US lawmakers from the Democratic Party have signed a letter calling for the $3.8 billion annual aid given to Israel to be made conditional on the Zionist state ending its violation of Palestinian human rights. With its call to adopt punitive measures, the letter spearheaded by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez goes further than a previous letter that had the backing of over 190 Democrats and which included mild criticism of Israel over its planned annexation of the West Bank.
"Should the Israeli government continue down this path," said the Ocasio-Cortez letter, "we will work to ensure non-recognition of annexed territories as well as pursue legislation that conditions the $3.8 billion in US military funding to Israel." They suggested strongly that US taxpayers' money should not go towards support for war crimes in Palestine, of which Israel stands accused.
"We will include human rights conditions and the withholding of funds for the offshore procurement of Israeli weapons equal to or exceeding the amount the Israeli government spends annually to fund settlements, as well as the policies and practices that sustain and enable them."
The letter was addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Warning against annexation of huge swathes of the occupied West Bank, the letter added that Israel's unilateral move "would actively harm prospects for a future in which all Israelis and Palestinians can live with full equality, human rights and dignity, and would lay the groundwork for Israel becoming an apartheid state, as your predecessor John Kerry warned in 2014."
Former would-be presidential candidate for the Democratic Party, Bernie Sanders, is one of the lawmakers who have signed the letter. The Vermont Senator is an outspoken critic of Israel and was one of the first to say that he would use the leverage of America's generous aid against the occupying state.
Moreover, a Congressional source involved in discussions over the letter told Israeli newspaper Haaretz, "American taxpayers shouldn't be enabling violations of human rights anywhere, and Israel should be no exception."
Israel's main lobby group in the US, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), denounced the letter in a series of tweets. "The letter rejects President Obama's security assistance commitment to Israel," AIPAC wrote. "Congress must continue to fully implement the Obama-Biden" policy on security aid to Israel. An appeal to former President Barack Obama and the current Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden, is seen as a strategy to highlight disunity within the Party over Israel that is likely to favour Republicans in November's US election.
A group calling itself Democratic Majority for Israel, which is trying to strengthen support for the Zionist state within the Democratic Party, also denounced the letter and is said to be lobbying members of Congress against signing it. The letter is "bad policy and bad politics" it claimed.
Nevertheless, progressive groups opposing the Israeli occupation IfNotNow, Arab American Institute, Jewish Voice for Peace Action and several others have thrown their support behind Ocasio-Cortez's letter.