Congress Bypassed Again: Biden Greenlights Urgent Weapons Sale to Israel
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Congress Bypassed Again: Biden Greenlights Urgent Weapons Sale to Israel

For the second time this month, the Biden administration is circumventing Congress to approve an emergency weapons sale to Israel. This decision comes amid Israel’s ongoing conflict with Hamas in Gaza, facing increased international criticism.

The State Department announced on Friday that Secretary of State Antony Blinken informed Congress about a second emergency determination, covering a $147.5 million sale for equipment such as fuses, chargers, and primers. These items are essential for the functionality of the 155 mm shells that Israel has previously acquired.

“Given the urgency of Israel’s defensive needs, the secretary notified Congress that he had exercised his delegated authority to determine an emergency existed necessitating the immediate approval of the transfer,” the department stated.

“The United States is committed to the security of Israel, and it is vital to U.S. national interests to ensure Israel is able to defend itself against the threats it faces,” it said.

The emergency determination allows the purchase to bypass the congressional review requirement for foreign military sales, a rare but not unprecedented occurrence when urgent weapon delivery is deemed necessary without waiting for lawmakers’ approval. Secretary of State Blinken previously made a similar decision on Dec. 9, approving the sale of nearly 14,000 rounds of tank ammunition worth over $106 million to Israel.

These actions coincide with President Joe Biden’s $106 billion aid package request for Ukraine, Israel, and other national security needs, currently stalled in Congress due to debates over U.S. immigration policy and border security.

Some Democratic lawmakers have suggested tying the proposed $14.3 billion in assistance to Israel with specific actions by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to reduce civilian casualties in Gaza during the conflict with Hamas.

To address potential criticism on human rights grounds, the State Department stated that it maintains constant communication with Israel, emphasizing the importance of minimizing civilian casualties, which have risen since Israel initiated its response to the Hamas attacks on Oct. 7.

“We continue to strongly emphasize to the government of Israel that they must not only comply with international humanitarian law, but also take every feasible step to prevent harm to civilians,” it said.

“Hamas hides behind civilians and has embedded itself among the civilian population, but that does not lessen Israel’s responsibility and strategic imperative to distinguish between civilians and Hamas terrorists as it conducts its military operations,” the department said. “This type of campaign can only be won by protecting civilians.”

The uncommon move of bypassing Congress with emergency rulings for arms sales has already encountered opposition from legislators, who typically have a chance to comment on and, in some situations, oppose planned weapons transfers.

When it became apparent that the Trump administration would not be able to get past lawmakers’ concerns regarding the Saudi-led war in Yemen, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared an emergency in May 2019 for a $8.1 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan.

Pompeo faced harsh backlash for the decision, which some thought might have broken the law because many of the weapons involved were not yet completed and could not be transferred immediately. However, an internal probe found him to be innocent of any misconduct.

Since 1979, at least four administrations have made use of the power. During the Gulf War, it was utilized by the administration of President George H.W. Bush to swiftly provide Saudi Arabia with weapons.

 

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With more than two years of expertise in news and analysis, Eileen Stewart is a seasoned reporter. Eileen is a respected voice in this field, well-known for her sharp reporting and insightful analysis. Her writing covers a wide range of subjects, from politics to culture and more.