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Leaked State Department Memo: Israeli Assurances ‘Neither Credible Nor Reliable’

“Today’s leak should mark a final end to this impunity. President Biden has no choice but to fully enforce the law and halt aid to Israel.”

A newly leaked internal memo shows that officials at four U.S. State Department bureaus don’t believe the Israeli government’s assurances that it is using American weaponry in Gaza in compliance with international law, rejecting them as “neither credible nor reliable.”

The memo, first reported by Reuters on Saturday, is a joint submission from the State Department’s bureaus of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; Population, Refugees, and Migration; Global Criminal Justice; and International Organization Affairs.

The leaked document raises “serious concern over non-compliance” with international law, specifically citing the Israeli military’s repeated attacks on civilian infrastructure, refusal to investigate or punish those responsible for atrocities, and killing of “humanitarian workers and journalists at an unprecedented rate,” according to Reuters.

The memo also points to Israel’s arbitrary rejection of humanitarian aid trucks, which has fueled famine in the Gaza Strip. The bureaus’ conclusion matches that of officials at the United States Agency for International Development.

Human rights groups have been documenting Israel’s atrocities and systematic obstruction of aid for months, but the Biden administration has continued approving weapons sales for the Netanyahu government despite U.S. laws prohibiting arms transfers to countries violating human rights and blocking American humanitarian assistance.

Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), said Saturday that “the State Department’s leaked confirmation that Israel has restricted the transport and delivery of U.S. humanitarian assistance leaves no doubt: U.S. law requires the suspension of military aid to Israel.”

“For too long, the Biden administration has breached or ignored U.S. laws that require the suspension of aid to an abusive regime like Israel, fueling Israeli belligerence and rewarding its atrocities,” said Whitson. “It’s time for real consequences.”

“Suspending military aid is the bare minimum the U.S. must do to avoid further complicity in these abuses.”

In March, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant penned a letter assuring the Biden administration that the Israeli military’s use of American weaponry has been in line with international law. A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department subsequently indicated that the Biden administration has not found Israel “to be in violation of international humanitarian law,” drawing outrage from analysts and members of Congress who say it is obvious Israel is committing war crimes. in Gaza.

The U.S. State Department is expected to deliver its final assessment of Israel’s assurances to Congress in early May.

The written assurances from Israel were required under a White House policy known as National Security Memorandum 20 (NSM-20), which has the ostensible aim of preventing “arms transfers that risk facilitating or otherwise contributing to violations of human rights or international humanitarian law.”

NSM-20 states that “in furtherance of supporting Section 620I of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2378-1) and applicable international law,” the U.S. will “obtain credible and reliable written assurances from a representative of the recipient country as the Secretary of State deems appropriate that, in any area of armed conflict where the recipient country uses such defense articles, consistent with applicable international law, the recipient country will facilitate and not arbitrarily deny, restrict, or otherwise impede, directly or indirectly, the transport or delivery of United States humanitarian assistance and United States Government-supported international efforts to provide humanitarian assistance.”

Raed Jarrar, DAWN’s advocacy director, said Saturday that “Section 620I has been rendered toothless by State Department inaction and special treatment for Israel.”

“Today’s leak should mark a final end to this impunity. President Biden has no choice but to fully enforce the law and halt aid to Israel,” said Jarrar. “From bombing residential towers to blocking food and medicine, Israel’s war on Gaza has been marked by utter disregard for civilian life and international law. Suspending military aid is the bare minimum the U.S. must do to avoid further complicity in these abuses. But it’s an essential first step to show that even Israel is not above the law.”

Details of the internal State Department memo emerged just days after Congress gave final approval to a foreign aid package that includes $17 billion in unconditional military assistance for the Israeli government.

In a joint statement on Friday, dozens of civil society groups warned that the newly approved military aid risks deepening U.S. complicity in an assault that has killed more than 34,000 people and put millions at risk of starvation.

“Not only does this supplemental aid package provide Israel with billions in lethal arms, it also provides the country with privileges above and beyond anything it has ever received, in particular for the war reserve stockpile and offshore procurement,” the groups said. “The passage of the supplemental bill further risks U.S. complicity in grave international crimes committed by Israel.”

“We urge the administration and Congress to uphold U.S. law and policy and international law by withholding the transfer of additional lethal military aid to Israel,” they added.

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