Bipartisan lawmakers introduce amendment affirming US commitment to military aid to Israel

Bipartisan lawmakers introduce amendment affirming US commitment to military aid to Israel
© Greg Nash

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is working to counter calls for conditioning U.S. military aid to Israel by amending a resolution supporting a two-state solution to the Israeli and Palestinian conflict, set to go to a vote on the House floor this week after months of delay.

The two amendments add language that reaffirms the U.S. commitment to its military assistance package to Israel, which provides about $3.8 billion in military financing and missile defense each year.

Progressive Democrats and some presidential candidates have called for placing conditions on U.S. military aid to Israel as an option to help achieve a solution to the conflict with the Palestinians.

Reps. Josh GottheimerJoshua (Josh) GottheimerTrump fuels and frustrates COVID-19 relief talks Trump's illness sparks new urgency for COVID-19 deal House approves .2T COVID-19 relief bill as White House talks stall MORE (D-N.J.), Ted DeutchTheodore (Ted) Eliot DeutchShakespeare Theatre Company goes virtual for 'Will on the Hill...or Won't They?' Florida Democrat introduces bill to recognize Puerto Rico statehood referendum Matt Gaetz, Roger Stone back far-right activist Laura Loomer in congressional bid MORE (D-Fla.) and Tom ReedThomas (Tom) W. ReedAn investment in R&D is an investment in America's future Pelosi and Trump go a full year without speaking Trump fuels and frustrates COVID-19 relief talks MORE (R-N.Y.) submitted the amendments to the Rules Committee for H.R. 326, "Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives regarding United States efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a negotiated two-state solution."

The language in the amendments includes calls for the United States to “stand by its ironclad commitments” to provide military aid to Israel, the billion-dollar amount first agreed upon as a memorandum of understanding (MOU) under former President Obama in 2016 and renewed every 10 years.

The resolution is nonbinding and just expresses an agreed upon opinion of the House of Representatives. But resolutions can also be used as justification for more substantive legislation.

The arrival of the resolution to the House floor is a victory for Democrats who are looking to go on record supporting a two-state solution ahead of any release of the Trump administration’s expected Middle East peace plan. Administration officials have avoided saying whether their plan supports a two-state solution.

Yet, the amendments could pose an additional hurdle to the resolution that has been plagued by inaction since it was first introduced in April.

Some Democrats have tried to stall its arrival to the floor over concerns it could be seen as interfering in Israel’s domestic politics, as the country has yet to form an official government after two national elections in one year.  

Meanwhile, Republicans have criticized the text as a preemptive rebuke of any political proposal by the Trump administration that fails to endorse a two-state solution. No GOP members have signed on as co-sponsors.

The emphasis on maintaining the MOU could rancor progressive Democrats who have publicly called for rethinking U.S. military support for Israel. Their arguments include that more oversight is needed if American taxpayer dollars are going to policies they view as violating Palestinian human rights.

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersIntercept bureau chief says congressional progressives looking to become stronger force in 2021 Obama book excerpt: 'Hard to deny my overconfidence' during early health care discussions Americans have a choice: Socialized medicine or health care freedom MORE (I-Vt.) called for using the military aid package as leverage to bring Israel to the negotiating table with the Palestinians, when speaking at the J Street conference in October.

“I would use the leverage — $3.8 billion is a lot of money, and we cannot give it carte blanche to the Israeli government,” he said.  

A House-passed bill codifying the U.S. and Israel MOU currently sits with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. If it passes the Senate and is signed into law by the president, the U.S. military aid package to Israel would be guaranteed annually at the level of at least $3.8 billion.