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Netanyahu opposes US plan to cut off aid to Israeli military unit ProPublica

Netanyahu opposes US plan to cut off aid to Israeli military unit ProPublica

 


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Israeli leaders fiercely oppose U.S. plans to withhold U.S. aid to an Israeli unit accused of human rights abuses.

Axios and Israeli media reported over the weekend that Secretary of State Antony Blinken intended to bar U.S. support for Israel's Netzah Yehuda unit, the country's all-male ultra-Orthodox battalion at the center of several controversies in the West Bank that go back several years. . Netzah Yehuda has been repeatedly accused of shooting and assaulting civilians, including in a 2022 case in which several commanders handcuffed, gagged and left for dead an elderly Palestinian-American man in the Israeli West Bank.

No sanctions should be imposed on the Israeli army! Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. The intention to impose a sanction on an IDF unit is the height of absurdity and low morale. Blinken told reporters traveling with him to Europe on Saturday that he would make a formal announcement about his decision in the coming days.

The public dispute between Israel and the United States follows a ProPublica article published Wednesday that revealed that Blinken failed to act for months after a special State Department committee recommended that he disqualify several military units and Israeli police officers from American aid after examining the allegations that they had committed acts. flagrant violations, including extrajudicial executions and rape.

So far, the State Department has never blocked an Israeli military unit from receiving aid, which would make Blinkens' decision a significant shift in U.S. foreign policy. This is a very important law, he told reporters this weekend, and it's a law that we enforce across the board.

Neither Blinken nor department spokespeople have addressed the reason for the delay since the forum's first recommendation for him to act, which was sent to Blinken in December, according to a person familiar with the memo. This process requires careful and comprehensive review, a State Department spokesperson told ProPublica last week.

Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid and war cabinet member Benny Gantz are also pressuring the United States to change course. Gantz reportedly spoke personally with Blinken on Sunday and asked him to reconsider his decision.

On Saturday, the House voted 366-58 to approve an additional $26 billion in aid to Israel after months of delay. The Senate will likely consider the bill, a package that also includes aid to Ukraine, early next week before sending it to President Joe Biden for his signature.

After the revelation last week that Blinken had been urged by his own agency to impose sanctions, human rights and Arab groups pressed for results. On Thursday, Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., told ProPublica he was also seeking answers from the State Department. This report that the administration is standing idly by in the face of known violations is deeply troubling and, if true, would undermine the credibility of America's commitment to uniformly enforcing our human rights laws and impartial, Van Hollen said in a statement. .

The State Department panel that initially made these recommendations is known as the Israel Leahy Vetting Forum. The panel, made up of Middle East and human rights experts, is named after former Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the lead author of a 1997 law that required U.S. United to withhold U.S.-funded weapons and training from all foreigners. military or law enforcement units that are credibly accused of gross human rights violations. Unlike individual sanctions which are at the discretion of the president, implementation of the Leahy laws is intended to be a requirement.

A State Department spokesperson declined to comment on the status of other cases involving possible wrongdoing by Israeli units or to confirm the content of Blinkens' upcoming announcement. Israeli newspaper Haaretz also reported Saturday that Netzah Yehuda is the unit it intends to ban from assisting.

Blinken sticks to staff recommendations to sanction Israeli military units linked to killings or rapes

The Israeli military said it had not yet been informed of Blinken's decision regarding Netzah Yehuda, who is currently operating in Gaza as part of the government's campaign to eradicate Hamas following the October 7 terrorist attacks. The Israeli military is not aware of the problem, the army said. the spokesperson said, according to Reuters. If a decision is made on this matter, it will be reviewed. The Israeli government has repeatedly asserted that it has its own independent judicial system to hold those responsible for human rights violations accountable.

This is a welcome first step, although very, very late, said Charles Blaha, former director of the State Department's Office of Security and Human Rights and a former participant in the Israeli monitoring forum. . There are dozens of other Israeli security force units that have committed egregious human rights violations and should not receive U.S. security assistance.

It is unclear whether Netzah Yehudah is currently receiving security assistance from the United States, other Middle East experts noted. Some said Blinken's determination, while symbolically important, should have been made earlier and without having to overcome so many bureaucratic hurdles that don't apply to other countries. Critics have long denounced what they see as a double standard toward Israel, which receives billions more in U.S. military funding than any other country.

We send weapons to the IDF daily for what is clear [human rights violations] in Gaza, said Josh Paul, former director of the State Department's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs and a member of the monitoring forum. It is the impression of an action without any real impact.

Do you have any information on U.S. aid to countries accused of human rights violations? Contact Brett Murphy at [email protected] or by Signal at 508-523-5195.

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