Israel policy

14 Republican senators accuse administration of ‘antisemitic boycott of Israel’

The lawmakers threaten slowdowns of confirmation proceedings for Biden nominees if the administration does not change course on Israel policy

Michael Brochstein/Sipa via AP

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaking about the For the People Act at a hearing of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee on May 11, 2021.

Fourteen Republican senators are set to accuse the Biden administration of carrying out “an antisemitic boycott of Israel” with recent guidance ending U.S. taxpayer support for scientific and technological cooperation with Israeli institutions in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Golan Heights. 

The senators are set to send a letter, viewed by Jewish Insider, to President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Tony Blinken on Tuesday that includes a threat to block the confirmation of Biden administration nominees if the administration does not alter its policy toward Israel.

“We also write to emphasize that any effort to deepen American policies that discriminate between territories Israel controlled before and after June 1967 will risk a full rupture in my/our ability to engage the Department of State on these issues,” the letter reads. “Candidly, it is untenable for State Department officials to continue testifying to Congress that they support the U.S.-Israel relationship and then — once out of view — to push policies designed to undermine that relationship. Without a reversal in these trends Congressional oversight and the expeditious vetting of nominees would become intractable.”

The letter was led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and signed by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), John Cornyn (R-TX), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Rick Scott (R-FL), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Ted Budd (R-NC), Pete Ricketts (R-NE), Tim Scott (R-SC), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Mike Braun (R-IN), John Barrasso (R-WY) and Jim Risch (R-ID). 

Risch is the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which oversees State Department confirmation proceedings. The letter comes as U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides prepares to step down from his posting and amid questions over whether the administration will struggle to be able to confirm a replacement for him in Jerusalem.

The letter argues that the guidance “does something America has never done before: unilaterally impose territorial restrictions on U.S. scientific research aid to Israel.”

As the letter notes, such restrictions had been in place for decades until the Trump administration rescinded them in October 2020. The letter argues that the difference is the restrictions were previously put in place with the Israeli government’s agreement, which was not obtained this time.

The letter claims that the guidance represents a “double [standard] targeting Israel or Israeli Jews,” and is therefore a violation of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism.

“This guidance in particular puts Americans’ safety, security, and prosperity at risk because it politicizes and undermines cooperation on science and technology, including in areas such as defense and medicine where also our Israeli allies have proven themselves critical partners,” it argues. “It vitiates the neutral, objective criteria that relevant organizations are required by their charters and the law to use when evaluating grants, and potentially forces them to act illegally — broadly endangering their ability to continue funding such research on behalf of Americans and Israelis.”

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