Summary: Ensuring that Israel, the biggest recipient the U.S. Protection assistance, adheres to federal laws and international person rights standards will require very closely tracking and also monitoring its weapons use.

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After plenty of years of boosting U.S. Military assist to Israel, members of conference are beginning to controversy the wisdom and morality of composing a blank check because that weapons—some that which room used against Palestinians living under army occupation in the West Bank and also Gaza strip in violation the U.S. Laws.

A current exchange between legislators shows the evolving debate. Congresswoman Betty McCollum introduced a bill on April 15—currently co-sponsored by seventeen representatives—to ensure the U.S. Resources is not provided for Israel’s ill-treatment the Palestinian children in its military judicial system, forced displacement of Palestinians through residence demolitions and evictions, and also illegal annexations of Palestinian land. In response, Congressman Ted Deutch created a letter on April 22, signed by much more than 300 representatives, arguing against “reducing capital or including conditions on protection assistance”—which essentially way disregarding Israel’s egregious policies and violations of currently U.S. Regulations aimed in ~ protecting person rights. The fact that a invoice restricting aid to Israel drew seventeen sponsors come date and a letter defending that aid was signed through three-quarters that members—as protest to every one of them—shows that the controversy is progressively shifting.

Meanwhile, the arising policies of president Joe Biden’s administration reflect an uncomfortable paradox. The interim national security strategy calls because that the United claims to defend and also protect human being rights in its foreign policy and to lead in restoring multilateralism and rules in the international system. The word “values” appears twenty-five time in the twenty-three-page document. However, the strategy additionally pledges to maintain an ironclad commitment come Israel’s army aid—despite the apparent contradiction with declared U.S. Plan objectives, such together a two-state resolution come the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and the continuing de facto annexation of the West Bank, house demolitions, evictions, and also destruction of whole Palestinian neighborhoods and also communities.

Josh Ruebner is Adjunct Lecturer in Justice and also Peace studies at Georgetown University and also author the two books on Israeli-Palestinian relations.

Leading steady Democrats room calling because that the Biden administration to facility values in its policy toward Israel and also Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking. And also a growing variety of voters support campaigns to border U.S. Help to Israel due to its person rights violations. Yet, also if there were sufficient votes in Congress because that these campaigns to end up being law, another challenge looms: creating transparent tools transfer techniques to certain the crucial tracking and also end-use monitoring. Until then, the management should enforce existing laws that prohibit the usage of U.S. Security aid for illegitimate purposes and also specifically restrict assist from additional entrenching Israeli occupation.

The Largess of U.S. Aid to Israel

Through FY2020, the United claims has detailed Israel v $146 billion in military, economic, and missile defense funding. Readjusted for inflation, this lot is indistinguishable to $236 billion in 2018 dollars, make Israel the biggest cumulative recipient of U.S. Assistance due to the fact that World battle II.

Today, virtually all U.S. Help to Israel is in the kind of weapons grants. Israel obtain $3.3 billion every year in foreign military gaue won (FMF). It additionally receives $500 million for joint U.S.-Israeli research, development, and also deployment that missile defense systems; however, this anti-missile systems virtually wholly benefit Israeli military needs. In FY2021, the management of former president Donald Trump asked for $3.3 exchange rate in FMF for Israel, constituting 59 percent the the requested global FMF budget. Israel receives much more FMF than all other nations in the world an unified (see number 1).


Yet Israel is more than qualified of to buy its very own weapons. According to the people Bank, it has the twenty-ninth-largest every capita GDP in the world, ahead of the joined Kingdom, brand-new Zealand, France, and Japan.

Since 1999, the parameters because that U.S. Assistance to Israel have actually been collection in memoranda of expertise (MOUs) between the two countries. These ten-year MOUs include promises the presidential budgetary requests for help to Israel, yet Congress need to still appropriate the actual quantities of help annually. In practice, congress adheres to the president’s budgetary requests there is no changes.

