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Campus Protests Over Gaza Open a Pandora’s Box for Wall Street Megabanks that Underwrote $8 Billion of Israel’s Bonds in March


By Pam Martens and Russ Martens:

Protestor Wears a Swamp Creature Costume Outside Goldman Sachs Headquarters, January 17, 2017

The pro-Palestinian protestors on college and university campuses across the U.S. have opened a pandora’s box for the Wall Street megabanks that underwrite billions of dollars in Israel bonds – including $8 billion in March of this year – at a time when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conduct of the war in Gaza has come under broad condemnation.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is Jewish, described Netanyahu’s war operation as follows on the April 28 edition of CNN’s State of the Union:

“Right now, what Netanyahu’s right-wing, extremist and racist government is doing is unprecedented in the modern history of warfare. They have killed in the last six-and-a-half months 33,000 Palestinians, wounded 77,000, two-thirds of whom are women and children.

“They have destroyed over 60 percent of the housing. They have destroyed the health care system. They have destroyed the infrastructure, no electricity, very little water. And, right now, we are looking at the possibility of mass starvation and famine in Gaza.

“When you make those charges, that is not antisemitic. That is a reality. So, our job is to condemn Hamas, a terrorist organization that started this war, condemn in every form antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of bigotry. But we do have to pay attention to the disastrous and unprecedented humanitarian disaster taking place in Gaza right now.”

On February 12 of this year, President Joe Biden warned Israel against its plan to invade Rafah, a city in the southern portion of Gaza. Israel had previously ordered civilians in Gaza to uproot their families and relocate there for safety.

But less than a month after President Biden issued his warning, four megabanks on Wall Street underwrote $8 billion in bonds for Israel. Those banks are: BNP Paribas, Bank of America, Deutsche Bank, and Goldman Sachs. Citigroup’s Citibank is the fiscal agent, paying agent, transfer agent and registrar on the bonds.

This morning, Israel’s military has issued evacuation orders for Rafah, suggesting an attack there may be imminent. NPR reports the following this morning: “Since late March, Israeli air strikes have hit Rafah almost daily, killing nearly 300 Palestinians, most of them women and children, according to hospital records and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.”

The megabanks on Wall Street are not the only facilitators of funding to Israel. According to a recent SEC filing by Israel, the U.S. has contractually pledged the following to Israel:

“Israel receives military assistance from the United States and has received economic assistance from the United States averaging approximately $3 billion per year since 1987, including by way of loan guarantees. U.S. foreign assistance to Israel has reduced by way of a phase-out of the U.S. Economic Support Fund, however, the level of its Foreign Military Financing assistance to Israel has increased. In 2016, the United States and Israel reached an agreement on a package of at least $38 billion in U.S. military aid over the course of 10 years ($3.8 billion per year).”

The same SEC document explains the U.S. loan guarantees on certain Israel bonds as follows:

“In 1992, the United States approved up to $10 billion in loan guarantees during U.S. fiscal years 1993 through 1998 to help Israel absorb the influx of immigrants over this period. Israel completed its financings under this program in January 1998. In April 2003, the United States approved up to $9 billion in additional loan guarantees for Israel, and the loan guarantee program has been extended over the years and in 2012, the United States and Israel entered into an agreement establishing a new framework for administering its loan guarantee program provides Israel with access to up to approximately $3.8 billion in future loan guarantees as part of the initial $9 billion commitment. Most recently in January 2023, the United States extended the program until September 2028. The loan guarantee program aims to support Israel’s comprehensive economic program and to create conditions for high and sustainable growth.”

In addition, the foreign aid package that was passed by the U.S. Senate and signed by President Biden on April 24, includes $15 billion in military assistance to Israel and $9 billion in humanitarian relief for Gazans. The lion’s share of the $95 billion package, $61 billion, was earmarked for Ukraine, which has been under attack by Russia since February of 2022.

Supplementing bond underwriting by megabanks on Wall Street, Israel owns its own broker-dealer in the United States – the Development Corporation for Israel, also known simply as Israel Bonds. Various iterations of the corporation operate in Germany, England, Canada and elsewhere. According to its website, global sales of Israel Bonds have exceeded $1 billion in each of the past four years.

Numerous supporters of Israel have raised the alarm that the way Netanyahu is conducting the war in Gaza is doing irreparable harm to Israel’s reputation around the world. The fact that Israel needs the confidence of the capital markets in order to issue its sovereign debt securities might be a topic that President Biden and campus protestors need to emphasize in their pleas for a ceasefire.

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