The author of a law that conditions U.S. military aid on the human-rights records of security forces has reportedly asked the State Department to investigate Israel on that score.
According to a report in Politico, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, sent the note to Secretary of State John Kerry on Feb. 17 listing possible “gross violations of human rights” violations by Israel.
The note, which was also signed by 10 members of the U.S. House, also called for an investigation targeting Egypt on similar grounds.
Egypt and Israel are both major U.S. allies — the top two recipients of U.S. military assistance — and their 1979 peace treaty was the first between Israel and an Arab state.
The U.S. law written by Mr. Leahy forbids U.S. assistance to particular units that commit gross human-rights violations but need not affect other units or the overall amount of assistance.
But the symbolic implication could seriously damage relations with both countries, apart from the political fallout within the U.S., where the letter is the latest example of an increasing movement away from Israel within Democratic and progressive circles.
Politico reported that it had obtained the letter Tuesday evening “from an organization that provided input for it.”
According to Politico, the letter lists several examples of possible human-rights abuses by Israeli and Egyptian security forces, including extrajudicial executions and, in Egypt’s case, forcible “disappearances” of dissidents.
“In light of these reports we request that you act promptly to determine their credibility and whether they trigger the Leahy Law and, if so, take appropriate action called for under the law,” the lawmakers wrote, according to Politico.
The letter also takes aim at the political relationships the U.S. has with Israel and Egypt, by implying that it may have led American officials to look the other way when those nations commit such abuses.
“According to information we have received, the manner in which U.S. military assistance has been provided to Israel and Egypt, since the Camp David Accords, including the delivery of assistance at the military service level, has created a unique situation that has hindered implementation of normal mechanisms for monitoring the use of such assistance,” Politico quotes the letter as stating.