US President Joe Biden issued a memorandum on Thursday requiring allies who receive military aid from the US to provide “credible and reliable written assurances” of their adherence to international law including international human rights law.
For the first time, the new policy also requires the State Department and the Department of Defense to issue periodic reports on whether allies are meeting the requirements.
US departments and agencies will “engage with foreign partners to share and learn best practices for reducing the likelihood of and responding to civilian casualties, including through appropriate training and assistance,” the memo said.
“In order to effectively implement certain obligations under United States law, the United States must maintain an appropriate understanding of foreign partners’ adherence to international law, including, as applicable, international human rights law and international humanitarian law.”
Countries receiving military aid from the US were given 180 days to provide the required assurances, the memo said, but those, like Israel, who were engaged in active conflicts had only 45 days.
The memo did not mention specific countries who would be held up to the new standard, but came amid increasing calls in the US to condition aid to Israel due to concerns over its military operations in Gaza which were triggered by the October 7 attacks, in which Hamas terrorists murdered some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapped 253.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre clarified on Thursday that the memo “emerged in part because of our discussions with members of Congress,” all but confirming that the move was a result of pressure from progressive lawmakers demanding conditions on aid to Israel amid fears that American weapons were being used in the killing of civilians in Gaza.
Asked whether aid to Israel would be cut off immediately if Jerusalem did not provide written assurances within 45 days as the memo dictates, Jean-Pierre responded that Israel was briefed on the new policy and had “reiterated their willingness to provide these types of assurances.”
US security aid recipients are already required to ensure that weapons are not used to commit human rights abuses.
The memo was criticized by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Friday, which called it “an unnecessary directive that imposes new requirements on Israel and our other most important allies.”
“As Israel continues its battle against Hamas, Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies, our focus should be on support for our ally,” AIPAC said.
“Israel is a moral army fighting in an unprecedented, complex urban battlefield in compliance with international law. It is confronting a terror group that deliberately and despicably uses innocent Palestinians as human shields, hides among and below civilians, and continues to hold 136 hostages, including eight Americans,” the pro-Israel lobby group added.
The White House has not hidden its dissatisfaction with Israel over civilian casualties in Gaza and the humanitarian situation there throughout the war. However, it has recently adopted a harsher tone, with the memo issued shortly after Biden said during a conference that Israel’s conduct in the Strip has been “over the top.” On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in Tel Aviv that Israel cannot use the October 7 attack as “a license to dehumanize others,” in the most stinging rebuke to date from the administration.
The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza claims that more than 27,200 Palestinians have been killed by Israel in the war, but the number cannot be independently verified as it is believed to include both Hamas terrorists and civilians, some as a consequence of the terror group’s own rocket misfires.
The IDF says it has killed over 10,000 terrorists in Gaza, in addition to some 1,000 who were killed inside Israel on and immediately following October 7.