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Saturday, July 20, 2024

Emergency weapons sale : US bypasses Congress for the second time

The use of emergency determinations to bypass Congress in arms sales is an uncommon step that has faced resistance from lawmakers in the past.

Emergency weapons sale : US bypasses Congress for the second time

For the second time this month, the Biden administration is once again sidestepping Congress to greenlight an emergency weapons sale to Israel. This decision comes amid Israel’s ongoing conflict with Hamas in Gaza, attracting heightened international criticism. The State Department announced on Friday that Secretary of State Antony Blinken informed Congress of a second emergency determination, allowing a $147.5 million sale of equipment, including fuses, charges, and primers necessary for the functioning of the 155 mm shells previously acquired by Israel.

The State Department justified the move by citing the urgency of Israel’s defensive requirements and emphasized the U.S. commitment to Israel’s security, considering it crucial for U.S. national interests. This emergency determination exempts the purchase from the usual congressional review process for foreign military sales, a rare but not unprecedented measure taken when urgent weapons delivery is deemed necessary.

Secretary Blinken had made a similar decision on December 9th, approving the sale of nearly 14,000 rounds of tank ammunition worth over $106 million to Israel. Both actions occurred as President Biden’s request for a nearly $106 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel, and other national security needs faced delays in Congress due to debates over U.S. immigration policy and border security.

An unusual move 

Some Democratic lawmakers have proposed tying the proposed $14.3 billion assistance to Israel to specific actions by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government aimed at reducing civilian casualties in Gaza during the conflict with Hamas. The State Department addressed potential human rights concerns by stating that it maintained continuous communication with Israel, emphasizing the importance of minimizing civilian casualties.

More to read: 31 civilian lives lost in Ukraine from Russian strike

The use of emergency determinations to bypass Congress in arms sales is an uncommon step that has faced resistance from lawmakers in the past. In 2019, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a similar emergency determination for an $8.1 billion weapons sale to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan, facing criticism and later being cleared of any wrongdoing after an internal investigation. Since 1979, at least four administrations, including President George H.W. Bush’s during the Gulf War, have utilized this authority.