After being approached by constituents in Vermont, veteran U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is pushing a bill that would bar aid to three elite Israeli military units that have been accused of human rights violations in the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Leahy, a long-time human rights defender, promoted the bill over the personal objections of his friend, Israel’s defense minister Ehud Barak. As part of foreign assistance legislation, Leahy’s proposed bill would block some of the U.S.’s more than $3 billion in annual aid to Israel, specifically those going to Israel Navy’s Shayetet 13 unit, the undercover Duvdevan unit, and the Israel Air Force’s Shaldag unit.
Politico’s Ben Smith follows up with Leahy’s office on the above report from the Israeli daily Haaretz. The law in question is already on the books, and Leahy seems to be calling for better enforcement. It remains unclear if he’ll introduce new language to that end when State budget authorization bills come before the Senate. Leahy’s spokesperson says the bill would deny aid to any military units worldwide implicated in human rights violations. Smith concludes: “The law isn’t aimed at Israel, but Leahy won’t shrink from having it enforced against Israeli troops.”