Long-Awaited State Dept Review ‘Absolves’ Israel Of War Crimes

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Via The Cradle

Image: Associated Press

A US State Department report on Israel’s conduct in the Gaza Strip will be submitted to Congress on Friday and stop short of concluding Tel Aviv has “violated terms for the use of US weapons,” according to US officials who spoke with Axios.

The report, based on a months-long probe that assessed whether or not Israel has violated international law or stifled Gaza aid efforts, has triggered “contentious internal debate in the State Department.”

President Joe Biden agreed in February to issue a national security memorandum to examine the use of US weaponry by Israel in Gaza. The report set out to examine the use of weapons by Israel and six other states, according to Axios.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has been pressured by the US ambassador to Israel, Jack Lew, and the outgoing US humanitarian envoy to Gaza, David Satterfield, to conclude that Israel is not hindering aid efforts, despite recommendations to do so by USAID and the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.

The two told Blinken in a memo that while Israel restricted aid in the past, it has since changed its policy after pressure from Biden. “Blinken’s report is going to list a series of incidents that took place during the war in Gaza and note that they raised serious concerns about violations of international law by Israel,” three US officials told Axios.

They added that the report will be “very critical” and state that the State Department is still investigating specific incidents; however, “at the same time, Blinken will stop short of concluding that Israel has violated international law in the context of the national security memorandum.”

“Blinken’s report also adopted the conclusions of Lew and Satterfield and certifies that Israel isn’t currently violating the national security memorandum when it comes to facilitating the delivery of US-supported humanitarian aid,” another official confirmed.

Some Republican lawmakers have criticized the national security memorandum and the upcoming report. Last week, 88 Democratic lawmakers wrote to Biden saying there is “sufficient evidence” of Israeli restriction of aid into Gaza.

Politico reported earlier this week that the release of the State Department report was delayed by several days at the last minute. Friday’s report comes a day after Biden warned that his government would not support or provide weapons for an expanded Israeli assault on Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah.

Back in November, there was a scathing 5-page ‘dissent memo’ circulated in the State Dept:

Israel seized control of the Rafah border crossing on Tuesday morning and has been relentlessly bombarding the east of the city, killing dozens of civilians, including children.

A US arms shipment to Israel has already been delayed over concerns about Rafah. Had the report corroborated the overwhelming evidence of Israeli war crimes and hampering humanitarian aid efforts, US military aid for Tel Aviv was at risk of drying up. As a result, supporters of Israel in Washington have pressured the State Department against such a conclusion.

 

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