State Department weighing "new information" from Israel in determining whether IDF unit violated U.S. law

State Department weighing “new information” from Israel in determining whether IDF unit violated U.S. law

The State Department is evaluating “new information” provided by the Israeli government about the status of an Israeli military unit deemed to have committed gross violations of human rights in the West Bank before the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attacks, according to a letter sent to House Speaker Mike Johnson by Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The information comes as Blinken weighs whether to recommend suspending U.S. aid to the unit under a federal measure known as the Leahy Law. The law prevents the U.S. from providing weapons or funds for military assistance to groups when there is credible information indicating the groups have violated human rights.

The potential move, now under intense public scrutiny as the Biden administration comes under growing pressure to hold Israel accountable on international human rights standards, would be unprecedented in the decades-long security partnership between the U.S. and Israel. 

said last Friday at a G7 press conference in Capri, Italy, that he had made “determinations” related to possible Leahy Law violations. “[Y]ou can expect to see them in the days ahead,” he said at the time.  

The idea that the U.S. could take such a punitive measure triggered fierce condemnation from Israeli officials in what American sources have said was a surprisingly heated backlash.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last Sunday called the possible penalty “the height of absurdity; a moral low.” Israeli war cabinet minister Benny Gantz said it would set a “dangerous precedent.”

Both Gantz and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant raised the matter in phone calls with Blinken last Sunday. 

Blinken’s comments also came just before a crucial House vote on a $95 billion supplemental aid package with funds for Ukraine, Taiwan and Israel that had languished in Congress for more than six months amid opposition from right-wing lawmakers.

“Following Secretary Blinken’s comments, the Speaker demanded an explanation from the Administration and assurances regarding the timely delivery of the military aid to Israel which the House passed Saturday,” a spokesperson for Johnson’s office said in a statement.

Earlier this week Johnson said in a radio interview that before the bill was brought to the House he had demanded — and received — similar written assurances from national security adviser Jake Sullivan.  

Asked on Thursday about Johnson’s comments, State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Patel said he would “not speak to the specifics about our correspondence with members of Congress and congressional leadership.”

“[W]hatever may or may not happen is not — does not have bearing on the longstanding security relationship we may have with that country,” he continued, without mentioning Israel. “[I]f we are to find a violation, it would be a restriction on a particular unit or component.”