Biden should stop providing weapons to new Israeli gov't -ex-US ambassador

Ex-diplomat Daniel Kurtzer and negotiator Aaron David Miller call on the US to limit interaction with Ben-Gvir and Smotrich.

 The Iron Dome missile defense system in action. (photo credit: Israel Defense Ministry Spokesperson’s Office)
The Iron Dome missile defense system in action.
(photo credit: Israel Defense Ministry Spokesperson’s Office)

The United States should no longer provide offensive weapons or military assistance to Israel's incoming government for actions in Jerusalem and the West Bank, a former US ambassador to Israel and a former US State Department negotiator said in an opinion piece published in The Washington Post on Wednesday. 

Ex-diplomat Daniel Kurtzer and negotiator Aaron David Miller, both American Jews who have worked on the Arab-Israeli peace process, wrote in The Post that the US should continue to support Israel's "legitimate security needs," but should warn against efforts to change the status of the West Bank, Temple Mount and settlement outposts. 

US boycott of Ben-Gvir and Smotrich

With Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben-Gvir as national security minister and Religious Zionist Party leader Bezalel Smotrich as Finance Minister, Kurtzer and Miller expressed in The Post their fear that the incoming government will also foster increased settlement activity, settler violence, and loosened rules on the use of force by Israeli security forces. Such actions would ostensibly lead to the end of the two-state solution.

Consequently, the former US officials wrote that President Joe Biden's administration should set terms to Israel that it will not have any dealings with Ben-Gvir, Smotrich or their ministries, and that US support for international forums such as the UN and international courts have limits. 

Current US leadership has been apprehensive about the role of Otzma Yehudit and RZP in the incoming Israeli government. 

The Biden administration, at the beginning of coalition negotiations following the Israeli general election, called on Likud's Benjamin Netanyahu to appoint ministers that the US could work with, Ynet reported.

While the day after ballots closed US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides assured that he looked forward to working with the new government, the US State Department has also issued scathing rebukes of Ben-Gvir, after he attended a memorial for the late far-right Israeli politician Rabbi Meir Kahane.

Senator Robert Menendez, who has been extremely supportive of Israel during his political career, reportedly told Netanyahu that his partnership with an extremist leader could shatter support for Israel in the United States.
Menendez told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that he had related this to the former opposition leader in September, but Netanyahu did not receive the advice well. 

Palestinian role in the equation

Abraham Accords state should also be admonished by the US for their lack of interest in the situation of the Palestinians, which the two contend in The Post would undermine their relationship with Israel.

 Aviation ordonancemen stand next to JSOW (Joint Standoff Weapon) (left) and JDAM satellite guided bombs (right) aboard the USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier in the northern Gulf April 9, 2003 (credit: YVES HERMAN/REUTERS) Aviation ordonancemen stand next to JSOW (Joint Standoff Weapon) (left) and JDAM satellite guided bombs (right) aboard the USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier in the northern Gulf April 9, 2003 (credit: YVES HERMAN/REUTERS)

Biden must also address the Palestinian role in the dynamic, according to the op-ed. Kurtzer and Miller wrote that US support for the Palestinian leadership should depend on a willingness to hold democratic elections and curb violence and terrorism. They also warned that the new Israeli coalition's policies could trigger increased terrorism against Israelis and even another conflict with Gaza.

"To date, the United States has provided Israel $150 billion in bilateral assistance and missile defense funding."

Congressional Research Service

Past calls to end arms sales to Israel

US politicians have previously called on US administrations to end US arms sales to Israel.

In September 2021, US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez introduced an amendment to the US defense budget bill which would suspend the transfer of $735 million worth of guided missile conversion kits to Israel. Ocasio-Cortez argued that US munitions had been used to harm Palestinian civilians, which had to be prevented in the future.

In May of that year, Senator Bernie Sanders wanted to initiate a Senate vote to block the sale, but according to the Wall Street Journal dropped the effort when he had discovered the sale had already been finalized. 

Progressive Democrats also in September sought to block $1 billion in Iron Dome funding by refusing to vote on a broader bill in which the funding was included. This move was also led by Ocasio-Cortez, as well as Congresswoman  Rashida Tlaib.

The efforts came on the heels of the 2021 Operation Guardians of the Wall conflict against Hamas-ruled Gaza. 

The Biden Administration requested $3.3 Billion in foreign military financing for Israel in the 2022 financial year, according to the Congressional Research Service. This included funds for Iron Dome, David's Sling, and Arrow II and III. To date, the US has given Israel $150 billion in bilateral assistance and 

"To date, the United States has provided Israel $150 billion in bilateral assistance and missile defense funding," wrote the CRS in a February report.

Israel is also a purchaser of many US-made defense products. According to the CRS, the US has sold 50 F-35s to Israel in three separate contracts, funded with US aid.