While Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy arguably sits on the left side of the political spectrum, he has reportedly enjoyed close friendships with former Israeli prime ministers including Yitzhak Rabin and more recently, Ehud Barak. So what possessed Senator Leahy -- who heads the Senate Appropriations Committee's sub-committee on foreign operations -- to promote a bill that intends to suspend U.S. assistance to three units in the Israeli Defense Forces on the grounds they are engaged in human rights abuses in Judea, Samaria and Gaza?
Leahy's legislation would seek to withhold assistance from the Israeli Navy's Shayetet 13 unit, the undercover Duvdevan unit and the Israeli Air Force's Shaldag unit.
According to Haaretz, a senior Israeli official in Jerusalem said Leahy began pushing the bill in recent months after allegedly being approached by pro-Palestinian constituents in his home state of Vermont. Then a few months ago, another pro-Palestinian activist group protested in front of Leahy's office demanding he denounce Shayetet 13 for allegedly killing nine Turkish activists who were part of the original Gaza-bound flotilla last May. However, the flotilla was reportedly stocked with weapons intended to be smuggled into Gaza and to be used against IDF officers once they boarded the ship for a routine search. It also seems to be left out of Leahy's narrative that the nine pro-Palestinian activists killed were far from peace-keepers, provoking Israeli officers by ambushing them once they boarded the ship.
And perhaps most disconcerting is that the type of legislation Leahy is endorsing, has previously been reserved for countries such as Egypt, Pakistan and Jordan. Haaretz adds:
Leahy says these units are responsible for harming innocent Palestinian civilians and that no system of investigation is in place to ensure that their members are not committing human rights violations. According to Leahy's proposal, U.S. military assistance to Israel would be subject to the same restrictions that apply to countries such as Egypt, Pakistan and Jordan.
But Barak, along with the Israeli Embassy in Washington, have been attempting to persuade Leahy to back down from his new plan, to no avail. Still, Barak reportedly remains cautiously hopeful that, in explaining the situation on the ground as it really is, he may have gotten through to his long-time friend:
Barak, who met with Leahy privately, was quoted by the senior Israeli official as telling the senator: "The difference between Israel and terror groups or other countries in the Middle East is that we give an accounting and there is monitoring."
Barak also said the IDF had a strict judiciary with broader powers than the judiciary in the United States armed forces.
Barak was also quoted as telling Leahy that the IDF military advocate general is not subservient to the military command, but rather to the attorney general, and has complete autonomy.
"If a Palestinian is injured, he can approach the High Court of Justice," Barak said. "The investigations undergo judicial review that is independent of commanders. There are dozens of hearings every year that are based on Palestinians' complaints against soldiers. They reach the highest and most independent authorities," he said.
According to a senior Israeli official, Leahy understood Barak's message and the Israeli Embassy in Washington is keeping a close eye on the matter. And while it is still unknown to the public whether Leahy will withdraw the legislation that is slated for 2012, the official alleges that Israel does know if Leahy has or will do so. Haaretz adds that if necessary, Barak is prepared to hold another talk with Leahy in an effort to convince the Vermont senator to change his mind.
What still remains to be seen is just how many of Leahy's constituents are pro-Palestinian. One would assume it would have to be sizable for him to entertain such a one-sided piece of legislation. Or, is Leahy perhaps acting alone, without any external influence from pro-Palestinian activists?
InfoLive provides a report: