US threatens to invoke Leahy Law over West Bank killings

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TEL AVIV — The Biden administration is pressing Israel to provide answers regarding a series of incidents in which, it claims, Israeli army units operating in the occupied West Bank violated the so-called "Leahy Law,” a set of legal amendments that restrict the funding of military aid to units over human rights concerns, Israel Hayom reported Sunday.اضافة اعلان

The Leahy Law states that Pentagon-appropriated funds "May not be used for any training, equipment, or other assistance for a foreign security force unit if the US Secretary of Defense has credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights."

The warning implies that should Israel fail to provide satisfactory answers, Israeli forces serving in the West Bank will not get US-funded munitions.

According to information obtained by Israel Hayom, the warning was conveyed to Israel over a month ago and is known to the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

In order to deal with the claims, the Israeli International Law Department in the Military Advocate General's office and other legal entities have been in contact with the US and are supposed to answer their questions regarding the incidents under discussion, with only two months left to send the response.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry confirmed that "over the years, the ministry has cooperated with requests from the American administration in the context of the Leahy Law." However, an Israeli official said that there was no knowledge of a concrete warning being issued.

A spokesperson from the US Embassy in Israel said the "Leahy vetting" was an effective foreign policy tool, which promotes respect for human rights by America's security partners, and the accountability of security force units credibly implicated in gross violations of human rights. It further noted that the law's requirements apply to all countries receiving relevant US assistance, including Israel, and the State Department provides assistance consistent with the law's requirements.

Every Israeli security force unit proposed to receive relevant US assistance is subject to Leahy vetting as a matter of course. As provided for under the law, the US State Department also has a process for assessing reports of potentially serious human rights violations by Israeli security forces, the spokesperson said.

It should be noted that this is not the first time that the Leahy Law requirements have been mentioned in the context of Israel. Senator Patrick Leahy himself tried, in the final stages of the Obama administration, to use the law to stop security assistance to certain Israeli units over allegations of human rights violations.

Two weeks ago, the British Guardian published that the US State Department was conducting an in-depth, extensive examination according to the Leahy Law requirements regarding Israeli army activities in the West Bank. Since the beginning of the Gaza war, the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) has also operated intensely in these areas, killing over 500 Palestinians and arresting thousands.

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