Ocasio-Cortez: Cutting aid to Israel in wake of annexation ‘on the table’

 Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) suggested that U.S. policy toward Israel should change after Netanyahu’s proposed annexation in an interview on Yahoo News’s ‘Skullduggery’ podcast, hosted by investigative journalists Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman, on Sunday:

Isikoff: Prime Minister Netanyahu was just apparently re-elected in Israel right after saying that he intended to annex the Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Do you believe this should affect U.S. policy to the State of Israel?

Ocasio-Cortez: “I think so…  I think these are part of conversations that we are having in our caucus. I think what we’re really seeing is the ascent of authoritarianism across the world. I think that Netanyahu is a Trump-like figure and I think that we — there are so many ways to approach this issue. [Rep.] Betty McCollum [(DFL-MN)] even has a proposal that she’s advanced asking the U.S. not to fund child detention in – Israeli child detention of Palestinian children. There’s different ways to signal it, I would hope and wish that a diplomatic approach could change — impact policy, it doesn’t all have to be legislative.”

Klaidman: Would you be in favor of reducing military or economic aid to Israel?

Ocasio-Cortez: “I mean I think it’s on the table, I think it’s certainly on the table. I think it’s something that can be discussed. I also acknowledge my role in this as well, in that I think that I hope to play a facilitating role in this conversation and a supportive role in this conversation, but I also know that there are people that have been leading on this for a long time, like Congresswoman McCollum. I think we need to expand what those policy conversations are because I would — as just a citizen of this country, I would be very concerned if Trump started really pursuing more and more and more, increasingly dangerous policies and everyone just standing aside and saying this is normal, this is just like before.” [Video]

The Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) said in a statement, “We are pleased Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recognizes she is NOT a leader on Israel in Congress. We recommend she engage with Dem leaders Eliot Engel, Nita Lowey, and Ted Deutch before contemplating the future of U.S. military aid to Israel. U.S.-Israel ties must supersede politics.”

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) told Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh,“The U.S.-Israel alliance is absolutely essential. It’s vital to America’s national security, and especially in the fight against Hamas and Hezbollah. Given that Hezbollah is on the march to the Mediterranean, I think now more than ever, and with threats of terror increasing, we must obviously stand by our key ally to keep democracy in the region for their security, but also for our security. And I feel that the idea that we would in any which way, walk away from that relationship is unacceptable.”

Professor Eugene Kontorovich told JI that he agrees that U.S. aid to Israel should be reduced but the request should come from Israel’s side. “It limits Israeli independence in defense procurement, and disadvantages Israeli defense contractors as much of the money must be spent in the U.S.,” he explained. “It (unjustly) creates a sense among some American taxpayers that they are subsidizing Israel and thus should be able to determine its destiny. While the subsidy goes in large part to American defense contractors, and the U.S. benefits greatly from its defense cooperation with Israel, the perception persists, and under another administration, could be used to justify policies inimical to Israel.”

Kontorovich added: “Ocasio-Cortez doubtless wants to cut the funding to harm Israel, but in fact it may help. Or to paraphrase a friend of hers, it’s not all about the Benjamins.”

CFR’s Martin Indyk tweeted“AOC⁩ is wrong on this one: Israel is a robust democracy — 69% of Israelis turned out to vote. Much as I dislike Netanyahu’s policies and racist tactics, he was elected by the people and he is being held to account by Israel’s independent judiciary. To label Netanyahu an authoritarian is to do Israel’s robust democracy a disservice and to help Trump drive a wedge between American Jews and the Democratic Party. We need to be smarter than this.”

J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami posted“Nuanced position from AOC in wake of Netanyahu annexation pledge: open up discussion of US-Israel relations. J Street view: US can assure Israeli security w/o funding activities that run counter to US values, interests such as annexation, demolitions.” 

By Jacob Kornbluh in New York and Laura Kelly in Washington, D.C. Follow Jacob at @jacobkornbluh and Laura at @hellolaurakelly

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