A Move Questions Raised, Biden Administration’s Emergency Weapons Sale to Israel!
The Biden administration has once again raised eyebrows by bypassing Congress for an emergency weapons sale to Israel, marking the second such move in a month. Secretary of State Antony Blinken informed Congress about an emergency determination covering a $147.5 million sale for crucial equipment needed for 155mm shells.
The Urgency Amidst Conflict
Amidst Israel’s ongoing conflict with Hamas in Gaza and increasing international scrutiny, the urgency for defensive needs has been cited as the primary reason for this unusual step. The equipment includes fuses, chargers, and primers necessary for the functioning of previously purchased shells.
The State Department’s Justification
The State Department justified the decision, emphasizing the commitment to Israel’s security and its importance to U.S. national interests. The emergency determination allows the administration to bypass the usual congressional review for foreign military sales. Such decisions are rare but not unprecedented, typically arising from urgent requirements for timely weapons delivery.
A Pattern of Emergency Determinations
This move follows a similar decision made on December 9, where Blinken approved the sale of nearly 14,000 rounds of tank ammunition worth over $106 million. Both instances highlight the administration’s resort to emergency determinations as a response to stalled congressional approval for a significant aid package for Ukraine, Israel, and other national security needs.
Congressional Impasse and Conditions
As Joe Biden’s aid package faces delays in Congress, linked to debates over immigration policy and border security, the administration’s recourse to emergency determinations becomes more contentious. Some Democratic lawmakers propose tying the proposed $14.3 billion assistance to Israel with concrete steps by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to reduce civilian casualties in Gaza during the conflict with Hamas.
To counter potential criticism on human rights grounds, the State Department affirmed continuous communication with Israel, emphasizing the importance of minimizing civilian casualties. The statement acknowledged the challenges posed by Hamas embedding itself among the civilian population but underscored Israel’s responsibility to distinguish between civilians and combatants.
Bypassing Congress with emergency determinations for arms sales is an unusual step, historically met with resistance. In 2019, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo faced criticism for an $8.1 billion emergency sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Jordan. Similar to the current situation, Pompeo’s decision raised concerns about the legality and urgency of the arms transfer.
Looking Back: The Gulf War Precedent
Emergency determinations have been exercised at least four times since 1979, with President George H.W. Bush’s administration using this authority during the Gulf War to expedite arms delivery to Saudi Arabia.
The Biden administration’s decision to bypass Congress for an emergency weapons sale to Israel, the second in a month, has sparked concerns. Secretary of State Antony Blinken cited the urgency amidst Israel’s conflict with Hamas in Gaza. The $147.5 million sale includes crucial equipment for 155mm shells. While the State Department emphasizes the commitment to Israel’s security, the move raises questions about the balance between executive authority and congressional oversight, especially considering the historical rarity of emergency determinations for arms sales.