Statement on Congressional Letter on Israeli and Egyptian “Leahy Law” Compliance

March 30, 2016

WASHINGTON— Jeremy Ben-Ami, President of J Street, released the following statement today in response to news reports that 11 Members of Congress, led by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), have sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry urging him to investigate allegations of extrajudicial killings by Israel and Egypt.

The statement:

Senator Leahy and each Member of Congress who signed this letter have repeatedly supported billions of dollars in US military assistance to Israel. In Senator Leahy’s case, he has personally played a key role as a lead appropriator in ensuring the undisturbed flow of these vital funds, so that Israel is fully equipped to defend itself from the many serious threats it faces. Senator Leahy has done so amidst increasing calls to severely restrict, cut or even end such assistance to Israel’s military from several corners of American society.

Senator Leahy and his colleagues in the House have a track record of strongly condemning terrorist attacks against Israel and its citizens and supporting efforts to sanction and otherwise isolate anti-Israel terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas.

Senator Leahy is the author of the law that requires the State Department to evaluate the credibility of allegations of possible serious human rights abuses by foreign military and police units in any and all countries receiving US security assistance. The ‘Leahy Law’ applies the same standards worldwide and has led to the suspension of aid to particular personnel and units—not entire countries or the whole of their security forces—only when the foreign government failed to take effective measures to bring violators to justice. We believe that our legislators have the right and, in fact, the obligation to ensure that the United States is providing such aid in accordance with this law.

We applaud the unequivocal affirmations by Israeli security officials, including Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot’s recent statements that Israel’s forces must act within the law and their own code of conduct. We believe that it is appropriate for US lawmakers with oversight responsibility to ask whether Israel’s military is following the standards that it has set for itself. As supporters of Israel, it is our hope that this inquiry will show that Israel has done just that, even in the face of outrageous and horrifying terrorist attacks.