Former American diplomats have advised the administration of President Joe Biden to no longer provide offensive weapons or military assistance to Israel’s incoming government, arguing that it contains more extremist elements which further threaten the situation in the Occupied West Bank.
In an opinion article published in The Washington Post today, the former US ambassador to Israel, Daniel Kurtzer, and former US State Department negotiator, Aaron David Miller, stated that, while Washington should continue to support Tel Aviv’s “legitimate security needs”, it should oppose efforts to change the status of the West Bank, Al-Aqsa compound and illegal settlement outposts.
Following the victory of Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, at the general election early this month, he is serving his sixth term after returning from over a year out of office. This time, though, he has further allied with the extremist elements, having campaigned on the promise to return to a “full right” government with the support of the far-right Religious Zionism bloc.
As a result, Otzma Yehudit [Jewish Power] leader, Itamar Ben-Gvir, has been appointed as the government’s National Security Minister, and Religious Zionist Party leader, Bezalel Smotrich, has been made Finance Minister. In the article, Kurtzer and Miller expressed their fear that the incoming government will, therefore, mean an increase in settlement activity, settler violence, and the allowance of Israeli security forces’ use of force.
The former diplomats – both of whom are American Jews and have worked on the Palestinian-Israeli ‘peace process’ – urged the Biden administration to set terms to Israel that it will refuse to deal with Ben-Gvir, Smotrich or their ministries, and that US support for international forums such as the UN and international courts have limits.
After the election results, the Biden administration called on Netanyahu to distance himself and his party from far-right extremists, and to appoint only ministers that Washington could work with. The US State Department also condemned Ben-Gvir for attending a memorial for the late far-right Israeli politician and terrorist leader, Rabbi Meir Kahane.
Senator Robert Menendez – an ardent supporter of Israel and US military aid to it – is also reported to have told Netanyahu back in September that his partnership with an extremist leader could shatter support for Israel in the US, which the returned leader did not receive well.
In their article, Kurtzer and Miller stressed to the Biden administration that it should also not neglect the Palestinian side and leadership, saying that efforts should focus on the encouragement of democratic elections and the calming of violence rather than allowing the new extremist Israeli coalition to implement policies that could result in further violence between Jewish settlers and Palestinians.
The two former diplomats concluded by advising the administration to “inform the Abraham Accord countries — the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan — that their evident lack of interest in the plight of the Palestinians will undermine their relationship with Israel and damage their credibility in advancing other regional objectives with the United States.”
According to the Congressional Research Service, the US has reportedly provided Israel with $150 billion in bilateral assistance and missile defence funding, with the Biden administration having requested $3.3 billion in foreign military financing for Israel in the 2022 financial year.
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