The American Jewish Congress expresses its disappointment with the decision of a group of 13 Senate Democrats – led by Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and two others – to file an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This amendment attempts to prohibit Israel from using U.S. security assistance funds for the annexation of territory, an act already prohibited by an agreement made between Israel and the U.S. in 2016.

Recognizing that Israel’s ability to defend itself against multiple threats in a hostile Middle East is of paramount importance and is deserving of financial assistance, the Obama Administration enshrined this principle in a Memorandum of Understanding negotiated between the two countries, although there was disagreement on some of Israel’s political and policy initiatives. The Memorandum clearly requires that security aid be strictly earmarked for internal security and legitimate self-defense purposes, and Israel has consistently adhered to those requirements. 

Despite the Memorandum’s requirements and Israel’s compliance, the proposed NDAA amendment incorrectly implies that the security aid can, indeed, be freely used for annexation. Senator Van Hollen himself has confirmed that “No U.S. funds are currently being expended on unilateral annexation, and this amendment would ensure that remains the case[.]”  

Israeli authorities have never stated that the U.S. security aid would be used to fund annexation. The attempt to preemptively criticize Israel with no evidence of Israeli plans to use such funds for actions outside the scope of the Memorandum of Understanding can have grave consequences for Israel’s security.  

An important effect of the Memorandum of Understanding is that it demonstrates to Israel’s adversaries that U.S. support for Israel endures, regardless of policy disagreements between them. The NDAA amendment risks emboldening Israel’s enemies and sends a dangerous message – that Congress may be willing to baselessly politicize aid to Israel. This would weaken Israel’s security and ultimately jeopardize Israel’s position as a bulwark against the expansion of threats posed by dangerous actors in the region.

The American Jewish Congress remains committed to engaging with all Members of Congress and working towards guaranteeing Israel’s security and strengthening the U.S.-Israel alliance.   

© 2020 American Jewish Congress.