U.S. approves emergency arms sales to Israel bypassing Congress

The Biden administration, for the second time in December, has chosen to sidestep Congress to greenlight an urgent arms sales to Israel amid its ongoing conflict with Hamas in Gaza, despite facing increased international scrutiny.

The State Department announced on Friday that Secretary of State Antony Blinken informed Congress about an emergency decision sanctioning a $147.5 million sale for crucial equipment required to activate 155mm shells previously procured by Israel. The department stressed the immediacy of Israel’s defensive requirements, prompting Blinken to exercise delegated authority to authorize the transfer without delay.

Emphasizing the U.S.’s commitment to Israel’s security as crucial to its national interests, the department justified the bypassing of congressional review for foreign military sales. While such determinations are infrequent, they are occasionally invoked by administrations facing pressing demands for rapid weapon deliveries.

This recent move follows a similar decision made on December 9th, when approval was granted for the sale of tank ammunition worth over $106 million to Israel. However, amidst this, President Biden’s request for a substantial $106 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel, and other security needs remains stagnant in Congress, entangled in debates surrounding U.S. immigration policy and border security.

Some Democratic lawmakers have raised the possibility of conditioning the proposed $14.3 billion in aid to Israel on specific measures from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to decrease civilian casualties in Gaza during the conflict with Hamas.

Addressing potential human rights concerns, the State Department underscored ongoing communication with Israel to stress the importance of minimizing civilian harm during the intensified conflict that began in early October.

This unconventional approach of bypassing Congress for arms sales during emergencies has historically faced resistance from lawmakers. Notably, in 2019, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo encountered criticism for an $8.1 billion weapons sale to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan due to concerns over their involvement in the Yemen war. However, an internal investigation later cleared Pompeo of any wrongdoing.

Despite its rarity, this authority to expedite arms sales during crises has been utilized by at least four administrations since 1979, notably during the Gulf War under President George H.W. Bush to swiftly supply arms to Saudi Arabia.

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