Progressives step up scrutiny of US funding for Israel

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US security aid to Israel is coming under increasing scrutiny from progressive lawmakers in Congress after the bloody conflict in Gaza this month.

A ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, appears to be holding up after more than ten days of fighting in which more than 240 Palestinians and a dozen Israelis have been killed.

However, progressives are expected to continue to voice the concerns they have raised during the conflict, including questioning the once sacred cow of US funding for Israel.

“A ceasefire is necessary, but it will not only achieve freedom, justice and equality for all living under the Israeli apartheid government,” said Rep. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibIlhan Omar to Biden: “Keep your promise to cancel the student debt” Who is the boss? Pelosi’s legacy sealed after kowtowing the “Squad” Democratic Civil War Reaches New Heights MORE (D-Mich.), The first Palestinian American in Congress, tweeted after the ceasefire was announced Thursday night. “The US must condition funding to protect human rights and stop funding entirely if these conditions are not met.”

representative Betty McCollumBetty Louise McCollumFunding fight endangers National Guard operations Overnight Defense: Former Defense Minister Rumsfeld dies at the age of 88 | Trump calls on Milley to resign | House of Representatives Subcommittee Brings Pentagon Expense Bill to House of Commons Subcommittee Brings Pentagon 6 Billion Expense Bill MORE (D-Minn.) Similarly tweeted that “a ceasefire will temporarily stop Hamas rockets and Israeli rocket attacks, but this is not peace.”

“@POTUS: The Palestinian people deserve rights and freedom, not Israel’s daily repression of ongoing military occupation,” she added.

In her tweet, McCollum added a hashtag promoting a bill she sponsored that would allow the use of US funds for Israel in support of the “military detention, interrogation, abuse or mistreatment” of Palestinian children, property confiscations and forced evictions in Israel The Occupied Territories would ban Palestinian Territories and the dispatch of personnel or equipment to annex territories in the West Bank.

The bill only has 22 co-sponsors, but McCollum chairs the House Budget Subcommittee, which gives her a powerful lever to pull when they and Progressives seek terms on US military aid to Israel.

However, these efforts are likely to clash with influential Democratic leaders who continue to support US aid to Israel. And Republicans will likely make every effort to cut or condition funding as a line of scrimmage, making the progressives’ advance unlikely to succeed.

President BidenJoe BidenBiden: The Democrats’ spending plan is “a bigger goddamn thing” than Obamacare Biden says it is open to changes, removing filibusters to improve suffrage. Biden: Comment that the DOJ should prosecute those who submit subpoenas To oppose “not appropriate” Even took a moment while announcing the ceasefire to note his support for the Israeli air defense system, Iron Dome, which is being funded by the US. The system intercepted most of the rockets Hamas had fired during the recent conflict and kept the death toll in Israel relatively low despite thousands of incoming rockets.

“The Prime Minister also shared his appreciation for the Iron Dome system that our nations have developed together and that has saved the lives of countless Israeli citizens, both Arabs and Jews,” said Biden on Thursday of a conversation with the Israeli one prime minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE. “I have assured him of my full support to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome system to ensure its defense and security in the future.”

White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiBiden says he’s tapping into the National Guard to help with supply chain issues GOP memo urges lawmakers to blame White House grinches for Christmas delays Regional powers gather behind Taliban’s request for humanitarian aid MORE added that Biden believes the Iron Dome “saved hundreds of lives, maybe more.”

“We have no plans to change the security we provide to Israel,” she said at a press conference on Friday. “But I want to say that the President believes we need to move forward on several fronts. Support for Israel’s security is certainly one of them. But another front is Reconstruction, which is playing a constructive role in rebuilding Gaza, providing aid and funding through the UN efforts to do just that to ensure that aid, not Hamas, benefits the Palestinian people . “

Israeli-Palestinian tensions escalated for the first time earlier this month when Israeli police raided the Al-Aqsa mosque in east Jerusalem, one of the holiest sites in Islam, and wounded hundreds of Palestinians.

Within 11 days, Hamas then fired more than 4,000 rockets at Israel and temporarily overwhelmed the Iron Dome. Israel responded with air strikes on Hamas fighters and their infrastructure that destroyed streets and buildings, including one that housed The Associated Press, other media outlets, and several floors of apartments.

