Is Patrick Leahy trying to cut aid to the IDF?

Last Tuesday a Haaretz article reported that Sen. Patrick Leahy “seeks to cut aid to elite IDF units operating in West Bank and Gaza”:

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy is promoting a bill to suspend U.S. assistance to three elite Israel Defense Forces units, alleging they are involved in human rights violations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Leahy, a Democrat and senior member of the U.S. Senate, wants assistance withheld from the Israel Navy’s Shayetet 13 unit, the undercover Duvdevan unit and the Israel Air Force’s Shaldag unit.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak, a long-time friend of Leahy’s, met with him in Washington two weeks ago to try to persuade him to withdraw the initiative.

According to a senior Israeli official in Jerusalem, Leahy began promoting the legislation in recent months after he was approached by voters in his home state of Vermont.

That same day Ben Smith from Politico posted part of an email from a spokesperson for Leahy who noted that:

However, the Haaretz article contains significant inaccuracies. He has not proposed legislation to withhold U.S. aid to units of the Israel Defense Forces.

By way of general background about the Leahy Amendment, the law applies to U.S. aid to foreign security forces around the globe and is intended to be applied consistently across the spectrum of U.S. military aid abroad. Under the law the State Department is responsible for evaluations and enforcement decisions and over the years Senator Leahy has pressed for faithful and consistent application of the law.

Concludes Smith:

That is: The law isn’t aimed at Israel, but Leahy won’t shrink from having it enforced against Israeli troops.

Whatever the facts behind the story and however this plays out, Leahy’s official response to the article is not surprising. But his initiative proves that there are still some congress members that are willing to resist the powerful “Israel Lobby” especially when Israel continues to defy the U.S despite it’s generous annual aid.

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Jasmin Ramsey

Jasmin Ramsey is an Iranian-born journalist based in Washington, DC.

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