Democrats Fracture Over Republican Bill Forcing Weapon Shipment to Israel

by | May 15, 2024

Democrats Fracture Over Republican Bill Forcing Weapon Shipment to Israel

by | May 15, 2024

IDF JDAM

FILE PHOTO: Israeli airmen work on a US-supplied Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) guidance kit (Credit: IDF).

Democrats in Congress are breaking with President Joe Biden and preparing to support a Republican bill that will force the White House to ship 2,000-pound bombs to Israel. Biden has threatened to veto the legislation. 

Last week, for the first time since October 7, President Biden placed some conditions on US military support to Israel. He informed CNN that if Israel attacked population centers in Rafah, the White House would withhold some munitions from Tel Aviv. US officials confirmed to the Washington Post that one shipment of bombs has been suspended. 

While restricting the arms marks a shift in Biden’s Israel policy, it appears to have little impact on Tel Aviv’s ability to wage war in Gaza. Israeli forces have conducted attacks throughout Rafah, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee, but the White House says the operations do not violate Biden’s red line. Additionally, Israeli officials say they have all the munitions needed to destroy Rafah, and Washington is already moving ahead on a separate arms package worth more than $1 billion containing tank shells, mortar rounds and other weapons. 

Ambassador to Israel Jack Lew explained that the US did not have a real disagreement with Israel and that the relationship between the two nations had not fundamentally changed. “Just to be clear, we’re providing an enormous amount of aid. We have been since before October 7. It’s increased since October 7. And even this week, as everyone’s focusing on the decision to just delay, to hold one set of munitions, everything else keeps flowing,” Lew said. “I think it’s a mistake to think that anything has fundamentally changed in the relationship.”

Nevertheless, on Capitol Hill the policy shift has generated a major backlash. Republicans have introduced a bill that would force Biden to send the blocked weapons to Israel. Also, Florida Republican Rep. Cory Mills introduced articles of impeachment against Biden, saying it was illegal for the president to condition US aid to Israel. 

President Biden vowed to veto the law if it passes Congress, with the White House slamming the bill as a “misguided reaction to a deliberate distortion of the administration’s approach to Israel.”

At least some Democrats in Congress appear ready to break with the president. Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) told Axios he will vote with the GOP. “I have a general rule of supporting pro-Israel legislation unless it includes a poison pill – like cuts to domestic policy,” he explained. 

A group of 26 Democrats signed a letter slamming Biden for blocking the shipment. “We are deeply concerned about the message the administration is sending to Hamas and other Iranian-backed terrorist proxies by withholding weapons shipments to Israel,” the letter says. “With democracy under assault around the world, we cannot undermine our ally Israel, especially in her greatest hour of need. America’s commitments must always be ironclad.”

Rep. Greg Landsman (D-OH) issued a statement saying he would vote for the GOP-led bill. House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) is expected to bring the legislation to a floor vote this week, though Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he will not allow a vote in the upper chamber. 

About Kyle Anzalone

Kyle Anzalone is news editor of the Libertarian Institute, opinion editor of Antiwar.com and co-host of Conflicts of Interest with Will Porter and Connor Freeman.

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