Saturday, May 25, 2024

Analysis | Progressives want to cut military aid to Israel. Here are the options.

Analysis | Progressives want to cut military aid to Israel. Here are the options.

As more progressive Democrats implore the Biden administration to suspend its pipeline of military aid to Israel as a means of compelling a course change in Gaza, lawmakers and analysts say the law offers several tools for doing so.

U.S. leverage over Israel owes in large part to the $3.3 billion in annual security assistance Washington provides to the Jewish state, making it the largest recipient of American military aid. Israel’s growing isolation on the international stage — fallout from the staggering number of civilian casualties and an emerging famine in the Palestinian enclave — has only underscored the importance of its relationship with the United States, observers say.

The fury being felt by some lawmakers came through this week as they grilled senior national security officials during congressional budget hearings. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) lamented to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin that “we are the ones” supplying Israeli forces with the bombs being used “to destroy homes and hospitals and refugee camps.”

The U.S. government provides “an extraordinary amount” of weaponry to Israel, said Brian Finucane, a senior adviser at the International Crisis Group, noting that the Biden administration has authorized more than 100 arms sales since Oct. 7, including through emergency means that bypass congressional review. “And so,” he said, “all of that gives the United States a lot of potential leverage, either by outright withholding or blocking transfers, or through the credible threat of doing so.”

If President Biden wished to take such a step, he would not need new legislation. “There are a lot of laws on the books,” said Sarah Margon, director of foreign policy at the Open Society Foundations, “that can be used to restrict and condition security assistance in whole or in part.”

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