WASHINGTON — Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris told the Biden campaign’s Jewish supporters Wednesday night that a Biden administration would not place conditions on American aid to Israel.
Her comments come as a growing number of Democratic elected officials push for conditioning the $3.8 billion in annual American military assistance amid Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s push to annex parts of the West Bank.
“Joe has made it clear he will not tie security assistance to any political decisions that Israel makes and I couldn’t agree more,” the California senator said during a Zoom call orchestrated by the campaign with Jewish donors.
“The Biden-Harris administration will sustain our unbreakable commitment to Israel’s security, including the unprecedented military and intelligence cooperation pioneered during the Obama-Biden administration and the guarantee that Israel will always maintain its qualitative military edge,” Harris added.
During the Democratic primary season, several top tier candidates said they were prepared to condition aid, including Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Over the summer, Capitol Hill Democrats increasingly expressed support for restricting aid from being used on any annexation moves.
In July, Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen introduced an amendment to the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to block US funds going toward annexation. The motion garnered 12 other co-sponsors, including Warren, Sanders and Virginia Senator Tim Kaine.
House lawmakers vying to chair the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee have also endorsed aid restrictions, including California Congressman Brad Sherman and Texas Congressman Joaquín Castro.
Netanyahu has vowed to annex some 30 percent of the West Bank including all of the settlements and the entire Jordan Valley — territory that the Trump White House allocated to Israel under its Mideast peace plan, which conditionally envisions a Palestinian state in the remaining territory with land swaps.
The Israel-UAE agreement to normalize relations, announced on August 13, appeared to delay those plans, perhaps indefinitely, as suspending annexation was a core requirement from the UAE. But Netanyahu has insisted he will follow through with his annexation plans regardless.
“There is no change to our plans to apply sovereignty over Judea and Samaria, in coordination with the US,” he said. “I remain committed to that.”
After the normalization announcement, US President Donald Trump and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said annexation was “off the table,” but not indefinitely. The US helped broker the deal and Trump was the first to announce it.
During the Wednesday call, Harris, who was joined by her Jewish husband Douglas Emhoff, pledged the Biden administration would return to the Iran nuclear deal, the JCPOA, while also seeking to fortify it.
“Our administration will hold Iran’s government accountable and rejoin a diplomatic agreement if Iran comes back into compliance,” she said. “And we will work with our allies, of course, to strengthen and extend the Iran deal and push back against Iran’s other destabilizing actions.”