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US should end aid to Israel, say former ambassadors

Two former US ambassadors to Israel have called for an end to Washington’s aid to the occupation state. Speaking to New York Times columnist Nick Kristof, one of the more influential in liberal circles, former ambassadors Dan Kurtzer and Martin Indyk said that it is time to end the $3.8 billion given every year to Israel because it longer serves US interests.

“Israel’s economy is strong enough that it does not need aid; security assistance distorts Israel’s economy and creates a false sense of dependency,” Kurtzer said in an email to Kristof. “Aid provides the US with no leverage or influence over Israeli decisions to use force; because we sit by quietly while Israel pursues policies we oppose, we are seen as ‘enablers’ of Israel’s occupation.”

Kurtzer added that, “US aid provides a multibillion-dollar cushion that allows Israel to avoid hard choices of where to spend its own money and thus allows Israel to spend more money on policies we oppose, such as settlements.”

Martin Indyk, who served twice as America’s ambassador to Israel, also favoured ending aid. “Israel can afford it, and it would be healthier for the relationship if Israel stood on its own two feet,” he told Kristof.

The comments by the former envoys come at a critical moment in US-Israel relations, which are the worst they’ve been in recent memory. US President Joe Biden has been highly critical of the far-right government of Benjamin Netanyahu because of the latter’s plan to overhaul the Israeli judiciary, viewed widely as the last line of defence against authoritarianism in the country.

A combination of the fading possibility of the two-state solution and the rise of far-right politicians like the ultranationalist settlers Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir — a disciple of US-born Israeli terrorist and Jewish supremacist Baruch Goldstein, who attacked Palestinian worshippers at prayer in Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque in 1994, killing 29 and injuring 150 others — has sparked a heated debate about relations between the US and Israel.

Commonly cited clichés used to justify US support for Israel such as the claim that it is “the only democracy in the Middle East”; “shared values” between the two countries; and the occupation state being a “strategic ally” of Washington have come under intense scrutiny of late.

The $3.8 billion in annual aid to Israel is more than 10 times as much as the US sends to far more populous nations. The issue will be up for review in 2028.

“There’s a serious conversation that should be had ahead of this next memorandum of understanding about how best to use $40 billion in US tax dollars,” Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of advocacy group J Street, is reported saying in the NYT. “Yet instead of a serious national security discussion, you’re likely to get a toxic mix of partisan brawling and political pandering.” He added that this discussion is likely to be interesting given that Israel is increasingly becoming a bi-partisan issue in Washington.

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