Conditions should come with $40B aid package to Israel

Posted on Aug 28, 2016

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By Greg Slabodkin, August 4, 2016

Despite the billions of dollars in foreign assistance that Israel already receives annually from the United States, the Obama administration is reportedly close to providing the Jewish state with up to $40 billion in funding over 10 years, making it the biggest U.S. military aid package ever given to any country.

However, if American taxpayers are going to again foot the bill for financing the Israeli military, which continues to occupy 2.7 million Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, then conditions must be put on the deal to exact concessions from Israel. U.S. aid to the Jewish state should be tied to progress in the peace process and respect for Palestinian human rights.

The proposed military deal comes at a time when Israel’s oppressive and discriminatory settlement policies in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem continue unabated. Israel’s expansion of settlements is a major obstacle to a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on a two-state solution.

Recently, the State Department sharply criticized Israel for taking steps to build hundreds of housing units in East Jerusalem. State Department spokesman John Kirby described the activities as “corrosive to the cause of peace” and called Israeli actions “the latest examples of what appears to be a steady acceleration of settlement activity that is systematically undermining the prospects for a two-state solution.”

In addition, the Israeli government recently approved an additional $20 million to support settlements, which are illegal under international law and are a direct threat to the territorial integrity of a future Palestinian state.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who recently formed the most right-wing government in Israel’s history, has driven U.S.-Israel relations to their lowest point in a generation by undermining the prospects for peace with the Palestinians by entrenching the Israeli occupation, which has lasted nearly half a century.

Speaking earlier this year at a conference in Tel Aviv, U.S. Ambassador Daniel Shapiro sharply criticized Israeli plans to expand settlements noting that 60 percent of the West Bank is effectively restricted for any Palestinian development, while huge tracts of land have been claimed by Israel as “state” lands or have been transferred into the projected boundaries of settlement councils.

“Settler outposts are being legalized—despite earlier pledges to the United States not to do so—while routine, administrative demolition of Palestinian structures continues,” charged Shapiro. “Continued settlement growth raises honest questions about Israel’s long-term intentions.”

Under Netanyahu’s watch, Israel clearly has no intention of ending its occupation. Consequently, the United States should be exerting pressure on Israel to persuade the Netanyahu government to abandon its settlement activities, not rewarding the Jewish state with increased military aid.

The Obama administration should make it clear that there are strings attached to U.S. aid and that Israel’s failure to comply with a settlement freeze will have financial penalties.

Greg Slabodkin, of Buffalo, is a former opposition researcher for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington, D.C.

Originally published August 4, 2016 in The Hill: http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/foreign-policy/290388-conditions-should-come-with-40b-aid-package-to-israel