It is often said that the purpose of U.S. foreign aid is to project American power and values.
Unfortunately, year after year, decade after decade, the only thing consistent about U.S. foreign aid is that the money continues to flow regardless of the behavior of the recipients.
In 2023 alone, the U.S. government took over $43 billion in taxpayer money and sent that money abroad.
Did the government send that money to our friends? Well, sometimes. But sometimes your tax dollars went to countries better described as “frenemies.”
And often, U.S. foreign aid goes to countries best described as authoritarian dictatorships.
In 2022, the U.S. sent almost $1.5 billion to Egypt. Egypt is a tyrannical nightmare. The U.S. State Department has acknowledged that President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has effectively turned Egypt into a prison. His security forces routinely engage in extrajudicial killings and torture, as well as harsh crackdowns on anyone who wishes to exercise their right to freedom of speech.
Sisi’s regime detains journalists for the crime of reporting and tortures 14-year-olds for the crime of participating in public demonstrations.
Is that what America stands for? Why should we reward a government with such a horrendous human rights record?
If foreign aid is meant to project American values, then we should write those values into law.
We have attempted to do so in the past. For example, we have laws on the books, named after former Sen. Patrick Leahy, that prohibit U.S. assistance to countries when there is credible information that they have committed gross violations of human rights.
If our government strictly adhered to the Leahy Laws, it would insist that recipients abandon their despotic ways before they receive American money.
If our government enforced the Leahy Laws, foreign aid to Egypt would have ended years ago.
Unfortunately, the U.S. government is very effective at circumventing the Leahy Laws. So, your money still flows around the globe, regardless of the behavior of the recipients.
It may surprise many Americans to learn that we have provided hundreds of millions of dollars to the Palestinian Authority over the years. In 2023 alone, we spent over $280 million in the P.A.-controlled territories and Hamas-controlled Gaza. Since 1993, the U.S. has provided more than $7.6 billion in assistance to Palestinians in these areas.
I say that not one more penny of foreign aid should be sent to entities unwilling to renounce violence.
All American aid should be conditioned on the recipients’ protection of basic human rights. It should not be too much to ask that these recipients also renounce terrorism and, in the case of the Palestinians, cease trying to destroy Israel.
Today, after the Oct. 7 attacks, this principle is even more pertinent.
The atrocities committed just over 100 days ago resulted in the killing of over 1,200 innocent men, women and children. Some 240 people were taken hostage. At least 33 Americans were killed and six remain unaccounted for and presumed kidnapped by Hamas.
This kind of barbarism cannot be rewarded with American taxpayer dollars.
How can we continue to allow the flow of money to groups that call for the destruction of Israel? How can we continue to allow taxpayer money to go to the very entities that lob rockets towards Israel? How can we reward the slaughter of innocent people?
The old ways of doing business have not brought peace to the Middle East and have not won us new allies. The time has come for the U.S. to mean what it says in the defense of human rights.
That is why I offered an amendment to the recent Continuing Resolution stopgap funding bill that should have been easy for every senator to support. Unfortunately, it failed 44-50, but this nonetheless indicated that a significant number of senators are interested in increased oversight of foreign aid.
If my amendment had passed it would have ended American aid to governing entities in Gaza and the P.A.-controlled territories unless they, among other things, recognize Israel’s right to exist, pledge to renounce terrorism and the Oct. 7 massacre, terminate funding of anti-American and anti-Israeli incitement, and release all hostages abducted on Oct. 7.
Additionally, my amendment required the Secretary of State to report on Hamas and the P.A.’s compliance with U.S. foreign assistance laws and any use of U.S. funds to commit atrocities.
American resources should always promote American security interests and values. Any recipient of our tax dollars should be more than willing to adopt principles that recognize the liberty and dignity of the individual. But we cannot expect the recipients of aid to change their behavior if America does not demand it.
We speak of human rights, but reward those who violate them. This is unacceptable. We can no longer afford empty rhetoric. It makes no sense to borrow money from China and turn around and give that money away to foreign countries. America must demand a change in behavior from those who reject Israel’s right to exist, actively seek the destruction of the State of Israel and murder innocent Israelis.