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Former State Department Official Explains Why He Resigned Over US Military Aid to Israel

A U.S. State Department official explained his decision to resign over the Biden administration’s commitment to provide military aid to Israel following Hamas’ deadly attack on the country nearly two weeks ago.

Until yesterday, Josh Paul was the director of congressional and public affairs at the State Department’s Bureau of Military Affairs, where he helped craft policy around sending military arms to other countries.

Speaking to ABC News’ Brad Mielke on START HERE, Paul said he believes that Israel’s heavy military response to Hamas, resulting in thousands of civilian deaths, has been “counterproductive” to its own security. He also said that, unlike the decision-making process for arms sales in other instances, such as to Saudi Arabia, there has been “no space allowed for debate” regarding Israel.

During a State Department press briefing, spokesperson Matthew Miller said the department encouraged opposing views and debate, but that ultimately the decision makers within the administration didn’t agree with Paul’s stance in this instance.

“With respect to this, this specific criticism that has been aired, we have made very clear that we strongly support Israel’s right to defend itself. We’re going to continue providing the security assistance that they need to defend themselves,” Miller said. “The president, the secretary has spoken very clearly that we expect Israel to abide by all international law as they defend themselves. And we will continue to work with them to ensure that they meet the highest standards.”

BRAD MIELKE: Let’s start with, why did you resign?

JOSH PAUL: So thank you for that question and thanks for having me. I resigned because I think, for the last 20 years, we’ve had a policy when it comes to Israel and Palestinians that is built on two premises. First of all, that a two-state solution is viable, and secondly, that the way to get there is to ensure Israel feels secure.

But what we’ve actually seen is that the way Israel has established its sense of security, which, as it turns out, is a false sense, is by expanding checkpoints and barriers in the West Bank, while at the same time, propping up an undemocratic Palestinian Authority and by trading fire with Hamas and with Palestinian Islamic Jihad, resulting in thousands of civilians’ deaths over the years, and in the past week alone, which has made a two-state solution virtually impossible.

And for us to look at that situation and say, let’s throw more munitions into this, let’s see, you know, if more bombs solve the problem, you know, it just doesn’t seem like the right path forward.

MIELKE: And so did you literally like hand a letter to someone or how does that work?

PAUL: Yes, I walked into my boss’ office, and I’m not going to name them, and handed a letter and actually had a very good honest talk in which they were very accepting and acknowledging of my perspective.

MIELKE: Well, and can you help me understand this, because a lot of the country is getting its head wrapped around this now; you’ve been thinking about this for years?
From Israel’s perspective, we’ve heard this described as its 9/11 moment, the worst terror attack in its history. And if I lived a thousand yards from people who came across the border a couple weeks ago and bludgeoned my neighbors to death, took a family member hostage, I would not think it’s simply enough to like, contain these guys and reach some ceasefire agreement. Like, I would think, you got to dismantle them. Do you really think there’s a way to do that without a heavy air assault and ground incursion like the one we’re seeing? Are there other options for the U.S. to support?

PAUL: Yeah, I mean, I would say, before I even answer that, I would say that that’s the question that we are always asked, right? Is, how else should Israel deal with it?

We never really ask ourselves, how should the Palestinians deal with the bombing of Gaza or with military incursions into their villages, with home destructions, with settlements and with all the violations that they face. So I just want to point out, first of all, that we, you know, sort of inherently come at this from one perspective, and I think it’s important to acknowledge that there is another perspective and two sides to every story.

We’re in this situation, because the use of military force has not resulted in security for Israel, right? So essentially the question you’re asking is, why shouldn’t we do, or why shouldn’t Israel do more of the same? And the answer is that it doesn’t result in what is ultimately in Israel’s own interests. And so, you know, I’m coming at this not from a, you know, taking sides perspective. But ultimately, if we want peace for the region, if we want peace for the civilians on both sides and security, and we’ve tried something for 20 years and not only has it not worked, but it’s been, you know, catastrophic, then maybe it’s time to try something different.

MIELKE: Yeah, but what would the difference be though? What would that look like?

PAUL: Well, so I think, look, let me be clear, I think Israel does have a military right to respond and, you know, there’s a conversation to be had there about what the tactics and techniques are that Israel could use to deal with the threat of Hamas. But beyond that, I think we need to talk about, you know, what can Israel do on the political side? You know, if you want to destroy Hamas, you’re not going to do it militarily. There’s no amount of bombs — you can’t bomb resistance out of the Palestinians. If you want to undermine Hamas, you have to do it through providing a path to peace, to justice, to a Palestinian society that can flourish.

MIELKE: Can you help me understand why this conflict was so singular for you? Like, I’m thinking of somebody at State — the U. S. makes arms deals with the Saudis, right? Like we’ve had complicated relationships with so many countries. Why was this the moment that makes you go into your boss’ office and say, “I’m done?”

PAUL: Yeah, no, thank you. So that’s a really important question. I think the difference here is one of process, not of substance. And what I mean by that is that, yes, we’ve dealt with a lot of these very similar issues with other partners with, you know, all sorts of regimes with dubious human rights records both in the Middle East and around the world.

What is different here is that there has always been a deliberative process that has accompanied those decisions, whereby — and there is a great process within the State Department for considering arms transfers, where the Political Military Affairs Bureau has a role, the regional bureau responsible for that area of the world chimes in with its equities, the Human Rights Bureau puts forward its equities. And this is a debate that particularly, on complex cases, can last for months or even years.

In this instance, there has been no debate. There has been no space allowed for debate. Any concerns raised have been sort of set aside with the sort of direction — no, this is what we are doing, move out. The other difference is that there’s also no space for debate when cases leave the State Department.

So when there’s a major arms sale, what happens is it needs to be notified to Congress. And in the congressional notification process, Congress often raises human rights concerns, often the same concerns that have been raised by officials in the State Department. And Congress can hold sales, they can debate sales, they can even vote to block sales.

Of course, in this instance, when it comes to Israel, there’s absolutely no appetite of any significance for doing so. So there is no space for debate on the Hill, there’s no space for debate within the executive branch, and that is why I brought my space for debate to the public sphere.

MIELKE: Well then, last question for you. Do you feel like there are more people who feel the way you do at the State Department or elsewhere in the federal government right now?

PAUL: Yes, and I would say today that there are more than I even thought there were yesterday. I have been amazed and really touched by the amount of outreach that I’ve had from folks across the interagency and in the legislative branch to sort of say “Hey, we understand where you’re coming from,” you know, “Thank you for doing this,” and, you know, “We feel the same way. This is really difficult for us as well.” I think that there are a lot of people who feel that way.

Source : ABC



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