Sen Warren: Consider restricting military aid in occupied territories

Written by on April 20, 2021

WASHINGTON – Democrat Senator Elizabeth Warren said on Monday that the US should consider “restricting military aid from being used in the occupied territories.”

Speaking at J Street’s virtual conference, Warren said: “We should talk about the elephant in the room: America’s military assistance to Israel. I said earlier that I am committed to Israel’s security and I am; I support military assistance to Israel. But if we’re serious about arresting settlement expansion and helping move the parties toward a two-state solution, then it would be irresponsible not to consider all of the tools we have at our disposal.”

She went on to say that “one of those [tools] is restricting military aid from being used in the occupied territories.”

“By continuing to provide military aid without restriction, we provide no incentive for Israel to adjust course,” Senator Warren continued.

US President Joe Biden rejected similar calls in the past and called the idea “outrageous.” In 2019, Senator Bernie Sanders spoke at J Street and called to condition aid to Israel. Biden, then a presidential candidate, said: “I would not condition it, and I think it’s a gigantic mistake.”

“The United States cannot stand for security, human rights, and dignity, and at the same moment turn a blind eye to the suffering of Palestinians under Israeli occupation,” said Warren. “Palestinians deserve to live in freedom and prosperity.”

“I believe that a two-state solution is the path to respect for every human being,” said the Massachusetts Senator.

She continued and said that “the Netanyahu government may have put aside formal annexation for now, but the continued growth of these settlements and the destruction of Palestinian homes amounts to de facto annexation.”

“The Palestinian leadership, meanwhile, continues to show that it is unable to meet the current challenges,” said Warren “The West Bank is ruled by a corrupt and increasingly authoritarian leadership under President Abbas. While he has shown a genuine commitment to nonviolence, he has also consistently failed to take real risks for peace.”

She called on the administration “to take immediate steps to improve the lives of both Israelis and Palestinians on the ground today,” and that “One immediate step would be to insist that Israel do more to help Palestinians get vaccinated against the deadly threat of COVID-19.”

“Jewish settlers in the West Bank are receiving vaccinations, while few Palestinians have any access to life-saving shots,” said Warren. She also called to “immediately re-open the US consulate to the Palestinians in Jerusalem, and the PLO delegation office in Washington, DC.”

Matt Brooks, the Executive Director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, rejected Warren’s speech. “In Senator Warren’s view, the decades-long strategic alliance between the US and Israel is only useful as leverage to advance the anti-Israel agenda of the progressive Democrats she leads,” he said in a statement.

“To advocate, as Sen. Warren does, that the US pressure Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians while the Palestinian Authority condemns Israel’s existence, incites violence against Israel and Jews everywhere, and continues its “Pay for Slay” salaries to terrorists and their families, is disgusting,” Brooks continued.

Senator Bernie Sanders voiced a similar message to Warren’s. “I strongly believe that we must also be willing to bring real pressure to bear, including restricting US aid, in response to moves by either side that undermine the chances for peace,” Sanders said. “The truth is that the United States gives an enormous amount of military aid to Israel. It also provides some humanitarian and economic aid to the Palestinians. It is totally appropriate for the United States to say what that aid may and may not be used for.”

“In terms of aid to Israel, in my view, the American people do not want to see that money being used to support policies that violate human rights and treat the Palestinian people as second-class human beings,” Sanders added. “When we talk about restricting aid, it’s important to note this isn’t about singling out any one country. It’s about acting in an even-handed way in the region and making sure that American aid works to advance American values, not undermine them.”

US Ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas Greenfield, said that the US supports the recent normalization agreements between Israel and its Arab neighbors and “will work to expand the circle of peace in the Middle East which is not only good for Israel, but for the whole region.”

Addressing the indirect negotiations in Vienna between the US and Iran, Thomas Greenfield said that both the US and Israel share a common goal never allowing Iran to obtain nuclear weapons. “To do that, we must use what President Biden calls the first instrument of American power- diplomacy. The US position on the JCPOA is clear: we are ready to return to the agreement if Iran returns to full compliance with its nuclear commitments,” she said.  

“At the same time we will continue to support Israel as it works to counter the threats posed by Iran’s aggressive behavior,” she added.

She went on to say that she will continue “to stand by Israel especially when it is unfairly and disproportionally singled out by one-sided resolutions and actions” at the UN.  

“It’s not that we aren’t willing to discuss issues related to Israel and the Palestinians at the United Nations, far from it,” she continued. “Rather, it is that we won’t stand for single-minded targeting that doesn’t get us any closer to peace. Yet, as the president likes to say, we can’t be afraid to tell the truth to our closest friends. That means speaking out against provocative unilateral actions that increase tensions and take us further from the path of peace.”

 She said that “the best way to secure a peaceful and prosperous future for Israelis and Palestinians alike is a two-state solution.”

“Unfortunately, the prospects of reaching a negotiated two state solution seems quite distant.

But we know that only a two state solution can guarantee Israel’s future as a Jewish, and democratic state while enabling the Palestinian people to achieve a state of their own. So any step that away from that is a step in the wrong direction.”

Addressing the recent decision to renew funding to UNRWA, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield said that the US is committed to serving as a strong partner to UNRWA, “but we also will be the strongest critics when we see problems.”

“We will work with the agency to push forward important reforms,” she added. “By resuming this assistance we can and will help UNRWA like we do with other UN agencies provide the most effective and efficient assistance possible and act consistently with UN principles of equity, neutrality, tolerance and non-discrimination.”

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