An umbrella group of more than 50 Jewish organizations from across the ideological spectrum condemned calls by Democratic presidential candidates to condition military aid to Israel on its approach to making peace with the Palestinians.
“We are deeply troubled by recent statements that would place conditions, limitations, or restrictions on the U.S. security assistance provided to Israel, so vital for the defense and security of the country, the protection of essential U.S. interests, and stability in the region,” Arthur Stark, chairman, and Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman/CEO, of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations said in a statement issued Nov. 1. “This approach would harm American objectives in the Middle East and would undermine the ability of our key ally to defend itself against the threats it faces on all its borders.”
Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, along with Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, recently have indicated a willingness to use American aid to force policy changes by Israel, including halting settlement construction. The United States gives Israel $3.8 billion annually in military assistance.
“Adoption of this suggested approach would reward those who are the true obstacles to progress towards peace, engage in terrorism, and deprive the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank of the opportunities for a better life,” the Presidents Conference statement also said. “Further, it would harm the prospect of negotiations. Israelis must be assured that they will be able to defend themselves and deter those who would seek to destroy them” in order to negotiate.
Coming at the issue from a different point of view just two weeks ago at its annual conference, J Street, the liberal Jewish Middle East policy group, made conditioning U.S. aid to Israel on halting settlement expansion a sticking point ahead of the 2020 presidential elections.
“Our aid is not intended to be a blank check,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, the group’s president, ahead of the first appearance at the conference of a Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
Ben-Ami called on candidates to reverse Trump administration policies that have favored Israel over the Palestinians. He also announced that the organization’s student wing, J Street U, launched a campaign to press the Democratic Party to include in its platform a call on Israel to end its occupation of the West Bank.
At a press conference the following day, Ben-Ami elaborated that J Street would advocate for existing laws with requirements on how military aid is used. J Street backs existing levels of aid, currently at $3.8 billion annually.
“As Israel receives that $3.8 billion, what is it being used for?” he asked.