The critical MOU to be signed in 2016, pledging $33 billion in FMF and $5 exchange rate in missile defense resources for FY2019–2028, the largest totals in the history of these MOUs. However, notably, this MOU phases out an exemption recognized as offshore procurement (OSP), which allows Israel to usage a percentage of FMF on its residential weapons industry; every other countries receiving FMF are forced to invest it specifically on U.S. Weapons. This is a far-ranging change, together in FY2019, OSP amounted to an $815 million annual subsidization by U.S. Taxpayers that Israeli weapons manufacturers. The phaseout mirrors that Israel has come to be one of the world’s leading arms exporters, selling about $9 exchange rate in arms in 2017.

Salih Booker is the president and CEO of the center for worldwide Policy. Previously, he served as the vice president of outside relations at the United says Institute of Peace.

Although both countries agreed in the MOU no to seek alters to the specified amounts of FMF and missile defense funds, Congress has actually made these already unprecedented level of help to Israel a floor rather than a ceiling. In the 2021 nationwide Defense Authorization Act, conference authorized “not much less than” $3.3 billion every year in FMF come Israel, offering it the flexibility to suitable funds beyond those agreed top top in the MOU.

Laws governing U.S. Assistance

Debate about whether U.S. Security help to foreign countries should it is in conditioned upon human rights criteria discounts a simple fact. U.S. Law is clear: all countries receiving U.S. Help must fulfill human civil liberties standards, and countries violating these standards room liable to it is in sanctioned and also ineligible for U.S. Funding:

Another indisputable reality is that the united States has actually placed problems on other countries’ FMF. Because that example, in the FY2021 budget, $225 million of $1.3 billion in FMF for Egypt is withheld from responsibility until the room of State certifies the Egypt is “taking sustained and also effective steps” to strengthen human rights.

However, as soon as it concerns Israel, additional conditions execute not apply and also general human being rights legislations are nearly never adhered to. Furthermore, weapons flows to Israel room much less transparent than those to other countries, do implementation of this laws much more difficult.

Transparency and also Oversight

Most nations receive allocations of FMF in quarterly installments, and the money is preserved in U.S.-controlled financial institution accounts until the nation wishes to draw down native its allocation to purchase weapons. This arrangement permits the joined States better oversight over weapons purchases and better control over the purse strings to ensure countries’ compliance with U.S. Laws.

Zaha Hassan is a human rights lawyer and a other at the Carnegie treasure for global Peace.

Israel, however, enjoys preferential status. Since FY1991, Congress has actually authorized Israel to receive its FMF allocation in one bump sum and also early (within thirty days of the budget’s enactment). Moreover, Israel is allowed to organize these FMF accumulation in a U.S. Interest-bearing financial institution account so that Israel ends up with more than its annual allocation the $3.3 billion.

Israel is additionally the only country in the human being for i beg your pardon the United states does not have tracking instrument to recognize which tools go to which armed forces unit. This opacity provides it practically impossible for the department of State and Defense to appropriately implement Leahy regulation vetting requirements. Vetting only occurs because that Israeli armed forces personnel using to U.S. Cultivate programs, and this cultivate is a fall in the bucket the Israel’s FMF package—just 0.02 percent the FMF in 2018, leaving the continuing to be 99.98 percent that FMF untraceable.

Another unique feature the U.S. Assistance to Israel the undermines oversight is the provision because that OSP. Although this subsidization that Israel’s armed forces weapons manufacturing will it is in phased out by FY2028, it will certainly still lot to numerous millions that dollars per year till then. Prior to 2016, the united States had actually no mechanism to track how OSP funds were used—it was basically giving Israel a empty check. The 2016 MOU needs Israel to carry out “detailed programmatic information” on OSP come the executive branch however omits any type of provision because that transmitting it to conference or making it public.

After the U.S.-Israel MOU end in 2028

Some U.S. Assistance might be justified together fulfilling Israel’s legit self-defense needs and also be in line v U.S. Law—for example, defense versus Iran and also its regional proxies and versus oftentimes indiscriminate rockets fired by Hamas and also other equipped Palestinian groups from the Gaza Strip. But the continued provision that billions that dollars in U.S. Help to Israel—which helps entrench its armed forces occupation that Palestinian land in violation the U.S. Law—is ending up being more daunting to justify, particularly given U.S. Budgetary constraints and given the Israel, with a per capita GDP rivaling west European countries, might (and currently does) purchase weapons, equipment, and fuel from the United says (see figure 2).


