Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Lawsuit Aims to Block U.S. Aid to Israel

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Lawsuit Aims to Block U.S. Aid to Israel

Article excerpt

ON AUG. 8 THIS writer filed a lawsuit in DC federal court challenging U.S. foreign aid to Israel. The U.S. is finalizing a new 10-year memorandum of understanding (MOU) which will reportedly boost that aid to between $4 billion and $5 billion per year, up from its current $3.1 billion annually. However, U.S. aid to Israel violates longstanding bans on funds to non-signatories to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) with nuclear weapons programs. Many have wondered why these bans are never enforced, but none have had standing to mount a challenge-until now.

In the mid-1970s, during investigations into the illegal diversion of weapons-grade uranium from U.S. contractor NUMEC to Israel (see May 2015 Washington Report, p. 11), Sens. Stuart Symington (D-MO) and John Glenn (D-OH) amended the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act to ban any aid to clandestine nuclear powers that were not NPT signatories. Although Symington was a strong advocate for national defense, he opposed Department of Defense waste, U.S. involvement in Vietnam, and CIA covert operations in Laos. Symington was close to President John F. Kennedy and CIA Deputy Director of Covert Operations Theodore Shackley. Like Glenn, who questioned Shackley about Israel's diversion of weapons grade uranium from the United States, Symington likely knew of JFK's secret opposition to Israel's Dimona nuclear weapons plant.

In committee reports Symington clarified the legislative intent of his 1976 amendment: "...if you wish to take the dangerous and costly steps necessary to achieve a nuclear weapons option, you cannot expect the United States to help underwrite that effort indirectly or directly."

Although key elements of Symington and Glenn have periodically been watered down, their core provisions-that the U.S. cannot deliver aid to non-signatories to the NPT that engage in transfer of nuclear weapons technologies-remain the law of the land. Since the bans went into effect, U.S. foreign aid to Israel is estimated to be an inflation-adjusted $234 billion, including secret intelligence aid.

The lawsuit alleges that the president and key federal agencies are violating both the Administrative Procedures Act and the "Take Care" clause of the U.S. Constitution by failing to uphold Symington and Glenn. It lists many historic cases where the president was required to act, and more recent cases such as post-2010 illegal diversions from the United States of oscilloscopes and pressure transducers for centrifuge cascades by Israeli front companies.

The original doctrine of the U.S. ignoring and Israel never mentioning its nuclear weapons program was hatched in 1969, during a meeting between visiting Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir and President Richard Nixon. Recently declassified files reveal that Nixon feared a "Zionist campaign to undermine" his administration if he withheld U.S. foreign aid over the program. Since then, presidents and national security officials have run away from media requests for comment on the program.

The Obama administration has gone further than any previous one in enforcing this "nuclear ambiguity" policy. In 2012 the U.S. Department of Energy, under guidance from Secretary Hillary Clinton's Department of State, promulgated what amounts to an illegal gag law. Titled "Guidance on Release of Information Relating to the Potential for an Israeli Nuclear Capability," the gag law severely punishes any federal official or contractor who frankly discusses Israel's nuclear program. …

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