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Leahy: Legislation does not target Israeli military

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The office of U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy denied an Israeli newspaper report that the Vermont Democrat is trying to cut off U.S. funds to several Israeli military units.

A spokesman for the senator told Politico that the Haaretz report “contains significant inaccuracies." Haaretz reported Monday that Leahy was lobbying for the U.S. to discontinue assistance to three elite Israeli army units in response to alleged human rights abuses in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

A Leahy spokesman, David Carle, disputed Haaretz’s characterization of the senator’s efforts.

“He has not proposed legislation to withhold U.S. aid to units of the Israel Defense Forces," Carle wrote in an e-mail to Politico. Rather, Carle wrote, the Leahy amendment "applies to U.S. aid to foreign security forces around the globe and is intended to be applied consistently across the spectrum of U.S. military aid abroad."

So-called Leahy amendments are annual amendments added to foreign appropriations legislation that cut off funding of foreign military units suspected of committing human rights violations.

Carle said the State Department is "responsible for evaluations and enforcement decisions, and over the years Senator Leahy has pressed for faithful and consistent application of the law."

Haaretz had reported that Leahy was pressing for a clause restricing allocations to the three Israeli units to be inserted into foreign appropriations legislation and that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak had met with the senator several weeks ago in Washington in a bid to persuade him to drop his effort. Leahy’s spokesman wrote in his e-mail that the senator does not discuss his private conversations with Israeli leaders.

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