The Phenomenon of American Shifts on Israel

American organizations with their various motives, shifting reception by the public, and a limited effect on members of Congress, have failed to produce legislation that would regulate financial and military aid to the Israeli colonialist state. The organizations failed to get restrictions that would bar Israel from going forward with annexation, settlements and expansion into the Palestinian West Bank, actions that prevent the establishment of a viable Palestinian state. Even if those in Congress, along with popular organizations and other key actors, have failed in their efforts, they have not yet completely failed.

They are still negotiating an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. But the amendment could fail because of the partisanship in Congress. Additionally, American politics may not be ready to take up sharp, controversial issues like Israel. Even if they do not succeed in this effort, they will have shown courage in addressing their concerns by pursuing this initiative. Presenting legislation which conditions aid on meeting the organizations’ demands, and even moving toward amending the legislation, are progressive steps, the likes of which have not been seen before.

To a certain degree, U.S. support for the Israeli occupation is so seamless that some treat the settler-colonialist state as if it were an American state entitled to American taxpayer support in order to fulfill and cover its needs. Criticism, curtailment, downsizing and restrictions are all considered taboo when discussing American-Israeli relations. These are topics no one dares approach, simplify or bring to the table for discussion. And yet, there is demand to legalize Israel’s actions by regulating it and setting limitations.

The phenomenon of demanding restrictions on U.S. support to the Israeli settler-colonial state began with an initiative from several prominent members of the Senate, among them Sen. Bernie Sanders, the former Democratic presidential candidate. They proposed an amendment to the NDAA, signed by 12 members of the Senate. The amendment would bar the use of U.S. aid funds for the prime minister’s plan to annex the Palestinian valley and the land on which settlements have been built. The initiative was not blocked by important members of Congress. In fact, it attracted the support of American Jewish organizations, such as J Street and Americans for Peace Now. For Americans, this adds a new dimension to the phenomenon, one that needs evaluation and more exposure. Advancing this position runs counter to traditional American politics, which have been supportive of the Israeli settler-colonialist expansionist project.

In the American political landscape, certain agents of change have cornered the Trump administration and made it hesitant to support Israeli annexation. These factors have opened up debate on the topic. It all goes back to a number of reasons, chiefly among them the following.

First, the extremism of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, and the absence of realistic demands regarding the annexation.

Second, the schism of opinions in Israeli institutions among the military, the Mossad, the Kachol Lavan Party and its representatives, Benny Gantz, the minister of defense, and Gabi Ashkenazi, the minister of foreign affairs.

Third, Palestinian armed operations on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have stopped, against the background of security coordination between Ramallah and Tel Aviv and peacekeeping efforts between Gaza and Tel Aviv.

Fourth, Jordan has played a role in running the American institutions, especially King Abdullah II, who has engaged in conversation with members Congress and their respective committees. He has had a positive effect on the American response, which has taken the Jordanian royal vision and concerns into consideration.

Fifth, the uprising of the Black community in the U.S. against racism in the wake of George Floyd’s murder has had an effect.*

These positive developments are important, but not nearly enough. Necessary steps must be taken to break the barrier of fear surrounding relations with the Israeli settler-colonialist state, no matter how strong the criticism. In any case, the developments are important for confronting America’s blindness to Israel’s human rights abuses and violations of international law.

*Editor’s note: Police officers have been charged with murder in the killing of George Floyd, but they have not yet been tried or convicted.

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