Throughout the conflict, progressives urged Biden to hold a firm hand with Netanyahu and often called for United States security aid to Israel.

“We continue to provide over $ 3 billion in military aid to the Israeli government every year with no conditions or responsibility for willful human rights abuses and continued illegal seizures of Palestinian land,” said Reps. Ilhan OmaraIlhan OmarOvernight Energy & Environment – Presented by the American Petroleum Institute – Democrats bring up reports that the clean energy program will be canceled. Democrats increase pressure on Biden to make student loan forgiveness MORE (D-Minn.), André Carson (D-Ind.) And Tlaib said in a joint statement the day the tensions led to a gunfighting war.

US security assistance to Israel is set out in a 10-year memorandum of understanding (MOU) that was signed by the Obama administration in 2016 and came into force in 2018. Under the agreement, the United States is expected to provide $ 3.8 billion in security aid annually, although funding is still subject to Congressional approval.

The funding includes $ 3.3 billion in foreign military funding, which is essentially grants to purchase US-made weapons, and $ 500 million in anti-missile support, including for the Iron Dome.

Since 2001, Israel has received $ 63 billion in US security assistance, the majority of which has been foreign military funding, according to the Center for International Policy’s Security Assistance Monitor.

Supporters of US funding for Israel are likely to use the MOU to bolster their arguments as they roll back progressive efforts to curtail aid.

In an April letter, more than 300 members of the House of Representatives urged the Funding Committee to “honor our commitments made in the 2016 agreement,” arguing that “Providing security to Israel is a specific investment in the peace and prosperity of the entire Middle East. ”

More than 100 Republicans in the House of Representatives also pointed out the letter of intent in a letter to Biden on Wednesday.

Hamas rocket strikes “clearly show the critical importance of our security aid to Israel, as agreed in the US-Israel agreement of 2016,” said the letter organized by the House Foreign Office senior member of the House of Representatives Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulPentagon, State Department Holds Accountability in Afghanistan Mike Siegel: Potential McConaughey Candidate Is A “Sideline” In Texas Gubernatorial Race Biden Signs Bill To Aid Victims Of “Havana Syndrome” MORE (R-Texas).

“You previously said, ‘I will not make any conditions for security assistance in view of the serious threats Israel is facing and that would be irresponsible in my opinion,'” the letter continued on Wednesday, referring to comments made during Biden the 2020 presidential campaign.

“We urge you to honor this commitment, and we continue to oppose any cuts in funding or additional terms of security aid that would be detrimental to Israel’s ability to defend itself against all threats, including current attacks,” the GOP wrote – Legislators.

The first test of the Progressives’ push to review US military aid to Israel could be a sale of $ 735 million worth of precision-guided ammunition. The Biden government told Congress it approved the sale before the Gaza conflict began, but it became a hot spot last week after news reports publicly exposed the sale.

A group of progressives led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezSchumer supports democratic socialist India Walton in the race for mayor of Buffalo Toomey targets Schumer’s public housing spending in NYC (DN.Y.) passed a resolution in the House of Representatives to block the sale while Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden says adding hearing, dentistry and vision to Medicare is a “reach.” Schumer supports the democratic socialist India Walton in the mayor’s race of Buffalo On The Money (I-Vt.) Presented the Senate version.

Sanders insists he can force a Senate vote, but it’s unclear if it does, given the Congressional review deadline on the sale. But even if the resolutions are voted, they are not expected to find the support necessary for their adoption.

Still, the progressives see the effort as an instrument to pressure Biden to change policy toward Israel, and attribute the president’s harsh messages to Netanyahu to their push as the Gaza conflict escalated. And it could prove to be a microcosm of struggles when it comes to US military aid to Israel in general.

“Our government is directly involved in the human rights atrocities that the Israeli military inflicts on the Palestinians, and it is our job as members of Congress to ensure that we stop funding these abuses,” said Cori Bush (D-Mo.), A Co -Sponsor of the resolution on arms sales by Ocasio-Cortez, said in a statement on the measure.

“These atrocities are funded by billions of our own American tax dollars while communities like mine in St. Louis are suffering and need life-affirming investments here at home. As a country, we must stand up for the human rights of all people while insisting that our country prioritizes the financing of life, not destruction, ”she added.

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