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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Biden Administration Proceeds with $1 Billion Weapons Deal for Israel

The Biden administration has notified Congress of its intention to proceed with a plan to sell over $1 billion in new weapons to Israel, according to three congressional aides familiar with the deal. This announcement includes the sale of new tactical vehicles and ammunition, amidst President Biden’s decision to withhold a shipment of bombs to Israel to prevent the use of U.S.-made weapons in a potential invasion of Rafah, a densely populated city in southern Gaza.

President Biden’s withholding of bombs and missiles aims to avoid their use in Rafah, where over a million Palestinians are currently sheltering. This move represents the administration’s delicate balancing act: supporting Israel’s right to defend itself while trying to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza. Despite the ongoing tensions, the Biden administration remains committed to supplying military assistance to Israel.

One congressional aide indicated that Congress had been aware of the arms deal for several months. It appears the administration waited for a foreign aid package, including additional aid for Israel, to pass before initiating the required congressional notification process. The State Department, when asked about the package, referred to comments by Jake Sullivan, the White House national security adviser, who reiterated the commitment to providing Israel with military assistance to defend itself against regional threats.

The Biden administration is also pushing for a cease-fire deal in which Hamas would release at least some of the hostages taken during its October 7 attack on Israel, which marked the beginning of the current conflict. However, the prime minister of Qatar, a crucial player in these negotiations, recently described the talks as being at an “almost a stalemate.”

Initially, President Biden strongly supported Israel following the October 7 attack, which resulted in approximately 1,200 deaths. However, he has increasingly clashed with Israel over its conduct in the war, which has led to over 34,000 deaths in Gaza, according to local health authorities. Despite his recent threat to withhold additional weapons, Biden has reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to providing arms necessary for Israel’s security, including the Iron Dome missile defense system and resources to respond to attacks like the one launched by Iran in April.

The State Department’s informal notification to Congress regarding the arms transfer initiates a multi-step process. This process involves top foreign affairs lawmakers informally reviewing and discussing the terms of the weapons transfer with the department in private. Following this, the entire Congress will consider the package.

The administration’s approach underscores the complex geopolitical considerations at play. On one hand, the U.S. aims to support Israel’s right to defend itself. On the other, it seeks to prevent further escalation in Gaza, which could lead to significant civilian casualties and broader regional instability. This nuanced strategy highlights the Biden administration’s efforts to navigate a difficult and sensitive international issue, balancing its longstanding alliance with Israel against the imperative of minimizing harm to civilian populations and fostering conditions conducive to a sustainable resolution of the conflict.

Jonathan James
Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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