Israeli governments signed a new 10-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on military aid covering FY2019 to FY2028. Under the terms of the MOU, the United States pledges to provide $38 billion in military aid ($33 billion in Foreign Military Financing grants plus $5 billion in missile defense appropriations) to Israel. This MOU replaces a previous $30 billion 10-year agreement, which runs through FY2018.”

      “Media Ignore Largest Foreign Military Aid Package in US History” If Americans Knew Blog, Nov. 29/18 By Alison Weir

      • Mooser on October 22, 2019, 1:57 pm

        . Israel is poor in the essence of happiness, “Mysterioso” – rich only in never-ending
        unrest. In Israel there meet a combination of antithetical elements which are at eternal war with one another. Driven hither by objective influences – thither by subjective emotions. Wafted one moment into blazing day, by mocking hope – plunged the next into the Cimmerian darkness of tangible despair, Israel is but a living ganglion of irreconcilable antagonisms.

      • RoHa on October 22, 2019, 7:07 pm

        Your simple eloquence goes to the heart of the matter.

  2. Mooser on October 23, 2019, 12:21 pm

    “Your simple eloquence goes to the heart of the matter.”

    Why, thank you, that’s very nice. I would laugh my rank to scorn in union holy, were I more nobly born, or you more lowly.

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