​March 13, 2024, New York, NY – The March 11 letter to President Biden by U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and five other Democratic Senators concerning the longterm security of the State of Israel is as dangerous as it is short-sighted and counterproductive.

The American Jewish Congress shares the concerns expressed by the Senators about the humanitarian situation of the Palestinian civilians in Gaza. We have appreciated the efforts of President Biden’s administration to deliver aid in a multitude of ways and we encourage further cooperation between the U.S. and Israel to alleviate the suffering of the innocent civilians in the strip. However, the Senators’ call for restricting military aid to Israel on the grounds that Israel is hindering humanitarian aid is deeply problematic and not reflective of reality.

One of the biggest issues in aid delivery today is not the entrance of aid into Gaza, but the fact that aid distribution mechanisms are plainly inadequate due to Hamas’ control and its stealing of food and humanitarian aid from civilians. The Senators show, at best, a woeful disregard for the situation on the ground and create the impression that they blame the democratically elected government of a U.S. ally more than Hamas, the terror entity that is responsible for this situation.

To achieve America’s interests in protecting Israel and providing humanitarian aid to Gaza, U.S. policymakers should instead consider the following:

  • Discussions on security and military assistance to Israel should be decoupled from any bilateral issues the United States has with the Israeli government.
  • In order to eliminate the threat that Hamas poses to Israeli citizens, and liberate Gaza from terrorist control, the U.S. needs to support Israel in continuing its operations in the strip.
  • The use of hardball tactics with allies during war is an option that should not be taken lightly and should be approached with great care. In the recent past, calls to withhold military aid to partners in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan as they dealt with threats in Yemen (Houthis) and Afghanistan negatively impacted American strategic interests.
  • American diplomacy can manage relations with allies and partners short of drastic measures, such as the one suggested by the lawmakers in the letter to the president.

At this time, there are significant implications resulting from misguided boycotts of U.S. security aid to our ally. Fundamental U.S. interests require ongoing support for the security of Israel, the Middle East’s only democracy with whom millions of Jewish American share an intimate bond of identity and history. When it comes to such a complex and volatile situation, it is our hope that reason will prevail over reactionary politics, and that history will triumph over histrionics. 

© 2020 American Jewish Congress.