Touring Congress, the Biden administration said Saturday it had approved the emergency sale to Israel of nearly 14,000 rounds of tank ammunition, worth more than $106 million, as ‘Israel intensifies its military operations in the south of the Gaza Strip.
This decision comes as that of President Biden request for an aid program of nearly 106 billion dollars for Ukraine, Israel and other countries, national security languishes in Congress, caught in a debate over U.S. immigration policy and border security. Some Democratic lawmakers have talked about making proposed $14.3 billion in U.S. aid to its Mideast ally contingent on concrete steps by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to reduce civilian casualties in Gaza during the war with Hamas.
The State Department said it notified Congress of the sale Friday evening after Secretary of State Antony Blinken determined there was “an emergency that requires the immediate sale” of the munitions in the interest of national security. the United States.
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This means the purchase will bypass the congressional review requirement for foreign military sales. Such decisions are rare, but not unprecedented when administrations see an urgent need for weapons deliveries without waiting for approval from lawmakers.
“The United States is committed to Israel’s security and it is vital to its national interests to help Israel develop and maintain a strong, operational self-defense capability. This proposed sale is consistent with these objectives,” the department said in a statement. A declaration. “Israel will use this enhanced capability to deter regional threats and to strengthen its territorial defense. »
The sale, worth $106.5 million, includes 13,981 high-explosive 120mm general-purpose anti-tank rounds with Tracer tank rounds as well as U.S. support, engineering and logistics. The equipment will come from the Army inventory.
Bypassing Congress with emergency decisions on arms sales is an unusual measure that has faced resistance in the past from lawmakers, who normally have some time to weigh in on proposed arms transfers. and, in some cases, block them.
In May 2019, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an emergency decision for an $8.1 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan after it became clear that the Trump administration would struggle to overcome lawmakers’ concerns about the Saudi-UAE-led war in Yemen.
Pompeo faced heavy criticism for the decision, which some said may have violated the law because many of the weapons involved had not yet been manufactured and could not be delivered urgently. But he was cleared after an internal investigation.
At least four administrations have used this authority since 1979. President George HW Bush’s administration used it during the Gulf War to quickly move weapons to Saudi Arabia.
Israel and Hamas at war
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