Biden Under Fire from Jewish Groups for Palestinian Aid Plans as Anti-War Activists Press for Cuts to Israeli Military

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) and the Coalition for Jewish Values—a Jewish organization and rabbinical group respectively—have criticized presumptive Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden's proposal to resume U.S. economic funding and security assistance to Palestine.

Conversely, a coalition of anti-war groups sent Biden an open letter on Monday, signed by 51 organizations, urging him to "build a future in which all Palestinians and Israelis live under full equality" by "leveraging the annual $3.8 billion in U.S. military funding to Israel" to disband Israel's settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and end the country's military blockade of Gaza.

In a statement given to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency last week, Biden said his priority for Israeli-Palestinian peace involved restarting dialogue with the Palestinians and pressing Israel to avoid actions that make the possibility a two-state solution difficult.

Biden said that as president, he would reopen the U.S. consulate in East Jerusalem and the Palestine Liberation Organization's diplomatic mission in Washington D.C., as well as resume economic and security assistance efforts to the Palestinians stopped by the Trump Administration.

Newsweek subscription offers >

However, ZOA national president Morton Klein and ZOA chair Mark Levenson told the Cleveland Jewish News that Biden's plan to economically re-engage with Palestine would be "partially illegal" under the 2018 Taylor Force Act, a law that seeks to end the Palestinian Authority Martyrs Fund, a fund that pays Palestinians who have been killed, injured or imprisoned while opposing Israeli police or military forces.

"Biden's stated intention to resume sending U.S. tax dollars to the [Palestinian Authority] (PA) will enable the PA to finance terrorism, and the murder and maiming of more innocent Jews and Americans," Klein and Levenson said in a statement.

However, a Biden campaign spokesperson told Newsweek, "Joe Biden has and will always speak out against acts of terror against Israel, as he did when he was Vice President and just miles away during the tragic attack on Taylor Force. He immediately condemned the attack then, and will continue to condemn such violence. And he will of course comply with the very law named after Taylor Force with regard to assistance to the Palestinan Authority."

Vice Presidential nominee Joe Biden
Democratic presidential hopeful former US vice president Joe Biden participates in the 11th Democratic Party 2020 presidential debate in a CNN Washington Bureau studio in Washington, DC on March 15, 2020. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty

Newsweek subscription offers >

Rabbi Dov Fischer, Western regional vice president of the Coalition for Jewish Values, a group claiming to represent over 1,500 traditional rabbis said, "Every American should be outraged."

"Joe Biden has just said he would break U.S. law to do something which is also, of course, morally repugnant—to reinvolve the American taxpayer in incentivizing terrorism against innocent Americans like Taylor Force and others," Fischer told Cleveland Jewish News.

But in a public letter issued on Monday, 51 anti-war organizations "representing millions of Americans who care about a principled foreign policy," urged Biden to use economic and diplomatic pressure to help achieve his goal of a two-state solution.

The letter—which was signed by Jewish Voice for Peace Action, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), the Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation, Greenpeace, Indivisible and 46 other organizations—urged Biden to leverage the United State's $3.8 billion in Israeli military funding to get Israel and Palestine to agree on a peace plan that adheres to United Nation Security Council Resolutions and international law.

To achieve an equitable Israeli-Palestinian solution, the signers suggested an end to Israel's military occupation, a disbanding of Israel's settlements in both the West Bank and East Jerusalem, a dissolution of Israel's military blockade of Gaza and a cessation of all civilians attacks, whether Israeli or Palestinian.

The letter also urges Biden to consider closing the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center, repealing the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force which allows Presidents to use military force without formally declaring war through Congress, reducing the Pentagon military defense budget by $200 billion annually and generally ending the U.S. Middle Eastern policies that advocate for regime-change interventions and broad-based sanctions rather than dialogue and diplomatic pressure.

Update (5/12/2020, 7:02 p.m.): This article has been updated to include a statement from the Biden campaign.

Biden Under Fire from Jewish Groups for Palestinian Aid Plans as Anti-War Activists Press for Cuts to Israeli Military | World