The Biden administration is bypassing Congress to get 13,000 rounds of tank ammunition to Israel to fuel its onslaught in Gaza by waiving a congressional review period for foreign weapons sales.
On Friday night, the State Department notified Congress that it was going through with the $106 million sale of 120mm tank ammunition. The US provides Israel with $3.3 billion in Foreign Military Financing each year, but it’s unclear if those funds are being used for this deal.
A State Department official told The New York Times that the administration invoked an emergency provision in the Arms Export Control Act to push through the sale without congressional oversight. Secretary of State Antony Blinken personally approved the sale and defended the move on Sunday.
“Israel is in combat right now with Hamas,” Blinken said. “And we want to make sure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself against Hamas.” According to the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the tank shells will come from the US Army’s inventory.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) criticized the administration’s decision to bypass Congress. “The administration’s decision to short-circuit what is already a quick time frame for congressional review undermines transparency and weakens accountability. The public deserves better,” he said.
US military aid to Israel has come under increasing criticism due to the massive civilian casualty rate in Israel’s assault on Gaza. The news of the administration bypassing Congress to get more arms into Israel’s hands came after the US vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.
“The combination of the United States’ veto of a ceasefire resolution in the UN, and this expedited provision of lethal arms to Israel, should cause some serious consideration of whether the secretary’s repeated assertions that the US seeks to minimize civilian casualties in Israel’s operation in Gaza are sincere,” Josh Paul, a former State Department official who resigned over President Biden’s full-throated support for Israel, told the Times.
Blinken also urged Congress to authorize an over $100 billion spending request that includes $14 billion in new military aid for Israel and $61 billion for Ukraine. Senate Republicans blocked a motion to advance the spending bill last week as the GOP is looking for concessions from Democrats on border issues. Blinken said President Biden is willing to “engage” with Republicans to get the funds authorized.