Democrats call for aid cut to Israel over annexation

Four women stand at podium

Democratic lawmakers are signing a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling to cut aid to Israel if it proceeds with annexation.

Mike Theiler UPI

Four women in the US Congress say that if Israel proceeds with further annexation plans in the occupied West Bank it would “lay the groundwork for Israel becoming an apartheid state.”

Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Betty McCollum and Pramila Jayapal are making the claim in a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that they are circulating for signature among colleagues.

According to Politico, the letter has been signed by nine more lawmakers including Senator Bernie Sanders.

Although the letter overlooks the current apartheid reality, it is not typical for US lawmakers to refer to Israeli apartheid at all.

It is even rarer for members of Congress to call for Israel to pay any price for its actions.

In this letter, however, the signers say that if Israel proceeds with annexation they will demand conditions on the annual $3.8 billion in military aid it receives from the US.

They say they will pursue “human rights conditions and the withholding of funds for the offshore procurement of Israeli weapons equal to or exceeding the amount the Israeli government spends annually to fund settlements, as well as the policies and practices that sustain and enable them.”

Lobby hits back

Israel lobby groups AIPAC and Democratic Majority for Israel quickly objected.

Democratic Majority for Israel claims it opposes annexation, yet says that the letter represents “bad policy” and “bad politics.”

The group undoubtedly fears any initiative that could result in conditions on US aid to Israel, preferring only toothless verbal protests.

This is not the first time this year that AIPAC has collided with McCollum, Ocasio-Cortez and Tlaib.

In February, the Israel lobby group accused “radicals in the Democratic Party” – along with photos of the three – of “pushing their anti-Semitic and anti-Israel policies down the throats of the American people.”

McCollum called this “hate speech” and referred to AIPAC as a “hate group.” She rejected their apology.

The letter writers insist that “Members of Congress should not be expected to support an undemocratic system in which Israel would permanently rule over a Palestinian people denied self-determination or equal rights.”

Aida Touma-Sliman, a Palestinian member of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, welcomed the Democrats’ letter:

Concern for Israel prioritized

The new letter goes beyond the tepid language of an earlier 25 June letter from 191 House Democrats to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders.

That letter failed even to mention occupied Palestinian territory.

Its major concern was not how annexation would harm Palestinian rights, but that it would be bad for Israel.

The signers asserted that it would “jeopardize Israel’s significant progress on normalization with Arab states” and could create “insecurity” in Jordan with “ancillary risks to Israel.”

They also stressed that annexation could create “serious problems for Israel with its European friends and other partners around the world.”

The European Union, while admonishing Israel for its annexation plans, continues to provide Israel with rewards as it breaks international law.

The writers of the 25 June letter stressed maintaining Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state” and keeping alive the so-called two-state solution.

By contrast, the congresswomen do not mention maintaining an exclusivist Jewish state or the two-state solution, but rather emphasize how annexation could “harm prospects for a future in which all Israelis and Palestinians can live with full equality, human rights and dignity.”

Republicans promote annexation

Republican senators meanwhile openly support the apartheid annexation plan in a 23 June letter to President Donald Trump.

Initiated by Ted Cruz of Texas, it is endorsed by six other senators.

Not only did they back the “extension of Israeli civil law into Israeli communities and areas critical for Israel’s security such [as] the Jordan Valley,” but they commit to funding such violations of international law.

They pledge to provide the Trump administration “with the resources it requires” for implementation of the Israeli plans.

For all that Trump has done in violating international law on behalf of an expansionist Israel, the senators make clear that annexation is Israel’s “sovereign decision” to take.

That the illegal move has Trump’s backing is just the icing on the cake for them.

If the International Criminal Court ever does try Israeli leaders for crimes including settlements and annexation, it can also look to American leaders who every step of the way supported and provided financial backing for Israel’s theft of Palestinian land and entrenchment of apartheid.

Update:

This article now accounts for minor differences between the version of the letter secured by Jewish Insider and the final version released by the office of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The letter’s final version can be read here.

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Comments

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Excellent to see these women taking a stand. What they call for is moderate. Why should the US fund Israel at all while it continues to breach international law? Of course, if we rest for our argument on international law, we must accept that Israel is a recognised State and as such has legal rights; but it has no right to the illegal settlements or to the proposed annexation. UK PM Johnson has written in Yediot Aharonot that he can't support the move. He trots out his admiration for Israel and his disdain for those who tell "the old stories", presumably that Israel was born out of terrorism and has behaved as a racist State since 1948. All the same, even he, and he is unflinchingly right-wing, can't uphold the annexation. Netanyahu is in trouble. The opposition will build. Shadow FS Nandy has called for the UK to ban imports from the settlements should the annexation proceed (it should happen anyway). The BoD has attacked her as "divisive" but hasn't yet called her anti-Semitic. The New Anti-Semitism campaign is unravelling. They thought by scuppering Corbyn they could get their way. Now they are faced with having to accuse Johnson of anti-Semitism which would make the entire world die laughing. Their claim that any affront to Israel's "interests" is anti-Semitic, is falling apart. Netanyahu has put himself in checkmate. Which ever way he moves, he fails. If he backs off, he looks like a blusterer who can't carry through. If he goes ahead, Israel will become a pariah and even its closest friends, like the UK Tory Party will be staunch critics. This is exactly the moment to insist that Israel should do what it claims it wants and agree to a two-State solution based on the 4th June 1967 borders. They'll palter, but that only weakens their position further. The Palestinians must stick to peaceful means and we, across the world, must raise the temperature until our leaders are forced to insist on a negotiated agreement which includes an autonomous Palestinian State.

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So, the incompetent criminals in the Democratic Party will ask the arrogant incompetent Pompeo to cut aid to Israel, LOL! A snowball's chance in Hell that will succeed.

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Grateful for your work, your efforts and integrity, ladies! May Palestine and Israel find a humane solution to this conflict.

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Michael F. Brown

Michael F. Brown is an independent journalist. His work and views have appeared in The International Herald Tribune, TheNation.com, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The News & Observer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Washington Post and elsewhere.