WASHINGTON, Feb. 21 (JTA) – The State Department is reviewing Israel’s use of U.S. weapons in the ongoing violence with the Palestinians.
“It’s an issue that has been raised at different times over the years,” a State Department spokesman said Tuesday. “It’s being taken very seriously, but it is a very complicated issue.”
The review has been under way for years, but the issue has come to the fore recently because of the Israeli- Palestinian fighting that has now lasted for five months.
Groups that object to Israel’s handling of the violent Palestinian uprising – such as Amnesty International and the Arab American Institute – have renewed their calls for a review, claiming that Israel’s use of American- supplied weapons violates U.S. law.
Under the U.S. Arms Export Control Act, American weapons sold to other countries can be used only for internal security, self-defense, participation in regional efforts supported by international organizations, or public works projects.
“This law is honored more in breach than in observance,” said the president of the Arab American Institute, James Zogby. “We believe, over the years, Israel has been consistently violating this.”
Zogby has been urging State Department officials to actively review Israel’s actions for months, and has been told each time that a review is ongoing.
State Department officials say they are concerned about Israel’s use of heavy military equipment in highly populated areas and the targeted killings of Palestinian militants.
Israeli Embassy spokesman Mark Regev defended Israel’s use of U.S. weapons in the ongoing violence.
“Israel is entitled to use weapons for purposes of self-defense, and counterterrorism is precisely that,” Regev said.
Zogby said he has been assured that the State Department is concerned about the issue, but hopes the review will be expedited.
“My sense is that it is a political issue and they are not moving as expeditiously as I believe the law requires and principles require,” he said. “It does not send the appropriate message to the region.”