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Lawmakers urge Biden to ensure US funds not used in Israeli settlements

A group of American lawmakers have called on President Joe Biden’s administration to undertake a foundational “shift” in its dealings with Israel and ensure that American taxpayers’ money will not be allocated to Israeli settlements.

In a letter to Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday, 14 progressive Democratic lawmakers expressed “deep concern” about the escalation in violence in the occupied West Bank and the conduct of the new Israeli cabinet.

The lawmakers, headed by Representative Jamaal Bowman and Senator Bernie Sanders, urged the White House “to undertake a shift in US policy in recognition of the worsening violence, further annexation of land, and denial of Palestinian rights.”

The signatories called on Biden and Blinken to “ensure US taxpayer funds do not support projects in illegal settlement” and “determine whether US-origin defense articles have been used in violation of existing US laws.”

They called on the Biden administration “to ensure that all future foreign assistance to Israel, including weapons and equipment, is not used to support gross violations of human rights, including by strengthening end-use monitoring and financial tracking.”

Thursday’s letter also said hardline officials in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet were involved in “pushing repressive, anti-democratic policies and escalating violence towards the Palestinian population.”

The Democratic lawmakers said the Israeli regime has continued to authorize settlement-building despite US objections. “We are deeply concerned by Israeli…moves that demonstrate that illegal de facto and de jure annexation of the occupied West Bank is well underway.”

The letter marked a rare call from Congress for curbing the $3.8 billion Israel receives in US military assistance every year.

Tel Aviv has stepped up settlement expansion since late December, when Netanyahu staged a comeback as prime minister at the head of a cabinet of hard-right and ultra-Orthodox parties.

More than 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East al-Quds.

The international community views the settlements – hundreds of which have been built across the West Bank since Tel Aviv’s occupation of the territory in 1967 – as illegal under international law and the Geneva Conventions due to their construction on the occupied territories.

The UN Security Council has condemned Israel’s settlement activities in the occupied territories in several resolutions. The Palestinians have historically demanded that the West Bank serve as part of their future state with East al-Quds, which is located inside the territory, as its capital.

Al-Quds has been especially tense in recent weeks due to repeated assaults by Israeli forces on the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the third holiest site for Muslims. Since the start of the holy month of Ramadan, the Israeli regime has imposed strict restrictions on the entry and exit of Palestinians to and from the gates of al-Aqsa Mosque.



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