Washington, DC – Andrew Albertson, Executive Director of Foreign Policy for America, issued the following statement to FP4A members marking one month since the Hamas attack on Israel that occurred on October 7, 2023:
“It has been one month since Hamas’ horrific terrorist attack on October 7, which killed over 1400 Israelis – the deadliest attack on Israel since its founding in 1948. As we mark that terrible milestone, I wanted to reach out to you with an update on how we’re approaching this crisis.
First and foremost, we’ve been listening to members like you. This is not just another confounding policy challenge; it’s profoundly personal for so many in our community.
We have family members and loved ones in Israel and understand deeply the fragility of the Israeli state today. We are students and parents, shocked by the rise of antisemitism around the world and wondering what that means for our future.
We also have family members and loved ones in Gaza and the West Bank. We wake up to devastating news of innocent Palestinians killed, trapped between Hamas terrorists and Israeli bombardments, or subjected to settler violence. We see a new wave of discrimination against Arab Americans and Muslims, just as happened after 9/11.
Against the backdrop of this deepening crisis, FP4A staff have also been in constant communication with our allies in the Biden Administration and on Capitol Hill.
We have commended President Biden for his immediate strong and empathetic response, for his commitment to ensure Israel has all it needs to defend and care for its citizens, and for his rapid deployment of additional American assets to the Middle East to deter Iran. Likewise, we are grateful for Secretary Blinken’s extraordinary diplomatic efforts to seek the safe return of hostages, deliver humanitarian aid, and coordinate closely with U.S. partners in the region.
We have thanked Members of Congress who have responded to this crisis with humanity, empathy, and a focus on the long-term security of Israelis, Palestinians, and the broader region.
But we have also been clear that much more U.S. leadership is needed right now – both from the White House and Congress – to protect innocent civilians, exercise meaningful oversight of U.S. assistance, and preserve U.S. international leadership on the world stage.
First, the Biden administration must more actively and publicly work towards meaningful protections for Palestinian civilians in Gaza, to include a significant recalibration of the Israeli offensive. Humanitarian pauses to deliver aid are necessary and urgently needed, but not sufficient.
Israel has the right and the duty to defend its people and ensure such an attack never happens again. It should take all necessary actions to free hostages. But none of that relieves the Netanyahu government from its obligations under international law. Unfortunately, despite President Biden’s private communications and Secretary Blinken’s recent trip, U.S. efforts to date have had little effect on the escalating bombardment of Gaza.
As the Netanyahu government seeks to broaden its ground assault, it is not clear how the current offensive will impact Israel’s long-term security. Overwhelming military power may destroy Hamas’ military infrastructure in Gaza, but if Israel fails to prepare for the day after, tactical victories will do little to make Israelis safer.
Meanwhile, more than a million people are displaced within Gaza. The flow of food, water, and medicine has increased but not kept pace with the rising scale of needs. The bombing of Khan Younis, the St. Porphyrios Greek Orthodox Church, and the Jabalia refugee camp reinforce the desperate need for functioning safe zones. More than 10,000 Palestinians have been killed. Two thirds have been women and children.
Second, Congress must exercise rigorous oversight of any aid package.
On Capitol Hill too our political leaders need to be deliberate and principled in their response to this crisis. A bedrock principle of U.S. security assistance is that U.S. arms are to be used consistent with international law, including differentiating civilians from military targets. It is what sets us and our democratic allies apart from authoritarian regimes like Russia.
As Congress reviews the President’s emergency funding request, it should focus on a few vital priorities:
As Israel’s essential ally, we should do everything we can to aid Israel in its defense of its citizens. That means sending ammunition and interceptors to replenish the Iron Dome system and helping Israel upgrade its air defenses. But under current circumstances, the U.S. cannot provide the Netanyahu government with air to ground munitions and reasonably expect those will not be used indiscriminately. Other weapons, such as assault rifles, should likewise be withheld unless the Netanyahu government can provide credible assurances these weapons will not contribute to escalating violence in the West Bank.
In addition, Congress should play an active role in overseeing this assistance package, just as it should with all aid. For both Ukraine and Israel, the United States needs to be able to account for what military assistance is provided; ensure it does not go to military units about which there is credible information of gross human rights violations; and have confidence that any allegations of gross human rights violations are being investigated and dealt with appropriately. Rather than single out any one country for unfair treatment, our policy must be to apply these standards equally to all U.S. assistance, including training, equipment, and other activities.
Finally, as the scale of destruction in Gaza and the West Bank grows, the need for sustained humanitarian and development assistance is clear. Washington needs to prepare now for the future. With urgency, the United States must set out a plan – together with our European and regional partners – to help Palestinians rebuild after the fighting and to lay a foundation for the establishment of a Palestinian state and durable Middle East peace.
Third, at the UN and on the world stage, we must stand up for international law.
Simply put, the world is watching. As the primary architect of the UN and the current international system, the United States benefits more than any other country from maintaining the rules-based international order. Today that order is being challenged. When the U.S. or our allies deviate from those rules, it weakens our case and lends support to rival states like China and Russia who seek to advance their alternative vision for the world, one where power is entrenched in the hands of authoritarian regimes and individual rights are devalued.
At the UN, the U.S. should continue to defend Israel any time it is subjected to unfair treatment. We must rally the world to condemn Hamas atrocities unequivocally. But we also must make clear that every violation of international humanitarian law is unacceptable and defend the vital role that UN agencies and other humanitarian actors play in times of conflict. In the era of rising strategic competition, the costs and risks of double standards are simply too high.
We must also begin planning now for the future. In his October 25th remarks, President Biden spoke to the need for a concentrated effort among international partners, after the fighting ends, to deliver a path toward a two-state solution. Achieving that vision will require intense U.S. diplomatic engagement with regional partners to build political consensus. It will require international cooperation to support the reconstruction of Gaza. The success of these future efforts depends importantly on attention today to international humanitarian law.
Through all of this, I am grateful to be working together with all of you. Please continue to send us your thoughts and reach out so we can talk further.
Wishing you all the best,
Executive Director, Foreign Policy for America”