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Kamala Harris pledges unconditional support for Israel

Joe Biden's running mate says military assistance will not be linked to 'any political decision' that Israeli government makes
'I pledge to you, the Biden-Harris administration will sustain our unbreakable commitment to Israel's security,' Harris said (AFP)
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Washington

Democratic vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris reiterated that Joe Biden will not impose any conditions on US aid to Israel, saying that assistance would not be linked to "any political decision" made by the Israeli government.

Her remarks, about eight weeks before the election, come at a time when the right-wing government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is still considering annexing large parts of the occupied West Bank.

"Joe has made it clear he will not tie security assistance to any political decisions that Israel makes, and I couldn't agree more," Harris told a virtual fundraiser with Jewish-American voters on Wednesday.

That California senator went on to promote Biden's "unwavering support" for Israel and his role in securing military assistance for the Israeli government when he served as Barack Obama's vice president.

"I pledge to you the Biden-Harris administration will sustain our unbreakable commitment to Israel's security, including the unprecedented military and intelligence cooperation pioneered during the Obama-Biden administration and the guarantee that Israel will always maintain its qualitative military edge," Harris said.

Sidelining Palestinians

Israel receives about $3.8bn in US military aid annually. Before leaving office in 2016, Obama signed a memorandum of understanding that ensures $38bn of assistance to Israel spread over 10 years.

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During the Democratic primaries, Senator Bernie Sanders proposed imposing human rights conditions on the military aid to Israel - an idea that Biden promptly rejected.

Harris's remarks completely ruling out using military aid as leverage to advance US policy, including Biden's own opposition to settlement expansion and annexation - which he said would choke off chances of peace - add to the frustration of Palestinian rights advocates with the Democratic campaign.

"Although Palestinian and Arab Americans in the US understand as well as anyone else the historical importance of this election, the Democratic Party mainstream makes it supremely difficult to #VoteBlueNoMatterWho," Hatem Abudayyeh, co-founder of the US Palestinian Community Network (USPCN), told MEE in statement.

"Trump is clearly the worst human being and leader this country has seen in modern times, but when you dig deep on the policy level, you realize that Harris and Biden are the right wing of the Democratic Party - as it relates to annexation and other crimes against Palestinians, and health care and racial justice right here at home."

Iran deal

Asked about Biden's stated plan to return to the Iran nuclear deal, Harris vowed that a Democratic administration would not allow the Islamic Republic to obtain a nuclear weapon.

Pro-Israel groups, including the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), had ferociously opposed the 2015 multilateral nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Some hawkish Democrats, including the outgoing chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot Engel, had also pushed against the deal. In 2015, Netanyahu addressed Congress without an invitation from the White House, and bashed the JCPOA in a major breach of diplomatic protocol.

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The deal signed by several leading world powers saw Tehran scale back its nuclear programme in exchange for lifting sanctions against its economy.

As President Donald Trump nixed the agreement in May 2018, the nuclear deal gained popularity in the Democratic Party, even among some of its early critics. 

On Wednesday, Harris defended the deal, while also committing to Israel's security.

"We will continue to ensure that Israel has the unbreakable support of the United States," Harris said. "Joe Biden actually took historic steps as vice president to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The Obama-Biden administration imposed what were described as crippling multilateral sanctions which brought Iran to negotiations, which paved the way for the JCPOA and prevented a nuclear-armed Iran."

She added that the nuclear agreement had "blocked Iran's pathways to a nuclear weapon", and slammed Trump for pulling out of the deal without an alternative.