A new poll shows nearly 70% of Americans want to end arms sales to Saudi Arabia and only a slight majority support selling arms to Israel.
“When survey takers were asked if the United States should continue its sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia, more than two-thirds responded negatively,” the Eurasia Group Foundation reported. Americans identified Riyadh’s human rights abuses and the war in Yemen as the reason for wanting to halt arms sales.
Saudi Arabia began bombing Yemen in 2015. Riyadh claimed its goal was to return the elected Yemeni president, Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, to power. However, the Saudi-backed president was elected in a one-man election and his mandate to rule had expired by 2015.
Riyadh has bombed Yemen thousands of times in the past seven years, claiming the goal was returning Hadi to power. However, the Saudi air war has failed to dislodge the Houthis from control in Sanaa. The United Nations along with many other experts have said Riyadh’s bombing combined with the blockade imposed on Yemen have caused the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. So far, at least hundreds of thousands have died in the war.
On the campaign trail, President Joe Biden pledged to treat the kingdom, and its de facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman, as pariahs. Shortly after taking office Biden pledged to end “offensive” arms sales to Saudi Arabia. However, the White House has since approved the sale of several weapons packages to Riyadh.
The Eurasia Group asked Americans if they supported continuing to sell arms to Israel. The question itself is somewhat misleading as the US gives Tel Aviv nearly $4 billion every year in military aid. Only 52% of Americans wanted to keep the arms flowing to Israel.
The top reason Americans gave for continuing to sell weapons to Israel was that Israel is a democracy and an ally. Tel Aviv’s status as a democracy is in dispute as several Western human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, name Israel as an apartheid state. Many of the people who live under Tel Aviv’s rule are the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank or imprisoned in the Gaza Strip with no ability to vote in Israeli elections.
The top concern for those who oppose the arms transfers was Israel’s human rights abuses. In May, an Israeli soldier shot and murdered Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Numerous investigations as well as a recent report by a human rights group found the killing was intentional, but Tel Aviv says it has no plans to hold anyone accountable.