Biden administration sidesteps Congress again for emergency arms sale to Israel

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WASHINGTON — The Biden administration has bypassed Congress for the second time this month to provide an emergency arms sale to Israel amid its war with Hamas.

The sale of $147.5 million in equipment such as fuzes, chargers and primers is intended to help the functionality of the U.S. ally’s previous purchase of nearly 14,000 rounds of 155mm shells in early December.

“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,” a State Department spokesperson said.

“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. This proposed sale is consistent with those objectives,” the spokesperson added.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which is part of the Pentagon, notified Congress of the sale on Friday after Secretary of State Antony Blinken approved it. The agency said the sale would not negatively impact U.S. defense readiness, and 155mm shells would be drawn from army stock.

The move comes as Israel faces increasing scrutiny over its military tactics and a civilian death toll that has surpassed 21,000 in Gaza, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

Image: An Israeli army self-propelled artillery howitzer fires rounds
An Israeli army self-propelled artillery howitzer fires rounds from a position near the border with the Gaza Strip in southern Israel on Thursday.Jack Guez / AFP via Getty Images

Josh Paul, a former official in the State Department’s arms control bureau who resigned in protest after the war started, said the second sale would enable Israel to continue operations that have led to Palestinian civilian deaths.

“This is shameful, craven, and should frankly turn the stomach of any decent human being,” Paul wrote on LinkedIn.

“By the arms provided in today’s arms transfer, more children will die,” he added.

The move comes just weeks after the Biden administration bypassed the traditional congressional approval process to push through a $106 million emergency arms sale of about 14,000 tank shells to Israel.

The White House is separately seeking a $106 billion supplemental funding bill, which would include about $61 billion in aid for Ukraine and about $14 billion in aid to Israel, as well as funding for U.S. border operations. However, the bill stalled in Congress when Republicans vowedto block it unless the administration tightens U.S. border and immigration policies.

President Joe Biden has recently faced low approval ratings over the Israel-Hamas war. An NBC News poll from November showed that 34% of all registered voters approved of his handling of the war that began Oct. 7. The president has frequently called U.S. support for Israel “ironclad,” though administration officials have privately admonished the Israeli government to avoid civilian casualties.

Earlier this month, Biden said during a campaign reception that Israel is “starting to lose that support by the indiscriminate bombing that takes place,” marking a shift in public rhetoric. At the same time, Biden’s tougher rhetoric has not been matched with actions that could alter Israel’s military tactics in ways that spare more civilian lives.

The war was sparked by a Hamas attack on Oct. 7 that killed about 1,200 people in Israel. More than 100 hostages are still being held in Gaza.

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Biden administration sidesteps Congress again for emergency arms sale to Israel

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