US expected to block military aid to Israeli army unit. What is the Leahy law?

Israel said its biggest ally the United States would block military aid to Israeli troops as soon as Monday, citing gross human rights violations in the Israeli-occupied West Bank before the Gaza war began six months ago. I expect it to be announced.

The move marks the first time in the decades-long partnership between the two countries that a U.S. administration has invoked a landmark 27-year-old Congressional law known as the Leahy Act against Israeli military units.

This comes as relations between the United States and Israel become increasingly strained over civilian death and suffering in Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli leaders expect U.S. sanctions and condemn, Prime Minister Netanyahu vows to fight back with all his might

Here we will look at Leahy’s Law and how it is applied.

What is the Leahy method?

Former Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy said the U.S. does not have the means to block U.S. military aid and training to foreign security forces guilty of extrajudicial killings, rape, torture, and other flagrant human rights abuses. He said it was necessary and supported legislation that became the Leahy Act in the 1990s.

A car bursts into flames after a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip in Ashkelon, Israel, on October 7, 2023. Israel expects its biggest ally, the United States, to announce it will block military aid to Israeli troops because of the death toll.Before the Gaza war began six months ago, the Israeli-occupied West Bank Human rights violations were taking place. The move marks the first time a U.S. administration has invoked the 27-year-old Congressional law known as the Leahy Act against Israeli military units. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

One of the first targets of the 1997 law was typical of the rebel forces Congress had in mind. Colombian army units were accused of deliberately killing thousands of civilians in order to obtain bonuses that were being offered for killing militants.

Other U.S. laws are supposed to address other situations where human rights violations mandate blocking of military aid. It states that “weapons transfers will not be authorized” if the United States determines that a foreign power is likely to use the weapons to commit serious violations of the laws of war, human rights, or other crimes. This includes a February 2023 order by President Joe Biden that ordered , including “serious acts of violence against children.”

How does Leahy’s Law work?

The law requires the State Department to automatically cut off aid to military units if it finds credible evidence of serious human rights violations. The second Leahy Act says the same thing about the Department of Defense’s training of foreign troops.

Human rights groups have long argued that U.S. administrations, including the Biden administration, have been trying to avoid invoking such laws, which are meant to condition military aid on the lawful conduct of foreign forces, to prevent Israeli military killings and other incidents of Palestinians. They have accused the country of evading rigorous investigations into abuse allegations.

Israel says its security forces are investigating the abuses and courts are holding perpetrators accountable.

How often is the Leahy Act invoked?

U.S. security assistance to former Soviet Union countries, Latin American and African countries is regularly provided. Not so much when it comes to strategically important US allies.

For example, in 2022, the United States found enough evidence of abuses to invoke the Leahy Act against police and other forces in Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, and Saint Lucia in the Caribbean.

The administration also has the option of notifying Congress of Leahy Act cases on a confidential basis to avoid embarrassing key partners.

Sarah Elaine Harrison, a former Pentagon prosecutor who worked on Leahy Act issues and is now a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, said administration veterans believe the U.S. government has previously invoked the Act against Israel. He says that there is no such thing.

What can Israel do about the cancellation?

Harrison points to a 2021 treaty that stipulates that Israel will not share U.S. military aid with troops that the U.S. determines are credibly guilty of gross human rights violations.


US law offers one workaround for criminals. The Secretary of State may waive the Leahy Act if the Secretary of State determines that the relevant government is taking effective steps to bring criminals in the targeted units to justice.

The United States is still sending billions of dollars in funds and weapons to Israel, including a new $26 billion package to support Israel’s defense and provide relief for the growing humanitarian disaster in Gaza. Also included in the package. The Senate is expected to pass it this week, and Biden has said he will sign it.