Congressional use of earmarks in foreign appropriations has expanded as US foreign assistance has increased over the past decade. Foreign lobbies and diaspora groups have pushed for earmarks directing US foreign assistance to national minorities.

Earmarks or other direct funding to the Palestinian minority, which comprises roughly 20 percent of Israel’s population, would give effect to the US government’s expressions of concern over recent Israeli measures that elevate the state’s Jewish character over democratic principles, including the proposed Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People. Insofar as earmarks would make the Palestinian minority a stakeholder in US assistance to Israel, they would increase the capacity of the Palestinians in Israel to challenge the discriminatory and undemocratic laws that the Israeli parliament has enacted with increasingly regularity over the past decade. Further, with a joint list of Arab parties winning over 80 percent of the Arab vote in the 2015 Israeli elections, the Palestinian minority has a consensus leadership and political platform that earmarks or other direct funding could advance.

Ammar Awad/Reuters

Earmarks or other direct funding to national minorities may be appropriate where the national community is excluded from equal political participation or experiences systemic socioeconomic discrimination. As will be explored in the report, the Palestinian Arab population in Israel has never enjoyed equal political participation and their socioeconomic conditions continue to lag far behind their Jewish counterparts. The Arab-Jewish poverty gap is widening due to the privatization and erosion of social services and the state’s indifference to Arab needs in structuring benefits. State investment in housing, infrastructure and development in Arab localities remains inadequate and seeks to advance the state’s policy of limiting the territorial expansion of Arab communities.

 Silvia Boarini/Inter Press Service

Earmarking funds for the Palestinian minority is complicated by the fact that US economic development aid to Israel was phased out between 1999 and 2008, and other forms of non-military assistance reduced, in favor of increased military assistance. Nevertheless, Israel continues to receive US non-military funding through a variety of bilateral initiatives, including jointly-endowed research and development funds in life sciences, technology, agriculture, and land management. 

The study examines, among other topics:

-Precedents of earmarks in US foreign assistance for national minorities or minority interests/priorities

-Congressional findings on which such earmarks have been predicated, such as institutionalized discrimination, exclusion from political participation, socioeconomic status

-Precedent of lobbying of Congress and administration by foreign governments and diaspora groups in earmarks or other direct funding for national minorities or minority interests/priorities

-Participation of Palestinian citizens of Israel in existing US-Israel bilateral funding programs  

-Factual and legal arguments in support of earmarking or other direct funding for Palestinian citizens of Israel

-Options and recommendations for earmarks to Palestinian citizens in non-military assistance to Israel

The report will be released in partnership with a major U.S. advocacy organization.