Obama Admin Threatens to Withhold Aid to Israel

January 23, 2010

Comments made by Obama’s special envoy to the Middle East have not gone down well with many people. In response to a question about the level of leverage the U.S. has in getting Israel to “toe the line”, George Mitchell said “Under American law, the United States can withhold support on loan guarantees to Israel.”
This apparent threat has ruffled feathers in Israel as well as the United States. It led Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz to state that the Obama Administration could keep the money as Israel had no requirement to call on its loan guarantees anytime in the near future. Representative of the Grand Old Party John McCain and Independent Joe Lieberman also came out in support of Israel saying that they would not support any process that would affect the loan guarantees adversely.

The comments from Mitchell may have stemmed from the frustration that the Obama Administration is facing in getting Israel to agree to deadlines. Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren recently rejected the two-year target that Washington tried to impose on the peace process. This is a reflection of Israel’s stance that it is not they who are at fault but the Palestinians. “It is the Palestinian Authority that needs to change its ways – certainly not the Israeli government” was a statement made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office. Mitchell did try to downplay his statement later by saying that he preferred to persuade the Israelis rather than try to impose any sanctions.