WASHINGTON (JTA) — Americans for Peace Now is calling for concrete conditions on defense assistance to Israel, a first for a group that calls itself “pro-Israel” and is a member of the Jewish community’s foreign policy umbrella group, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
“If the U.S. wants to nurture peace and support international law, we must explicitly ensure that our taxpayer dollars serve our foreign policy objectives, that they do not go towards human rights violations, and that there are specific consequences if they do,” Hadar Susskind, the group’s CEO, said Wednesday in an op-ed in Time magazine. “If new settlements are legalized or existing ones expanded — these international law violations would come with specific U.S. aid reductions.”
Until recently, assistance to Israel has been been sacrosanct in the pro-Israel community and in Congress, even among Israel’s critics.
In an interview, Susskind said part of the group’s reasoning was to protect assistance to Israel in the wake of calls from some progressive Democrats during Israel’s conflict with Hamas last month to cut assistance outright.
Susskind said the Americans for Peace Now proposal would offer a path to lawmakers who were alarmed with the calls to cut aid but are no longer happy with unconditional assistance to Israel.
“I want every sentence to begin ‘I support aid to Israel’,” he said. “We need a middle ground between a blank check and cutting aid.”
Americans for Peace Now and another liberal Jewish Middle East policy group, J Street, said in April that they were in favor of a bill backed by progressive Democrats that would prohibit Israel from using U.S. funds to detain Palestinian minors, appropriate or destroy Palestinian property or forcibly move Palestinians, or annex Palestinian areas. The measure does not spell out specific consequences should Israel violate the restrictions.