Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Our Questions for Secretary of State Clinton at Today’s Senate Budget Hearings

At the US Campaign, we often do behind-the-scenes work to influence U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine. Most of the time, this work doesn’t make it to our website or email list; but here on our blog from time to time we’ll let you in on some of this type of work we do. Today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified before two Senate Committees on the President’s FY2010 budget request for State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs. This is the portion of the federal budget that includes all U.S. military aid programs. Earlier this month, President Obama released his FY2010 budget request, which, as expected, included $2.775 billion in military aid to Israel. For more information on what we’re doing to challenge this budget request and how you can get involved, please click here. As an example of the behind-the-scenes political work we do, yesterday we sent the letter below to each Senator on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs suggesting questions for the Senators to ask of Secretary of State Clinton during today’s hearings. And, interestingly enough, both Senator Patrick Leahy, Chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, and Senator John Kerry, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, opened up their questioning of Secretary of State Clinton today with some pretty strong statements (well...for Capitol Hill, at least) on the need for Israel to end settlement construction in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Hmmm…maybe our letter worked. While Secretary of State Clinton reiterated in front of both Senate Committees the Obama Administration’s policy position that Israel should end settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, unfortunately neither she nor Senators Leahy or Kerry have yet publicly drawn the obvious conclusion that U.S. policy statements alone will not end Israeli settlement activity. Instead, the United States needs to end or, at the very minimum, condition military aid to Israel in order to achieve the President’s stated goals of ending Israel’s siege of Gaza, freezing Israeli settlement activity and halting home demolitions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and establishing a just and lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace. To get involved in our efforts to press Congress and the Obama Administration in this direction, please click here. Without further ado, here’s the letter we sent yesterday to the Senators on these committees:

PROPOSED QUESTIONS FOR THE HONORABLE HILLARY R. CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE, HEARING ON STATE, FOREIGN OPERATIONS, AND RELATED PROGRAMS FY2010 BUDGET REQUEST, MAY 20, 2009

May 19, 2009

Senator John Kerry Chairman, Senate Foreign Relations Commitee 318 Russell Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510 FAX: 202-224-8525 Dear Senator Kerry,

Tomorrow, May 20, 2009, Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton will testify before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on President Obama’s FY2010 budget request for State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs. The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, a national coalition of more than 280 organizations working to change U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine to support human rights, international law, and equality, has prepared the following questions for your potential use at these hearings. 1) President Obama has called for Israel to open the borders of the Gaza Strip for the unrestricted flow of aid and commerce, yet Israel’s siege of the Gaza Strip continues. The Administration has also demanded that Israel freeze settlement construction and halt the demolition of Palestinian homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, yet these practices continue as well. What specifically is the State Department doing to bring about Israel’s compliance with the Administration’s stated policy goals? 2) According to B’Tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, during the Bush Administration, Israel killed more than 3,000 Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Territories, including more than 1,000 children. Many of these civilians were killed with U.S. weapons. What specifically is the State Department doing to ensure that Israel is not violating the Arms Export Control Act, the Foreign Assistance Act, and the “Leahy Law” through its use of U.S. weapons in the Occupied Palestinian Territories? Has the State Department conducted any reviews or written any reports on Israel’s use of U.S. weapons against Palestinians, including any reviews or reports dealing with Israel’s use of U.S. weapons during “Operation Cast Lead” in December-January? 3) President Obama has requested $2.775 billion in military aid for Israel in his FY2010 budget request, an increase of $225 million from the FY2009 budget. Given that Israel is currently failing to meet stated U.S. policy objectives; that Israel consistently misuses U.S. weapons in the Occupied Palestinian Territories to kill Palestinian civilians; and that we are in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, how can this increased blank check to Israel be justified? Shouldn’t the United States at least condition military aid to Israel on it complying with the Administration’s policy objectives, including the successful negotiation of a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians? Shouldn’t the United States act to ensure that Israel is only using U.S. weapons in compliance with restrictions under U.S. law before giving it additional weapons? If your office would like any additional information in advance of this hearing, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Sincerely yours,

Josh Ruebner

National Advocacy Director

US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation

202-332-0994

congress@endtheoccupation.org