Biden is days from a key statement on Israel and Gaza. Here’s what the ally who sought it expects

Biden is days from a key statement on Israel and Gaza. Here’s what the ally who sought it expects

HuffPost reports:

With the Biden administration days away from issuing its opinion on whether Israel is violating international and U.S. law in Gaza, the lawmaker who pushed for a State Department probe of that question doubts he’ll get an honest answer.

Starting in December, Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) rallied 19 senators to support legislation demanding assurances that all countries receiving American weaponry — including Israel — are complying with international and U.S. statutes barring violence against civilians and efforts to block humanitarian aid. In response, President Joe Biden in February issued a new policy known as NSM-20, which required federal agencies to send a report to Congress on Israel’s conduct during its Gaza operation by May 8.

The report poses a test for the White House: Will it acknowledge the alarming actions taken by its ally, strengthening calls for the U.S. to reassess its support for Israel, or will the administration risk embarrassment and outrage by misrepresenting Israeli behavior?

The administration appears to be split. The U.S. Agency for International Development and several State Department bureaus believe the administration cannot credibly say Israel is respecting either international law or the U.S. laws that require recipients of American military support to allow the free flow of U.S. humanitarian aid, according to Reuters and Devex — raising the prospect that Biden would have to withdraw military assistance. But the State Department team leading the report side-stepped the question of whether violations are occurring and instead emphasized the risks of cutting off support for Israel, per Reuters.

Meanwhile, other top State Department officials, like U.S. Ambassador to Israel Jack Lew, are internally endorsing Israel’s promises to abide by the law, despite broad skepticism of those claims from outside analysts, as HuffPost revealed in March.

Van Hollen said he’s alarmed by the disclosures about the administration’s handling of the report. [Continue reading…]

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