Blinken says he’s made ‘determinations’ linked to human rights accusations against Israel

By Thomson Reuters Apr 19, 2024 | 8:40 AM

By Humeyra Pamuk

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday said he has made “determinations” regarding accusations that Israel violated a set of U.S. laws that prohibit providing military assistance to individuals or security force units that commit gross violations of human rights.

The Leahy Laws, authored by then-Senator Patrick Leahy in the late 1990s, prohibit providing military assistance to individuals or security force units that commit gross violations of human rights and have not been brought to justice.

Earlier this week, the Pro Publica investigative news organization reported that a special State Department panel known as the Israel Leahy Vetting Forum had recommended months ago to Blinken that multiple Israeli military and police units be disqualified from receiving U.S. aid on allegations of human rights violations.

Blinken has not taken action, Pro Publica reported. The incidents that were the subject of allegations took place in the West Bank and mostly occurred before Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza began on Oct. 7, the outlet said.

Asked at a news conference in Italy about reports that the State Department has recommended the cutting off of military aid to certain Israeli security force units over possible human rights violations in the West Bank, Blinken did not outright confirm the reports but promised results very soon.

“I think you’re referring to the so-called Leahy Law and our work under that,” he responded. “So this is a very important law. And it’s one that we apply across the board. And when we’re doing these investigations, these inquiries, it’s something that takes time. That has to be done very carefully, both in collecting the facts and analyzing them.

“And that’s exactly what we’ve done. And I think it’s fair to say that you’ll see results very soon. I made determinations. You can expect to see them in the days ahead,” Blinken said. He did not elaborate.

Israel’s military conduct has come under increasing scrutiny as its forces killed 34,000 Palestinians in Gaza, according to the enclave’s health authorities, many of them women and children. The Gaza Strip has been reduced to a wasteland, and extreme food shortages have prompted fears of famine.

The Israeli assault was launched in response to the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7, in which Israel says 1,200 people were killed.

Rights groups have flagged numerous incidents of civilian harm during the Israeli army’s offensive in Gaza, as well as raised alarm about rising violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. But so far the Biden administration has said it has not made an assessment that found Israel in breach of international law.

Washington gives $3.8 billion in annual military assistance to its longtime ally. Leftist Democrats and Arab American groups have criticized the Biden administration’s steadfast support for Israel, which they say provides it with a sense of impunity.

But earlier this month, President Joe Biden for the first time threatened to condition support for Israel, and insisted that it take concrete steps to protect humanitarian aid workers and civilians.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; editing by Jonathan Oatis)