J Street Calls on Biden Administration to Comply With NSM-20 Requirements

March 26, 2024

The Biden Administration has indicated it has received “credible and reliable” assurances from the Israeli government – under National Security Memorandum 20 (NSM-20) – that it is using US arms in full compliance with relevant international law and is not impeding the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

With deep pain and regret, J Street acknowledges there have been a significant number of concerning, credible reports and allegations which call into question the reliability of the Netanyahu government’s assurances.

Elected officials, intergovernmental organizations, international courts, Israeli and international human rights monitors – and administration officials themselves – continue to raise serious concerns over the Netanyahu government’s conduct of the war in Gaza, unlawful settlement expansion in the West Bank, and restrictions on US-supported humanitarian assistance.

The Biden Administration itself is engaged in airdrops and sea deliveries of humanitarian aid to work around Israeli restrictions on land deliveries. International monitoring, corroborated by US officials, warns that famine is imminent.

As 17 senators recently wrote in a joint statement: “It would be inconsistent with the letter and spirit of NSM-20 to find that assurances made by the Netanyahu Government meet the required ‘credible and reliable’ standard at this time. Such a determination would also establish an unacceptable precedent for the application of NSM-20 in other situations around the world.”

The memorandum – issued by the Biden Administration itself – outlines required procedures if “any credible reports or allegations” arise in relation to breaches of international law, or if any country’s assurances are “called into question and should be revisited.” This includes assessing allegations in an upcoming report to Congress, as well as a 45 day assessment and remediation procedure which concludes with recommended next steps to the president.

J Street calls on the Biden Administration to fully and impartially follow its own procedures under NSM-20, and to initiate immediate steps to evaluate and address potential violations. Credible reporting regarding Israeli conduct during the war in Gaza is sufficient to trigger the 45-day assessment and remediation procedure, and must be addressed in congressional reports. We note that NSM-20 specifically does not apply to purely defensive materiel, including Iron Dome.

The administration, having developed and articulated this framework, must now live up to the values and standards it has itself established for all countries receiving US military aid. Members of Congress should continue to raise concerns with the administration, and to press for NSM-20’s proper application.