Biden's transfer of weapons to Israel 'undermines transparency'

US administration bypassed Congressional approval process on claims that the Israel-Gaza war constituted an emergency

The US is the top donor to Israel and Joe Biden has bypassed Congress to provide aid. Reuters
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US President Joe Biden's administration's decision to bypass the Congressional approval process to transfer weapons to Israel last week “undermines transparency” and “keeps Americans in the dark,” Congressional leaders in Biden's Democratic party said.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday approved the potential sale to Israel of M107 155mm projectiles “and related equipment” for $147.5 million, on claims that an emergency exists, according to the Pentagon.

Democratic Senators Tim Kaine and Chris Van Hollen, who both sit on the Foreign Relations Committee, issued statements over the weekend criticising the decision which skipped the Congressional approvals process.

“The Administration’s decision to repeatedly short-circuit what is already a quick time frame for congressional review undermines transparency and weakens accountability. The public deserves answers,” Mr Van Hollen said.

“Unnecessarily bypassing Congress means keeping the American people in the dark. We need a public explanation,” Mr Kaine said.

Friday's decision was the second time in a month that the Biden administration used executive authority to supply weapons to Israel.

On December 9, Mr Blinken approved the sale to Israel of about 14,000 rounds of tank ammunition worth more than $106 million.

The emergency determinations are rare, but not unprecedented.

The US is the top donor to Israel and “almost all US bilateral aid to Israel is in the form of military assistance”, a March 2023 congressional report said.

The report found that “the United States has provided Israel $158 billion (current, or non-inflation-adjusted, dollars) in bilateral assistance and missile defence funding”.

That aid has supported Israel's war in Gaza, which has killed more than 21,800 Palestinians and injured another 56,451 since the war began on October 7, according to the Gazan Health Ministry.

The US Congress closed the year in a stalemate over passing supplemental funding.

The Biden administration sought to package of more than $100 billion that included billions towards both Israel and Ukraine, which failed to clear Congressional hurdles before the holiday break amid Republican backlash.

Mr Van Hollen is leading a group of Democratic Senators working on an amendment “to require that the weapons received by any country under the proposed national security supplemental are used in accordance with US law, international humanitarian law and the law of armed conflict”.

However, the amendment seemed unlikely to gain traction among the party leadership.

Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ben Cardin told The National earlier this month he had concerns about Mr Van Hollen's proposal, over how it would affect “all decisions that we've made in Ukraine, as well as Israel if we're changing the conditions”.

Updated: December 31, 2023, 4:02 PM