Senate Democrats are outraged that the Biden administration has chosen to ship weapons to Israel without first going through Congress, despite their concerns about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken informed Congress on Friday of the department’s second emergency determination to cover equipment transactions totaling over $147.5 million. This includes new fuses and charges for the 155 mm rounds that the Israeli military has already acquired, according to the Defense Department’s announcement.
“Given the urgency of Israel’s defensive needs, the secretary notified Congress that he had exercised his delegated authority to determine an emergency existed, necessitating the immediate approval of the transfer,” Blinken said in a statement.
The emergency declaration permits the Biden administration to avoid the regular legislative vetting procedure for foreign weapons sales.
However, this is the second such emergency weapons sale approved by the Biden administration for Israel in less than a month without legislative permission. Blinken exercised the same authority only weeks earlier, on Dec. 9, when the administration approved a second $106.5 million tranche of weapons money to acquire over 14,000 rounds of tank ammunition.
The back-to-back emergency declarations for Israel have sparked new criticism from Senate Democrats, who have expressed concern that the Israeli military has failed to take the necessary precautions to prevent civilian casualties in Gaza, where the death toll has surpassed 21,000, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.
However, Democrats in the Senate specifically condemned the method by which the State Department authorized the sales, claiming that by using the emergency determination to approve weapons funding for a foreign military, the Biden administration is removing an important check on the executive branch.
“Unnecessarily bypassing Congress means keeping the American people in the dark,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) told Punchbowl News. “We need a public explanation of the rationale behind this decision — the second such decision this month.”
The Biden administration’s decision to exclude the legislative branch from the decision-making process for foreign military sales “undermines transparency and weakens accountability,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) said in a statement on Sunday.
The weaponry provided to Israel have “been used to devastating effect in Gaza, contributing to the death and injury of countless civilians and the displacement of an estimated 2 million people,” stated Vermont Senator Peter Welch (D).
“The war in Gaza has generated immense controversy and concern in the United States and around the world,” Welch said in a statement. “The president should follow the established procedure of submitting his arms sales recommendations to Congress for prior approval.”
The criticism comes as Senate Democrats have urged for specific restrictions to be placed on US military aid, including a requirement that recipient nations follow international armed conflict regulations.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden’s proposal for over $106 billion in foreign military aid to Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan, and Indo-Pacific partners remains stalled in the Senate due to disagreements over a border security package.
A pair of University of Maryland Critical Issues Polls, one taken shortly after the attack and the other four weeks later, found that the number of young Democrats who said Biden was “too pro-Israeli” had more than doubled, while the percentage who said they were less likely to support him in 2024 based on his stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had more than doubled.
“It is the deepest shift in a short period of time that I’ve seen,” said Telhami, who is the director of the Critical Issues Poll.
According to a Quinnipiac University survey issued in mid-November, 52% of respondents aged 18 to 34 indicated they were more sympathetic to Palestinians than Israelis. It was a dramatic contrast to the previous month’s study, conducted following the 7 October attack, in which 41% of young people said they sympathized with Israelis, while 26% said they sympathized with Palestinians.
According to the study, young people are about evenly divided between those who feel backing Israel is in the US’s national interest (47%), and those who do not (45%), compared to older generations who overwhelmingly believe it is.
According to a recent NBC survey, 70% of respondents aged 18 to 34 disapprove of Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas conflict. According to a subsequent Pew study, only 19% of Americans under 30 approve of the president’s approach.
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Author: Kyle Becker