As the Biden administration approved a $735 million arms sale to Israel, some lawmakers are questioning whether the deal could be used as leverage amid the ongoing bombing of the Gaza Strip, the Washington Post reported.
According to the newspaper, Congress was officially notified of the proposed sale on May 5, just a week before Israel launched its deadly offensive on Palestine. The deal includes Joint Direct Attack Ammunition (JDAM), which is used to turn bombs into precision-guided missiles.
While some lawmakers and their aides said the sale could spark opposition in Congress, where criticism of the Biden administration's support for Israel in the face of deadly confrontation has become more prevalent, a legislator on the House Foreign Affairs Committee told the newspaper that “allowing this proposed sale of smart bombs to go through without putting pressure on Israel to agree to a ceasefire will only enable further carnage." U.S. law requires the administration to notify Congress of such sales. Lawmakers have 20 days to pass a resolution against the sale.
“We're lucky to catch this weapons sale,” a Democratic aide who works on the committee said. “There's zero transparency on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and sensitive deals are regularly approved without scrutiny."
About 200 Palestinians were killed in Gaza Strip during a week of Israeli attacks, including children and women. More than 1,200 have been wounded since Israel launched its air campaign against Hamas on May 10, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.
Air raids on Gaza were preceded by days of tensions and Israeli aggression in occupied East Jerusalem, where hundreds of Palestinians were assaulted by Israeli forces and settlers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.
Speaking to reporters during a trip to Denmark, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States would support any initiative to stop the fighting, but signaled the country did not intend to put pressure on the two sides to accept a cease-fire.
"Ultimately it is up to the parties to make clear that they want to pursue a cease-fire,” he said, adding that all parties have to ensure the protection of civilians in order to avoid civilian casualties.
Blinken added that he has not seen any evidence to support the Israeli claim that Hamas was operating in the Gaza building that housed international media offices and was destroyed by Israeli airstrikes over the weekend.
The U.S. secretary of state said he has asked Israel for justification for the strike targeting the building, where offices of various media outlets, included Associated Press (AP) and Qatar's Al Jazeera News Network, were located.
Nonetheless, the Biden administration has consistently emphasized Israel's right to "self-defense," repeatedly vetoing a joint statement by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) condemning Israel's actions and calling for a cease-fire.
This position has drawn criticism from some in the Democratic Party, who accuse Biden of ignoring Israel's abuses in favor of the long-standing alliance. In addition to arms sales, the U.S. provides approximately $3.8 billion in aid to Israel every year. This aid, unlike other countries, does not depend on the observance of human rights in Israel.
A cadre of progressive lawmakers in the Democratic Party has questioned support for a once untouchable United States. However, several congressional aides told the Washington Post that even if a resolution against the latest arms sale is presented, it is unlikely to receive enough support to be passed.