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Democrat warns US is violating aid conditions law by sending money to Israel

Former senator Patrick Leahy says ‘the number of civilians who are being injured or killed by US paid armaments’ means the nation is in violation of the foreign aid laws named after him

Katie Hawkinson
Washington, DC
,Eric Garcia
Thursday 07 March 2024 23:00 GMT
Patrick Leahy, a former senator, said the US is violating its own law by sending aid to Israel
Patrick Leahy, a former senator, said the US is violating its own law by sending aid to Israel (Getty Images)

A retired Democratic senator has warned that the US may have violated its own laws around foreign aid by sending arms to Israel.

Patrick Leahy, a former Senator from Vermont, is best known for championing his namesake Leahy Law, which refers to two statutory provisions that prevent the federal government from using funds to assist foreign governments when there is credible information that they have committed “gross violations of human rights”.

When The Independent asked the former senator if the US sending aid to Israel complies with the law, his answer was clear: “No. Is that succinct enough for you?”

Mr Leahy, who retired from the Senate in 2023 after first being elected in 1975, said “the number of civilians who are being injured or killed by US paid armaments” comes in violation to the foreign aid laws named after him.

“There’s supposed to be restrictions on accounting,” he continued.

The US has repeatedly sent bombs and other weapons to Israel after Hamas launched a surprise attack on 7 October, in which at least 1,200 people were killed and around 200 were taken hostage. Since then, Israel’s attacks on Gaza have killed at least 30,000 Palestinians since October, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.

Questions arose as to whether the nation has violated the Leahy Law when the president released a new memo on foreign aid requirements last month, with some Democrats hailing it as a step towards potentially conditioning military aid to Israel. However, the memo only outlined existing laws stating that countries receiving US aid must follow humanitarian guidelines, such as providing “credible and reliable written assurances” that they are complying with international law and humanitarian standards.

The White House also denied that it would have an impact on billions of dollars of military aid slated for the longtime US ally.

His comments came as news broke that President Joe Bidenwill order US forces to build an aid seaport on the Gaza coast. Last week, the president also announced that US forces would also be airdropping humanitarian aid into Gaza.

The United Nations warned last month that some 576,000 people, or one-quarter of Gaza’s population, are “one step away from famine”. It has also accused Israel of “systematically” blocking aid deliveries into Gaza and of opening fire on convoys that do make it through.

Senator Peter Welch, Mr Leahy’s successor in the Senate, supports a ceasefire and said the port for Gaza is a good start but more work still needs to be done.

“We gotta face the contradiction,” he told The Independent. “You know we're dropping food in on Monday and Israel’s dropping bombs on Tuesday. And American taxpayers are paying for both. A ceasefire is what we need in order to get aid in and hostages out.”

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