AIPAC Slams Democrats' Proposal to Ban Israel From Using U.S. Aid Toward Annexation

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People attend the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington, DC on March 24, 2019.
People attend the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington, DC on March 24, 2019. Credit: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP

AIPAC, the leading lobby group supporting Israel in Washington, has slammed a proposal by several leading Democratic Senators to prohibit Israel from using American military aid to promote the annexation of settlements.

AIPAC has taken a public position against the proposal although the real chances that it passes Congress are very low. 

The proposal linking aid to the issue of a possible annexation was presented by the Senators as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, a major piece of legislation that will pass Congress later this week. The Senators, led by Maryland’s Chris Van Hollen, support adding a condition for the provision of the aid stipulating that it can’t be used for unilateral annexation.

The amendment has almost no chance of passing Congress and becoming law, but it could impact the internal debate within the Democratic Party on the issue of military aid to Israel.

The party has been split on this subject over the past years. Senator Bernie Sanders and other prominent left-wing Democrats have called for the aid to Israel to be withheld and for it to be used as “leverage” to bring the Israeli occupation of the West Bank to an end.

Centrist and moderate Democrats, including the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, have rejected Sanders’ idea. Biden called it “outrageous” and has expressed pride in the fact that the Obama administration, in which he was Vice President, gave Israel more military aid than any previous administration. A senior foreign policy adviser to Biden said last month that if elected president, he will continue to provide Israel with that level of aid.

Van Hollen and the 12 Senators who signed on to his amendment are offering a middle ground on this thorny issue: continuing to provide aid to Israel, but making sure that it won’t directly support annexation.

Van Hollen explained last week: “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.”

His amendment, however, has run into strong opposition from AIPAC. The organization stated in a tweet published on Monday that Van Hollne’s suggested policy “politicizes U.S. support for Israel's security” and also “contradicts the Obama-Biden [Memorandum of Understandings regarding aid to Israel] and goes far beyond current law in ways that damage American interests, risk Israel's security, and make peace less likely.”

The organization further relied on Obama and Biden, writing in a subsequent tweet: “Despite some policy disagreements with Israel, President Obama increased America's security commitment to Israel, and his MOU had no political restrictions. As Joe Biden said, it would be a 'gigantic mistake' and 'absolutely outrageous' to condition or leverage security aid.”

AIPAC also wrote that Van Hollen “wants to ensure no U.S. funds are used for annexation. But that's already law. Aid can only be used for “internal security, for legitimate self-defense. This amendment goes far beyond current law in ways that jeopardize Israel's security.”

This is the second time in a week that AIPAC has invoked Obama and Biden’s support for Israel, as part of an effort to contrast measures proposed by Democratic lawmakers that would limit or condition aid to Israel. AIPAC also mentioned Obama and Biden’s approach regarding military aid when it came out last week against a Congressional letter, spearheaded by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, against annexation. 

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