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Views on U.S. Aid to Israel

Views on U.S. Aid to Israel
Jewish Voice for Peace action, November 6, 2023, via Facebook

Israel has received more U.S. aid, and more military aid, than any other country since World War II. From 1946-2023, military aid totaled $216 billion.

In March, Congress approved the annual $3.3 billion in aid for Israel, most of which is provided under the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program. The bill also banned U.S. funding for UNRWA, the main U.N. agency for Palestinians, which Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen called "unconscionable" given the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

In April, Congress passed a foreign aid bill with $26.4 billion in additional aid for Israel, including some $17 billion in unconditional military aid. Pro-Israel lobbying groups led by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) emphasized in their talking points that the aid must be sent without conditions from international laws.

Since Hamas' deadly attack on Israel on Oct. 7, writers and think tanks with expertise in Middle East relations have said that conditioning U.S. aid to Israel could help reach a ceasefire in the conflict where at least 35,800 people in Gaza have been killed, more than 15,000 of them children.

"The U.S. has called for extending the authority of the Palestinian Authority to Gaza; Bibi’s government flatly opposes any form of Palestinian control there," Harold Meyerson wrote in December. A Gaza-based think tank observer sees a possible post-war scenario of interim international, regional and local supervision of the Gaza Strip.

"A [October 2023] policy brief by Oxfam noted that [U.S.] supply of artillery shells is particularly problematic: 155mm shells are a weapon of choice in Israel’s ground operation in Gaza, which will cause untold harm to civilians as it intensifies further. Israel’s use of this munition in past conflicts demonstrates that its use would be virtually assured to be indiscriminate, unlawful, and devastating to civilians in Gaza."- The Nation (Nov. 10)

“Rather than undertaking symbolic half-measures, the Biden administration could draw upon vast U.S. leverage and take its cue from a Republican Party predecessor: former President George H.W. Bush. In 1991, Bush Sr. and his secretary of state, James A. Baker III, made it clear that if Israel wanted to receive an aid package of $10 billion in loan guarantees, it had to stop using U.S. money to build Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.” - Alia Brahimi, nonresident senior fellow within the Middle East Programs at the Atlantic Council, in Foreign Policy magazine (March 29)

Ronald Reagan withheld arms shipments to Israel in 1981 and 1983. "While these forces are in the position of occupying another country that now has asked them to leave, we are forbidden by law to release those planes,' he said.

“All of our missiles, the ammunition, the precision-guided bombs, all the airplanes and bombs, it’s all from the US,” retired Israeli Maj. Gen. Yitzhak Brick conceded in November of last year. “The minute they turn off the tap, you can’t keep fighting. You have no capability.… Everyone understands that we can’t fight this war without the United States. Period.” - The Nation (Jan. 3)

Bruce Riedel, nonresident senior fellow at Brookings Institute, who spent three decades in the CIA and at the National Security Council, says the U.S. has “immense leverage.” He said, "Israel has called up 300,000 reservists… American support is vital given that much of the Israeli economy has for all intents and purposes been shut down. That leverage is there, in my experience… Once you get a significant pause in the fighting, it’s going to be much harder to announce going back to war, not impossible but much harder to do that.” - interview with Trita Parsi, co-founder and executive vice president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft (Jan. 29)

“Renowned foreign policy expert Timothy D. Snyder [Professor of History at Yale University] agrees that we need a separate vote on Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, and that POTUS should potentially withhold offensive weapons as leverage over Netanyahu to get a permanent ceasefire and a release of all hostages.” - Rep. Ro Khanna on X. Snyder's 5-minute House testimony is viewable on YouTube (April 17).

“It is nearly impossible to quantify the implications of Biden suspending offensive weapons sales. For one, Israel would rapidly find itself in the same position Ukraine has found itself in over recent months: in desperate need of ammunition and, accordingly, forced to recalibrate its strategy in real time.” - Ben Samuels, Washington correspondent for Israeli newspaper Haaretz, in Washington Post (March 12)

“Israel will have to choose between Netanyahu’s ambitions or its most crucial partnerships.” - Adam Weinstein, deputy director of the Middle East program at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, in USA Today (Feb. 13)

“...it would serve the interests of America, the Palestinian people, and the broader Middle East if the Biden administration were to reverse course and block military aid to Israel as leverage to force a ceasefire. The Biden administration’s strategy of seeking to cut deals to normalize relations between Israel, Saudi Arabia and other Middle East autocracies and garner a commitment to a future Palestinian state will ring hollow as long as Washington continues to fuel Israel’s brutal war in Gaza.” - William Hartung, Quincy Institute, in Forbes (Feb. 14)

“Washington provides $3.8bn in military aid to Israel a year – and Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of US foreign aid in the world, having received about $300bn since the state was founded in 1948. Last month, Congress approved $26bn in additional support to Israel, which includes $14bn in unconditional military aid and some humanitarian assistance for civilians in Gaza.” — Mohamad Bazzi, director of the Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies and a journalism professor at New York University, in a Guardian op-ed (May 9)

More Recent News and NGO Reports

UN halts all food distribution in Rafah after running out of supplies in southern Gaza city (AP, May 21)

Crowds, near Israeli armored vehicles, are looting aid trucks to block deliveries by the U.N. World Food Program. (AP, May 21)

"The incursion into Rafah is a significant setback to recent modest progress on access. The threat of famine in Gaza never loomed larger." (World Food Program, May 17)

Gaza: Israelis Attacking Known Aid Worker Locations (Human Rights Watch, May 14)

Siege and Starvation: How Israel Obstructs Aid to Gaza (Refugees International, March 7)

More than 250 humanitarian and human rights organisations call to stop arms transfers to Israel and Palestinian armed groups (Amnesty International, Jan. 24)

17 Democratic senators found the Netanyahu Government’s assurances regarding the delivery of humanitarian aid in Gaza do not meet the “credible and reliable” test required by National Security Memorandum (NSM)-20. NSM-20 requires that the recipient country “facilitate and not arbitrarily deny, restrict, or otherwise impede, directly or indirectly, the transport or delivery of United States humanitarian assistance and United States Government-supported international efforts to provide humanitarian assistance.” - Sen. Chris Van Hollen press release (March 22)