Though some could argue that finishing grants to Israel will press it to purchase from various other countries and also undermine the alliance, U.S.-Israel co-development and also research of tools systems and the require to preserve interoperability do this unlikely. In fact, conference passed a new program to institutionalize U.S.-Israel co-development in teamwork with defense contractors. Both the executive branch and Congress are committed to completely funding the terms of the MOU with 2028. However, ending FMF after this MOU and ensuring that Israel’s future to buy of U.S. Weapons room consonant v U.S. Law would do taxpayers less straight complicit in Israel’s human rights abuses of Palestinians.

Others might argue for continuing security assistance despite human civil liberties concerns due to the fact that of the U.S. National security benefits that derive from sharing defense innovations with Israel. But these innovations are usually purpose-specific and also based ~ above Israel’s location, size, and strategy; U.S. Dollars would be far better spent in funding advance that meets U.S. Specifications and needs. Foreign weapons grants and sales likewise create residential economic dependencies approximately their continuation, i beg your pardon have tiny to do with the raison d’être because that the defense assistance.

Policy Recommendations

The United states is no the world’s police, but it does have obligations under both federal and international law to ensure that it is not furthering human being rights abuses. Towards meeting those obligations and also preventing further deterioration of the situation on the ground in between Israelis and also Palestinians, the administration should:

Enforce U.S. Law. No country should be over the law. Israel must be hosted to the same standards as other recipients the U.S. Aid or to buy weapons. This means that the State Department have to robustly vet not just individual Israeli soldiers receiving U.S. Maintain but additionally Israeli armed forces units receiving U.S. Equipment. The flow of weapons to systems that commit gun violations of human being rights have to be reduced off as compelled by the Leahy Laws. The joined States have to investigate Israel’s potential violate of the arms Export regulate Act and also suspend the sale and delivery of weapons offered to commit human being rights abuses. Finally, the unified States have to comprehensively review the whole of Israel’s human being rights records in irradiate of the international Assistance Act, i m sorry prohibits providing assistance to a nation that engages in a organized pattern of human rights violations.Ensure U.S. Policy missions are achieved by additional restricting assistance. U.S. Assistance to Israel have to not take it the kind of a blank check the Israel deserve to use come entrench its occupation and also obstruct U.S. Policy goals. First, U.S. Weapons should be conditioned on normative behavior, for this reason requiring a complete and also verifiable freezing of negotiation growth. Second, the Biden administration should occupational with conference to insert language right into the spending plan to withhold a part of U.S. Assistance until Israel makes demonstrable renovations in its human being rights record. Together language might be obtained from conditions right now imposed ~ above U.S. Assistance to Egypt. Third, Israel must not be permitted to employ U.S. Weapons in inhabited territories in prima facie violation that the arms Export manage Act; language restricting U.S. Aid to Israel’s sovereign territory might be lifted from previous conditionality top top U.S. Loan guarantees.Establish transparent instrument for tools transfers come Israel. Under the existing MOU, congress should end special treatments such as lump-sum payment of FMF to an Israeli-controlled, interest-bearing bank account. The State department should develop a tracking system to determine which piece of devices go to which Israeli army units. Tracking these transfers is traditional for all various other countries, and also without a mechanism, the United claims cannot adequately vet for Leahy legislation violations. The joined States have to make public the yearly reports that Israel is compelled to submit to account because that its OSP; the public has actually a ideal to know how tax dollars room being spent, and victims of person rights abuses should be able to lodge complaints with the State Department because that Leahy regulation violations.End long-term, massive, taxpayer commitments.

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Decade-long MOUs on tools to Israel are antithetical to long-term U.S. Interests and make it daunting to ensure weapons room leveraged to attain these interests. The MOUs also make it harder come ensure the Israel faces after-effects for violating U.S. Laws. The existing MOU lasts v FY2028. Provided Israel’s progressed economy and U.S. Complicity in Israel’s human being rights violations, there is no factor to proceed this handout. After ~ the MOU expires, the unified States should require Israel to purchase weapons. And selling tools to Israel have to proceed only after vigorous end-use security is put right into place to ensure that these weapons are for legitimate self-defense fairly than for the perpetuation the Israeli occupation and colonization.