In a letter dated February 17, the Congressmen compare what they refer to as "gross violations of human rights" in Israel to forced disappearances of people in Egypt, as well as the August 2013 massacre in Rabaa Square in Cairo, in which at least 1,000 supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi were murdered and nearly 4,000 others wounded by Egyptian security forces. The massacre on August 14, 2013 was described by Human Rights Watch as "one of the world’s largest killings of demonstrators in a single day in recent history.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the letter, saying that "The IDF and the Israel Police do not engage in executions. Israel’s soldiers and police officers defend themselves and innocent civilians with the highest moral standards against bloodthirsty terrorists who come to murder them. Where is the concern for the human rights of the many Israelis who’ve been murdered and maimed by these savage terrorists? This letter should have been addressed instead to those who incite youngsters to commit cruel acts of terrorism.”
Yesh Atid leader MK Yair Lapid sent an urgent letter to Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, calling on him to condemn the letter.
"When Israel is under attack, we expect our friends to stand by us. It is very unfortunate to see congressmen using the current wave of terrorist attacks to undermine Israel's national security and to call to stop the vital military aid to Israel," Lapid wrote to Reid.
Leahy is the author of the Leahy Law, which prohibits the US government from providing foreign military aid to governments that violate human rights. About 75 percent of all US foreign military aid goes to Israel and Egypt —Israel receives an annual sum of $3.1 billion, while Egypt gets $1.3 billion.
The letter could have political ramifications: The unusual choice to paint Israel with the same brush as Egypt could anger Israel's friends in Washington, who will not be happy to hear that the only democracy in the Middle East is being lumped together with Egypt, a notorious violator of human rights.
In Politico's estimation, the letter was leaked almost a month and a half after being sent because of the incident in Hebron last week, when an IDF soldier shot to death a Palestinian attacker who was lying wounded on the ground.
Leahy's spokesman David Carl downplayed the fact Israel was included in the letter, noting that Leahy believes that the law that bears his name "should be uniformly applied."
In their letter, the American lawmakers questioned the mechanism that monitors military assistance to Israel and Egypt and sought clarification on what procedures are used by the State Department and American embassies to investigate allegations of human right violations.
"According to information we have received, the manner in which US military assistance has been provided to Israel and Egypt, since the Camp David Accords, including the delivery of assistance at the military service level, has created a unique situation that has hindered implementation of normal mechanisms for monitoring the use of such assistance," the congressmen wrote.
The letter notes several cases of "extrajudicial execution" by the IDF and Israel Police, including that of Fadi Alloun, who stabbed an ultra-Orthodox teen in Jerusalem in October, and Hadeel Hashlamoun, an 18-year-old Palestinian girl who was shot to death at a checkpoint in Hebron after trying to stab a soldier.
The letter also cites allegation of torture against Palestinians, including 13-year-old Palestinian boy Ahmed Manasra who, along with another Palestinian teen, stabbed a 13-year-old boy and a 21-year-old man in Pisgat Ze'ev in Jerusalem.
In the past, Leahy unsuccessfully tried to include a clause in his law that would limit US aid to elite IDF units like Shayetet 13 because they "harm innocent Palestinians."
TPS contributed to this story.