The US Must Take All Steps Necessary in the Face of Humanitarian Crisis, Including Considering the Conditioning of Offensive Military Aid

The US Must Take All Steps Necessary in the Face of Humanitarian Crisis, Including Considering the Conditioning of Offensive Military Aid

Partners for Progressive Israel has always stood behind the legitimacy of the State of Israel to exist as a sovereign home where the Jewish people expresses its national identity, its right to self-determination, and its right to security. We continue to do so and see this position as axiomatic, and regard the Palestinian people as having no lesser rights to the same.

Israel’s fundamental legitimacy, however, does not, and must not, mean that the specific policies crafted and conducted by a government of Israel should enjoy our unquestioned, carte-blanche support. For more than three decades, we have regularly criticized a variety of Israeli policies based on an unwavering commitment to human rights and equality, as promised in Israel’s own Declaration of Independence, as well as in the writings of our prophets and sages.

Sadly, recent months have seen the Israeli government and its members veer radically further from the norms we hold dear, both as Jews and as Americans. Israel had a complete and legitimate right to respond to Hamas’ unspeakable barbarism of October 7. That right to self-defense, however, cannot justify the dehumanization and ongoing mass, collective punishment of the Palestinian people, which constitute a violation of international law.  

In Gaza, more than two-thirds of the over 32,000 Palestinian fatalities are credibly estimated to be women and children. Israel, now the undeniable occupier of almost the entire Strip, is the power legally accountable for the spread of starvation and disease and the collapse of Gaza’s health and hospital infrastructure. Israel’s government, as President Biden indicated in his State of the Union speech, appallingly regards the humanitarian disaster in Gaza as a “secondary consideration” and aid as a “bargaining chip,” attitudes that undoubtedly led to the horrific killing of seven World Central Kitchen aid workers on April 1, on top of those of many thousands of Palestinian civilians over the past six months. Meanwhile, the Netanyahu government has resisted international demands to produce any semblance of a reasonable plan for the “day after”. The dismal “horizon” that Netanyahu offers is one in which Palestinians, in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, will live under unending Israeli military domination.

The situation as it stands is untenable.There must be a bilateral ceasefire which includes a deal for all the hostages to return home. All necessary food and aid must be allowed into Gaza to support the Gazan civilians. The ceasefire must be the prelude to intensive diplomatic efforts to begin a transition to a new reality in the Middle East. Our position stems from valuing human rights, social justice, security and self-determination for all living in the region; We encourage the Biden administration to take significant steps to achieve these goals, including, if deemed necessary, the conditioning of offensive military aid in order for this horrible nightmare to end.

U.S foreign aid is a tool to promote American policy around the world, the stated objectives of which include peace and security, democratic governance, and humanitarian assistance. Indeed, the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act stipulates that military aid may not be provided to a country that prevents U.S. humanitarian aid from reaching its intended recipients. Israel is the largest recipient of American largesse, and its willingness to accept offensive military aid must imply an acceptance of American objectives. We appreciate the Biden administration’s call for Israel to take concrete and measurable action to mitigate any further civilian death, to allow for the delivery of humanitarian aid, and to take immediate steps towards a bilateral ceasefire agreement. 

Yet Israeli prime minister Netanyahu has continued to thumb his nose at President Biden, including repeatedly vowing to expand Israel’s offensive into Rafah, despite repeated American warnings about the absence of a coherent civilian evacuation plan. Senator Schumer’s March 13 speech, which we have wholeheartedly applauded, made exactly this point.  

We should note that conditioning aid to Israel has a long history. In 1991, for example,  President George H.W. Bush, to his credit, refused to support loan guarantees to Israel unless Israel halted settlement construction and agreed to participate in the international peace conference in Madrid. He maintained this opposition until the next year, when a newly-elected prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, provided the linkage he sought. In 2024, Israel cannot accept continued offensive military materials and funding while making it impossible for Gazan civilians to access humanitarian aid that ensures the basic necessities of life, including food, water, medical supplies, and electricity.

Netanyahu’s Israel has repeatedly failed to behave as an American ally, refusing to acknowledge that the provision of humanitarian aid is Israel’s legal obligationIn these circumstances, a U.S. administration would be justified in making its delivery of offensive military aid conditional on adherence to its foreign aid goals.

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