12 Senate Democrats have introduced legislation that would prohibit Israel from using U.S. military aid to annex portions of the West Bank.
S. 4049 was filed an amendment to 2021’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). “None of the funds authorized to be appropriated by the United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2020, this Act, or any other Act enacted before the date of the enactment of this Act, or otherwise made available for the Department of Defense, may be obligated or expended to deploy, or support the deployment of, United States defense articles, services, or training to territories in the West Bank unilaterally annexed by Israel after July 1, 2020, or to facilitate the unilateral annexation of such territories,” it reads.
The amendment was introduced by Senators Chris Van Hollen (MD), Patrick Leahy (VT), Elizabeth Warren (MA), Chris Murphy (CT), Tom Udall (NM, Brian Schatz (HI), Martin Heinrich (NM), Bernie Sanders (VT), Tom Carper (DE), Tammy Baldwin (WI), Jeff Merkley (OR), Tim Kaine (VA), and Sherrod Brown (OH).
Earlier this month, during a J Street event, Sen. Van Hollen indicated he supported such a measure, but made it clear that supports continued military aid to Israel otherwise:
“I do not think American dollars should be aiding and abetting the unilateral annexation of territory. This is a very important distinction. We can say that we think unilateral annexation would be very bad for Israel, be bad for the United States [and] be bad for the region. But then we just say, ‘OK, we’re going to provide assistance, even if some of those dollars can be used to advance the cause of unilateral annexation.’ I’m not suggesting in any way that we not provide robust security assistance. But I do think it’s important to draw the line with respect to those dollars being used to advance unilateral annexation.”
Van Hollen stressed this point again in his statement on the amendment:
“I am a strong supporter of robust security assistance to our friend and ally Israel, including the Memorandum of Understanding forged by President Obama, providing $3.8 billion in annual Foreign Military Financing and missile defense support. However, I oppose the use of any of these funds to support the unilateral annexation of Palestinian territories by Israel. Israel’s annexation of Palestinian territory would undermine the long-held understandings between the United States, Israel, the Palestinians, and the international community and would ultimately undermine the security of Israel itself….
The same distinction was highlighted in Sen. Leahy’s statement. “The United States provides billions of dollars in security assistance to Israel every year. But the purpose of those funds is to enable Israel to defend itself against regional threats, not to support the unilateral annexation of territory in the West Bank,” he said.
It was also echoed by Sen. Kaine: “I am a proud co-sponsor of the U.S.-Israel Security Assistance Act of 2020. This amendment makes clear that this assistance and other U.S. funds may not be used to support Israeli annexation of the West Bank. I strongly oppose any such move, which could destroy the prospect for a two state solution, negatively impact Israel’s future, and betray our shared democratic values by denying Palestinians’ right to self-determination.”
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) sent out a tweet condemning the resolution, citing the position of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and former president Barack Obama. “Despite some policy disagreements with Israel, President Obama increased America’s security commitment to Israel, and his [Memorandum of Understanding] had no political restrictions. As Joe Biden said, it would be a ‘gigantic mistake’ and ‘absolutely outrageous’ to condition or leverage security aid,” tweeted the lobbying group.
AIPAC opposes the @ChrisVanHollen amendment that politicizes U.S. support for Israel’s security.
The amendment was introduced just days after a group of progressive House members sent Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a letter threatening to condition military aid to Israel over annexation.