Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy once again has stirred up a beehive of trouble concerning U.S. aid to Israel. Joined by a ten other Members of the House, the long-time chair and now ranking member of the Senate Appropriations sub-Committee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, Leahy wrote to Secretary Kerry calling for an investigation of Israel human rights abuses. This letter dated February 17, predated last week’s incident in Hebron.
Leahy has frequently questioned the use and appropriateness of America’s extensive aid to Israel. He repeatedly has questioned where the money was going—in Israel or in the territories–and the extent to which it was enabling Israel to continue its occupation of the West Bank; thus successfully perpetuating a degrading treatment of the Arabs. The problem with Leahy’s charges and the rebuttals of Prime Minister Netanyahu is the timing, in two regards, as Israel finds itself responding to Leahy from a position of serious weakness.
Regardless of the fact that much of what Leahy alleges are spurious accusations, the Netanyahu Government is in a very weakened political position because of Bibi’s stressed relationship with the President; the perceived inadequate response of the Government to the Hebron shooting last Thursday; the announced appointment of a very strong right-wing Netanyahu supporter Dani Dayan, a controversial former leader of the settler movement, to be Israel’s Consul General in New York; and Netanyahu’s unwillingness to respond positively and graciously–even while perhaps taking issue–to the Obama Administration ten year military assistance package proposal, the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
Israel’s ability to rally its friends and supporters to counter the Leahy demand for an investigation most likely will be successful, but the timing of the Leahy allegations places Israel in a seriously defensive position. The Netanyahu Government faces so many ugly internal rivalries, threats, and dissention, that Bibi has opted to tough it out both domestically and globally. So not only does the Israeli Government response to the Hebron incident add support to Leahy’s charges, but ironically the letter was released just as the U.N. Human Rights Council was concluding its session in Geneva. During those meetings, although the U.S.is not a current Council member, it continued to challenge the biases of the Council against Israel especially concerning the Council’s support for creating a data base of businesses operating in the settlements which could intensify a more sophisticated boycott.