Photo Credit: Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz
President Joe Biden, March 20, 2024.

According to The New York Times, citing three congressional aides familiar with the proposed arms deal, the Biden administration has informed Congress of its intention to proceed with a plan for the United States to sell over $1 billion worth of new weapons to Israel. The administration also told Congress that this substantial weapons sale underscores the continued close military cooperation between the two longstanding allies despite the ongoing tensions between them.

The proposed arms deals would potentially facilitate the transfer of $700 million worth of tank ammunition, $500 million worth of tactical vehicles, and $60 million worth of mortar rounds from the US to Israel. Missing from the list are the 2,000 lbs. bombs, 3,500 of them, whose delivery has been halted by the administration for fear that they would be used in Rafah (White House Halts Bomb Shipments to Israel to Sabotage Rafah Operation).

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But while those bombs could prove very useful in cracking the last remaining Hamas tunnels in the southern Gaza Strip, they would be essential to cracking the network of Hezbollah tunnels north of the Israeli border with Lebanon. The Hamas tunnels were dug in sandy soil which requires less energy to blow up than Hezbollah’s tunnels under basalt rocks.

According to The Washington Post, the administration’s decision to move forward with the arms deal highlights its hesitance to go against the wishes of pro-Israel donors within the Democratic Party. These donors had criticized Biden’s previous decision to withhold the shipment of those 2,000-pound bombs.

According to a report from Axios last Thursday, Haim Saban, a prominent Democratic mega-donor and Hollywood media mogul, harshly criticized President Biden’s decision to temporarily halt a weapons shipment to Israel. In an email addressed to senior Biden aides Steve Ricchetti and Anita Dunn, Saban wrote, “Let’s not forget there are more Jewish voters who care about Israel than Muslim voters who care about Hamas.” His statement implies that the administration should prioritize the interests of pro-Israel Jewish voters over concerns about potential harm to Gaza Arabs who, you know, don’t vote and also don’t fundraise.

The Biden move to appease his pro-Israel supporters did not go over well with the Squad. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) told Politico, “If the president and the United States drew a red line at Rafah, then it’s really incredibly important that we do not equip the Netanyahu government with the tools and weapons to cross our own red line. In terms of a more cohesive approach, I think it’s important.”

In response to President Biden’s decision to temporarily withhold certain weapons shipments to Israel, Republican lawmakers last week advanced legislative efforts to prevent the administration from imposing such restrictions.

On Monday, the White House voiced its strong opposition to the Republican-backed bill. During a press briefing, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stated, “We strongly, strongly oppose attempts to constrain the president’s ability to deploy US security assistance consistent with US foreign policy and national security objectives.” Her statement underscored the administration’s stance on maintaining flexibility in managing arms transfers, even to close allies like Israel, based on perceived national interests and policy goals.

Or, in other words, before any country decides to rely on the US for military support, its leaders are advised to watch films of the evacuation of US forces from Saigon in 1974 and the evacuation of US forces from Kabul in 2021. Any honeymoon in Washington will inevitably lead to an ugly divorce in Taiwan.

Some Democrats told Politico they were inclined to support the GOP-led legislation and also wanted clarity from the White House about the intervention in the way Israel is conducting its war of survival.

Rep. Greg Landsman (D-Ohio), who plans to support the GOP bill, said, “What would be really helpful is clarity from the White House and the president as to our strategic priorities, as it relates to ending this war.”

And one of Israel’s greatest friends in Congress, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla), said, “These are not the kind of discussions and strategies that need to be playing out publicly, because there are so many different kinds of decisions – a lot of moving parts – but it was still concerning that he made that announcement last week.” she said.

The RJC on Monday was excited about the bill – which the administration has already vowed to veto, even if it gets through the Democratic Congress. RJC National Chairman, former Senator Norm Coleman, and CEO Matt Brooks, sent out an email praising the legislation:

“We appreciate the strong leadership from House Republicans to respond quickly to President Biden’s indefensible betrayal of Israel. We are especially grateful to the bill’s sponsor, Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Ken Calvert (R-CA), as well as the Chairman of the full Appropriations Committee, Tom Cole, and Speaker Mike Johnson and his leadership team.

“The Israel Security Assistance Support Act will guarantee the delivery of the defense items promised to the Jewish state just a few weeks ago in the foreign aid supplemental. To ensure compliance, the Calvert bill will block funding to the agencies administering the embargo until it is lifted.”

The RJC leaders noted that “Some House Democrats have tried to distance themselves from Biden’s Israel embargo, and the upcoming vote will give them the opportunity to put real force behind their words.”

“Once this bill has passed, the onus for action will shift to Senator Schumer and the Democratic majority in the Senate,” They concluded.

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.