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Americans for Peace Now urges conditioning of military aid to Israel

Call is the first for an American Jewish group that defines itself as ‘pro-Israel’

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks to reporters at Israel's Nevatim air base Monday, with an Israeli F-35 fighter jet in the background, on Monday, April 12, 2021 in Israel. (AP Photo/Robert Burns)
Illustrative: US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks to reporters at Israel's Nevatim air base Monday, with an Israeli F-35 fighter jet in the background, on Monday, April 12, 2021 in Israel. (AP Photo/Robert Burns)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Americans for Peace Now is calling for concrete conditions on defense assistance to Israel, a first for a group that calls itself “pro-Israel” and is a member of the Jewish community’s foreign policy umbrella group, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

“If the US wants to nurture peace and support international law, we must explicitly ensure that our taxpayer dollars serve our foreign policy objectives, that they do not go towards human rights violations, and that there are specific consequences if they do,” Hadar Susskind, the group’s CEO, said Wednesday in an op-ed in Time magazine. “If new settlements are legalized or existing ones expanded — these international law violations would come with specific US aid reductions.”

Until recently, assistance to Israel has been sacrosanct in the pro-Israel community and in Congress, even among Israel’s critics.

In an interview, Susskind said part of the group’s reasoning was to protect assistance to Israel in the wake of calls from some progressive Democrats during Israel’s conflict with Hamas last month to cut assistance outright.

Susskind said the Americans for Peace Now proposal would offer a path to lawmakers who were alarmed with the calls to cut aid but are no longer happy with unconditional assistance to Israel.

“I want every sentence to begin ‘I support aid to Israel’,” he said. “We need a middle ground between a blank check and cutting aid.”

Hadar Susskind, then director of Bend the Arc Jewish Action, is arrested during an act of civil disobedience on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House in Washington, May 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Americans for Peace Now and another liberal Jewish Middle East policy group, J Street, said in April that they were in favor of a bill backed by progressive Democrats that would prohibit Israel from using US funds to detain Palestinian minors, appropriate or destroy Palestinian property or forcibly move Palestinians, or annex Palestinian areas. The measure does not spell out specific consequences should Israel violate the restrictions.

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