Some members of the Democratic party have warmed up to the idea idea of conditioning U.S. military aid to Israel, but not Joe Biden.
On Thursday, by the Wall Street Journal’s Sabrina Siddiqui asked Biden whether he’d consider leveraging aid to Israel to curb settlement expansion. “Not me. Look, I have been on record from very early on opposed to settlements, and I think it’s a mistake,” Biden told the reporter, “And Netanyahu knows my position. But the idea that we would draw military assistance from Israel, on the condition that they change a specific policy, I find it to be absolutely outrageous.”
“Anyway, no I wouldn’t condition it and I think it’s a gigantic mistake. And I hope some of the candidates who are running with me for the nomination–I hope they misspoke or were taken out of context.”
NEWS: Here is @JoeBiden’s full response when I asked him about leveraging US aid to Israel. He strongly disagrees with idea pushed by @BernieSanders and somewhat embraced by @SenWarren and @PeteButtigieg. (Backstory: https://t.co/TrnqwUjit3) pic.twitter.com/LhCpLFprzg
— Sabrina Siddiqui (@SabrinaSiddiqui) October 31, 2019
At the J Street conference earlier this week, Vermont Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders reiterated his previous calls for aid to be conditioned and declared that some of U.S. aid to Israel should go toward the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. “I believe that at a time when we spend, I think it is $3.8 million dollars [annually] on military aid to Israel, we have a right to say to the Israeli government, that the United States of America and our taxpayers and our people believe in human rights, we believe in democracy,” said Sanders, “We will not accept authoritarianism or racism. And we demand that the Israeli government sit down with the Palestinian people and negotiate an agreement that works for all parties.”
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg told conference attendees that he’d block any aid that Israel might use for a potential annexation of the West Bank. Buttigieg has made this promise on the campaign trail before, but in his J Street remarks he signaled that he might condition aid over settlement expansion as well. “We need to make sure that any such cooperation and funding is going to things that are compatible with U.S. objectives and U.S. law,” he said, “It is a reminder that we need to have the visibility to know whether U.S. funds are being used in a way that are not compatible with U.S. policy.”
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren recently told a reporter that “everything is on the table” in terms of pressuring Israel. She did not attend the conference, but she sent a video message that echoed this sentiment. “We must find ways to make tangible progress on the ground toward a two-state solution,” she says in the video, “Sometimes that might mean finding ways to apply pressure and create consequences for problematic behavior as previous Democratic and Republican presidents have done. For example, if Israel’s government continues with steps to formally annex the West Bank, the United States should make it clear that none of our aid should be used to support annexation.”
These recent statements by presidential candidates come amidst a much wider shift amongst the general public. Multiple recent polls show that a majority of Democratic voters now support conditioning aid to Israel in response to the country’s human rights abuses.