Humanitarian Aid and Israel’s Security

The Trump Administration has taken the unprecedented step of using U.S. economic aid as political leverage in an attempt to force Palestinian leadership back to the negotiating table. While advocates of this strategy argue that it is the quickest way to obtain peace, there is significant opposition to this approach in Israel even within conservative circles. They warn that these measures jeopardize stability in the occupied Palestinian territories. The following sampling of prominent leaders within the Israeli defense establishment, press, and academia argue that continuing U.S. economic aid to the Palestinians is in fact vital for Israel’s security interests.   

ISRAELI NATIONAL SECURITY EXPERTS


PETER LERNER
: Served for 25 years in the IDF as a Lieutenant Colonel and IDF spokesperson.  

“Less American Aid to Palestinians Means More Violence Against Israelis” [HAARETZ, 2018]
By weakening UNRWA and, consequently, the Palestinian population even further, without a real administrative alternative, I believe that Palestinians will be even more susceptible more extremism and violence. This will not contribute to security or stability in the region. While UNRWA is far from perfect, the Israeli defense establishment, and the Israeli government as a whole, have over the years come to the understanding that all the alternatives are worse for Israel.

“UNRWA’S Role is in the Eye of the Beholder” [Jerusalem Post, 2018]
“I’m not implying that there isn’t a need for a review of UNRWA’s function and mandate, but in the current situation if you sever the assistance you are leaving hundreds of thousands of people without basic needs. That could potentially lead to more violence and aggravate the situation in the refugee camps that are prone for more violence anyway.”

BRIG.-GEN. NITZAN ALON: Current General Officer Commanding (GOC) Central Command (West Bank, Jerusalem, etc.)

Israel’s West Bank General Warns Against Radicals” [New York Times, 2011]
The Israeli general in charge of most of the West Bank has a message for members of Congress who want to end American aid to the Palestinian Authority… Don’t do it.

Top IDF Official: US Should Not Cut Aid to Palestinians” [Jerusalem Post, 2011]
“Cutting off American aid to the Palestinian Authority will lead to instability and insecurity for Israel and the Palestinian people.”

COMMANDERS FOR ISRAEL’S SECURITY (CIS): Consists of 282 retired senior officials of the Israel’s security agencies – former Mossad, IDF, police and Shabak – including founder Maj.-Gen. (Res.) Amnon Reshef who is a veteran of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War and ex-head of Mossad, Shabtai Shavit.

“Hundreds of Former Israeli Generals Warn U.S. Taylor Force Act Could Create Security Risks for Israel” [Haaretz, 2017]
“The proposed legislation, which calls for withdrawing funds from vital economic projects…will undermine PA stability; expand the circle of frustration and hostility; erode the security coordination; and thus hurt Israeli security.”

Former Israeli and US Officials Unveil Security-Based Proposals for Two-State Solution” [Jerusalem Post, 2016]
“‘It should be combined with helping the relevant Palestinians, whether they are in the West Bank, Jerusalem or Gaza, to improve their standards of living, provide them with a kind of hope,’ he said, ‘Then, we will neutralize a lot of their disappointment, their frustration, and they might not enter the roots of terror.’

TZIPI LIVNI: Current Member of Knesset and head of liberal Hatunah Party and former Minister of Foreign Affairs (2006-2009) during Ehud Olmert government.

“Trump’s Threat to Cut Palestinian Aid Worries Many in Israel” [New York Times, 2018]
“A serious and responsible government would stop mixing politics with Israeli security and would sit quietly and discreetly with the American president and explain to him what the real Israeli interest is,” Tzipi Livni, a former foreign and justice minister, who now sits in the opposition, wrote on Twitter. That, she added, includes “avoiding a humanitarian crisis in Gaza and continuing cooperation with the Palestinian security forces.”

MAJ.-GEN YAAKOV AMIDROR: Former national security adviser to Netanyahu.

“Trump’s Threat to Cut Palestinian Aid Worries Many in Israel” [New York Times, 2018]
“But to stop all the money that is going to UNRWA overnight would be devastating. It should be a process during which the Palestinians take on responsibility and slowly, slowly Unrwa ceases to exist.”

GADI EISENKOT: IDF Chief of Staff

“IDF chief said to warn Gaza war likely if humanitarian crisis persists” [The Times of Israel, 2018]
“IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot warned ministers during a cabinet meeting on Sunday that Israel could soon face another war with Gaza-based terror group Hamas, as a result of the deteriorating humanitarian and economic conditions in the coastal enclave…Gadi Eisenkot reportedly favors increasing aid to beleaguered Palestinian enclave to prevent conflict.”

MICHAEL KOPLOW: Director of Israel Policy Forum in Washington, D.C.

“Gaza is Bad. We are About to Make it Worse” [Israel Policy Exchange, 2018]
“A complete and sudden cutoff of American aid to the West Bank and Gaza will lead to an epic disaster in Gaza that Israel will have to clean up.”

ISRAELI PRESS

“Analysis: Trump’s Threat to Defund UNRWA Could Cost Israel as Much as the Palestinians” [Haaretz, 2018]
“In practice, however, [UNRWA] funds educational activities and medical services for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, and a sharp cut in its resources could bring thousands of them into the streets to confront the Israeli army.”

“Israeli Defense Officials Warn Politicians: Trump’s Cuts to Palestinians Could Harm Israel’s Security” [Haaretz, 2018]
The military officials said that in the absence of any real alternative to the UN refugee agency, the army prefers to allow the agency to continue to operate. The military establishment believes that the agency’s 30,000 workers and activists aid Israeli security more than they damage it, noting that hurting the agency would hurt the health, education and welfare of Gazans in particular.”

“Israel said to consider sending direct aid to deteriorating Gaza” [The Times of Israel, 2018]
“In a security assessment handed recently to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the defense establishment reiterated its belief that the Hamas terror group currently ruling Gaza is not interested in another conflict with Israel. However, an economic collapse would make such a scenario inevitable.”

“Israeli Defense Establishment Warns of Complete Economic Collapse in Gaza” [The Jewish Press, 2018]  
“Israel’s security establishment…pointed out that preventing a humanitarian disaster in Gaza is an urgent matter of national security for Israel.”

THINK TANKS


INSTITUTE FOR NATIONAL SECURITY STUDIES (INSS)

“The End of US Funding to UNRWA: Opportunity or Threat?” [INSS, 2018]
“While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has spoken against UNRWA and supports the American policy, Israel’s security establishment has reacted to the US move with concern. UNRWA provides an essential humanitarian lifeline to Gazans; is an instrumental stabilizing force; provides Israel with an important point of contact bypassing Hamas; and enables Israel’s security apparatus to monitor the entrance of construction and dual-use substances into Gaza.”

THE BEGIN-SADAT CENTER FOR STRATEGIC STUDIES (BESA)

“DEBATE: Should US Aid to the Palestinians Be Suspended?” [BESA, 2018]
Neri Zilber: “Any cutoff in aid would inevitably undermine [PA Security Force’s] cohesiveness and effectiveness. The notion that security can be shielded from a wider suspension of aid is not credible.