February 26, 2024

Senators say ‘BFD’ presidential memo will lead to Israeli aid cuts. The White House has a different story

Some Democratic senators celebrated this weekend after President Joe Biden launched what they’re calling a “historic” memo on foreign aid requirements, hailing it as a step in direction of doubtlessly conditioning navy aid to Israel.

But regardless of these celebrations, the White House denied that it could have an effect on billions of {dollars} of navy aid slated for the longtime US ally.

The Biden administration launched a memorandum on Thursday night describing situations international locations should meet to obtain aid from the United States. The memo outlines present legal guidelines stating that international locations receiving US aid should comply with humanitarian tips, akin to offering “credible and reliable written assurances” that they’re complying with worldwide regulation and humanitarian requirements.

The memo comes at a time of elevated scrutiny of navy aid to Israel, because the longtime US ally is poised to launch an offensive into the southern metropolis of Rafah, the place half of Gaza’s pre-war inhabitants is now sheltering from the warfare. Hundreds of hundreds reside in tent encampments and overcrowded UN shelters within the metropolis, and aid companies have warned of a “bloodbath” if it goes forward. Mr Biden issued a uncommon public criticism of the plan, saying it mustn’t happen with out a “credible and executable” plan to defend civilians.

“As Joe Biden would say, this is a BFD,” Senator Chris Van Hollen stated of the memo on X. The Maryland Democrat is one in every of solely a handful of Senators who support a ceasefire in Gaza.

When requested by The Independent if he believes this memo might have sensible implications for US aid to Israel within the close to future, Senator Peter Welch of Vermont stated, “I do.” He has additionally known as for an indefinite ceasefire within the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts additionally praised the memo as “historic” to The Independent.

“I’ve been working with the @WhiteHouse & Senators led by @ChrisVanHollen to improve protection of civilians & hold the Israeli government accountable for upholding international law,” Ms Warren additionally stated on X, quote-tweeting a publish in regards to the President’s memo. “U.S. military aid cannot be a blank check for Prime Minister Netanyahu and his right-wing government to kill tens of thousands of Palestinians.”

But the memo is probably not as consequential as some Senators say. The White House says the memo accommodates no adjustments to requirements for aid.

“There are no new standards in this memo,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Friday. “We are not imposing new standards for military aid.”

“Instead, we are spelling out publicly the existing standards by international law, including the law of armed conflict,” Ms Jean-Pierre continued.

The memo dropped the identical night time that Mr Biden stated in a press conference that Israel’s navy operations in Gaza have been “over the top.”

Many of those pre-existing overseas aid requirements come from the Leahy Law — which refers to two statutory provisions and is known as after former senator Patrick Leahy. It prevents the federal authorities from utilizing funds to help overseas governments when there may be credible info they’ve dedicated “gross violations of human rights.”

The memo was launched simply a little over two weeks after the International Criminal Court discovered it was “plausible” that Israel was committing genocide towards the Palestinians in Gaza.

It comes as 19 senators, led by Mr Van Hollen, banded collectively in a name for an modification to a invoice that would offer aid to Ukraine, Israel and allies within the Indo-Pacific.

“Because we’ve now accomplished our goal in law, we will not offer that amendment,” Mr Van Hollen instructed The Independent when requested in regards to the memo.

Several Senate Democrats have praised the memo.

Mr Welch instructed The Independent the memo is “a demonstration Congress is watching” and marks a “significant change in sentiment.”

When requested how the memo could possibly be virtually enforced within the case of Israel, Senator Chris Murphy — one of many authentic negotiators of the bipartisan immigration bill — wasn’t in a position to reply.

“It’s an important question, and I should probably hear from the administration on how they plan to implement the letter before I answer that publicly,” Mr Murphy, one of many 19 Democrats who initially proposed the modification, instructed The Independent on Friday night.

But White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre instructed reporters the White House briefed Israelis on the overseas aid necessities reiterated within the memo.

“[The Israelis] reiterated their willingness to provide these types of assurances,” she stated.

Meanwhile, Israel’s navy operations in Gaza have killed greater than 27,000 Palestinians, in accordance to the Gaza Health Ministry. The four-month-long offensive started after Hamas militants launched a shock assault on Israel on 7 October. Hamas militants killed 1,200 folks in Israel and kidnapped some 250 folks and took them again to Gaza.

But with Ms Jean-Pierre’s notice that this memo consists of no new requirements and a lack of readability round the way it will be enforced, some are uncertain of its true impression on aid to Israel.

“It does not apply to Israel because, according to the [Biden] administration, Israel is acting consistent with US policy,” Senator Bernie Sanders instructed The Independent when asked about the memo.

On Sunday, Mr Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel prepares a navy operation in Rafah in Gaza. A White House readout stated that Mr Biden cautioned “that a military operation in Rafah should not proceed without a credible and executable plan for ensuring the safety of and support for the more than one million people sheltering there.”

US support for Israel’s warfare in Gaza has brought on a cut up throughout the Democratic Party between extra conventional Democrats who support Israel and extra progressive Democrats who’ve vocally criticised each Mr Netanyahu and Mr Biden.