Leading US democrat suggests conditions to US Israel military aid, emblematic of party polarisation

Leading US democrat suggests conditions to US Israel military aid, emblematic of party polarisation
The statement comes as Democratic House Leader Hakeem Jefferies reaffirmed military support for Israel during a visit to the country.
3 min read
08 August, 2023
Senator Chris Van Hollen described the situation in the occupied West Bank as "alarming" [Getty]

A leading US Democratic has suggested that the US should reassess military aid to Israel if it continues its current policies in the occupied West Bank, where settlement constructions have increased amid a wave of settler violence.

Chris Van Hollen, a senator representing Maryland, also warned that any inaction on the part of the US would undermine the credibility of its foreign policy and international reputation.

Speaking with the Guardian newspaper, Hollen said that "we should make it clear, for example, that US military assistance is not to be used to aid and abet settler violence, and not to be used for the purpose of expanding settlements or protecting those who are erecting illegal outposts."

Violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank has escalated recently, with the latest wave of settler attacks killing 19-year-old Palestinian Qusai Jamal Maatan last week. The incident was dubbed as a "terror attack" and condemned by the US State Department.

Israel's National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir praised the settler suspect in the killing, stating that "anyone who defends himself against rock-throwing should get a medal of honour."

The violence follows initiatives by Israeli government officials to extend Israeli authority over the occupied West Bank.

This includes Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich's recent plans to demolish Palestinian buildings in zones A and B of the territory, which are run by the Palestinian Authority.

The recent actions prompted Hollen to call the situation "alarming", stating that the far-right government of Benjamin Netanyahu was "determined to totally take over the West Bank".

Hollen added that the Israeli military was "looking the other way or sometimes cooperating with settlers in arracks on Palestinian villages and towns".

He also warned that what was happening on the ground "in real time is undermining the vision laid out by President Biden himself. This is a moment to re-examine American policy and make determinations regarding the way forward."

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The comments come as Democratic politicians visited Israel on a trip sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation, meeting with Netanyahu, voicing concern to him about the recent settler violence in the occupied West Bank.  

During a press conference House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries said that the settler attacks could "complicate efforts to achieve peace in the region" while mentioning that the attacks were raised in a meeting between the two.

Netanyahu's office omitted any discussion of settler violence or the judicial overhaul in the published readout.

However, Jefferies also stated US military aid to Israel should not be affected by the judicial overhaul, saying there was a "need to make sure that we maintain Israel's qualitative military edge," indicating that there shouldn't be conditions on aid to Israel.

He stated that the party would "continue to stand behind that ironclad commitment to provide for Israel's safety and security."

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The statement from Jefferies and comments from Hollen are part of a growing split within the Democratic party, which has seen more members criticise Israel over its judicial overhaul, and treatment of Palestinians.

This includes last month's comments from Democratic Representative Pramila Jayapal who stated that the Israeli government has "engaged in discriminatory and outright racist policies", and that they should be condemned.