In-Depth: Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Ted Deutch (D-FL) introduced this legislation to affirm the bipartisan support for the “unshakeable” U.S.-Israel relationship and Israel’s right to defend itself and wrote in a joint press release:
“As recent events have shown, new threats to Israel are constantly evolving. Israel has no choice but to adapt to these changes, and to do so, it is going to need continued and expanded assistance from and cooperation with the United States. Our two nations share a long, close and strategic relationship based on mutual interests and mutual ideals. Our bill recognizes the need for increased assistance to Israel to defend herself, protect Israeli citizens from current threats, and address new and emerging threats to Israel and our mutual interests. With this bill, Congress has a unique opportunity to advance our own national security interests, help defend and increase cooperation with one of our closest allies, and get back in the business of authorizing foreign assistance. We look forward to working with our colleagues to pass the United States-Israel Security Assistance Act with overwhelming bipartisan support.”
After this bill’s passage in the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen added:
“Iran’s brazen antagonism and aggression toward Israel have taken an alarming turn for the worse. This rogue regime is attempting to encircle the democratic Jewish state and provoke a direct confrontation. Iranian groups have joined Hezbollah, the regime’s proxy and U.S. designated foreign terrorist organization, and are amassing on Israel’s borders. This represents a very real and dangerous threat to our close friend and ally, and that is precisely why Ted and I authored the United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act – to ensure that Israel will always have what it needs to secure and defend itself and its citizens from all threats. Our bill provides Israel with at least some peace of mind, knowing that the United States will continue to stand beside the Jewish state and that we will continue to seek ways to strengthen our bilateral relationship. I thank my colleagues for supporting this important bill and it is my hope the Senate can take action on this measure so we can get it to the president’s desk as soon as possible.”
Rep. Deutch added that current threats make it especially important to ensure that Israel can defend itself:
“The US-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act codifies the 2016 US-Israel Memorandum of Understanding that provides historic security assistance to our ally. It also expands cooperation on cyber, space, and joint development assistance projects In light of Hezbollah gains in Lebanon, escalating Iranian threats in Syria, violent attempts by Hamas to breach Israel’s border from Gaza -- this bill will help ensure Israel has the ability to defend itself against these growing threats.”
Stephen Zunes, an assistant professor in the Department of Politics at the University of San Francisco, contends that U.S. aid to Israel may be hindering the peace process:
“Aid to Israel, particularly in recent years, has been justified as necessary to support the peace process. However, as noted authority on negotiations Roger Fisher has observed, one must apply both a carrot and a stick to convince a party to make the compromises necessary in diplomacy. Using either one alone denies the party you are trying to influence any incentive. Yet, the United States has used the carrot with Israel almost exclusively. With repeated public pronouncements by U.S. officials that aid to Israel is unconditional, Israel has no incentive to make the necessary concessions that could lead to ace, or even to end its human-rights abuses and violations of international law. As former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once told a colleague, ‘I ask Rabin to make concessions, and he says he can't because Israel is weak. So I give him more arms, and he say he doesn't need to make concessions because Israel is strong.’ This stands in contrast to the frequent use of aid as leverage to Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and other Arab states, as well as the Palestinian authority…. Arguably, the large amounts of U.S. aid to the Israeli government have not been as beneficial to Israel as many would suspect. [M]ilitary aid… ends up costing Israel two to three times that amount in training, staffing and maintenance, procurement of spare parts, and other related expenditures. The overall impact is to increase Israeli economic and military dependency on the United States and to drain Israel's fragile economy, taking money away from Israel's once-generous social welfare system.”
This bill passed the House Committee on Foreign Affairs by unanimous consent with the support of 293 bipartisan cosponsors, including 170 Republicans and 123 Democrats. AIPAC made this bill one of its major legislative priorities.
The U.S.’ ability to ability to meet one provision of this bill, the prioritization of delivering precision-guided munitions to Israel, is questionable. According to a House staffer interviewed by Al-Monitor in May 2018, the U.S. currently doesn’t have enough precision-guided munitions stockpiled for itself in the case of an emergency.
Of Note: In September 2016, the U.S. and Israel signed a memorandum of understanding granting Israel $3.8 billion annually from 2018-2028. After the memorandum was signed, Republican senators said they’d seek to overturn part of it so Israel could receive even more aid.
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: U.S. Navy via Flickr / Public Domain)