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Friday, May 24, 2024

Biden Administration Bypasses Congress in Israel Weapons Sale

For the second time this month, the Biden administration is once again sidestepping Congress to greenlight an emergency weapons sale to Israel. This move comes as Israel faces international criticism for its ongoing conflict with Hamas in Gaza. The State Department announced on Friday that Secretary of State Antony Blinken informed Congress about a second emergency determination, enabling the immediate approval of a $147.5 million sale for essential equipment, including fuses, chargers, and primers required for the 155mm shells previously purchased by Israel.

Citing the urgency of Israel’s defensive needs, the State Department emphasized Blinken’s exercise of delegated authority to address the emergency and facilitate the swift transfer. The U.S. commitment to Israel’s security and its national interest in ensuring Israel’s ability to defend itself against threats were highlighted.

This emergency determination allows the purchase to bypass the usual congressional review process for foreign military sales. While such determinations are rare, they occur when administrations perceive an urgent need for weapon deliveries without awaiting lawmakers’ approval.

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This decision follows a similar move by Blinken on December 9th, approving the sale of nearly 14,000 rounds of tank ammunition to Israel, valued at over $106 million. Both actions coincide with the delay in Congress regarding Joe Biden’s request for a nearly $106 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel, and other national security needs. The aid package has become entangled in debates over U.S. immigration policy and border security.

Some Democratic lawmakers have linked the proposed $14.3 billion in American assistance to Israel to concrete steps by the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reduce civilian casualties in Gaza during the conflict with Hamas.

To address potential criticism on human rights grounds, the State Department asserted ongoing communication with Israel, emphasizing the importance of minimizing civilian casualties. The department highlighted Israel’s responsibility to comply with international humanitarian law and distinguish between civilians and Hamas terrorists during military operations.

Bypassing Congress through emergency determinations for arms sales is an unusual step that has faced resistance in the past. In May 2019, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a similar determination for an $8.1 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan, encountering criticism and concerns from lawmakers. At least four administrations have utilized this authority since 1979, including President George H.W. Bush’s administration during the Gulf War to expedite arms deliveries to Saudi Arabia.

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