- The White House approved $735 million worth of precision weapons to Israel and told Congress on May 5.
- That was about a week before the deadly clashes between Israelis and Palestinians.
- Lawmakers have 15 days to object to the proposal. Some Democrats are unhappy with it and want a delay.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
President Joe Biden’s administration is readying a $735 million sale of precision-guided weapons sale to Israel, a move that was prepared a week before the country became embroiled in deadly conflict with Gaza, multiple reports said.
The White House notified Congress of the plan on May 5, five days before the Gaza militant group Hamas started firing rockets toward Israel, and Israel retaliated with airstrikes, sources familiar with the plans told The Washington Post and CNN.
The conflict has now stretched into its second week of fighting, with more than 2,500 Hamas rockets directed towards Israel, killing 10 as of May 16, according to the Israel Defense Forces.
Israeli air and artillery strikes have flattened buildings and infrastructure in Gaza, with Hamas reporting at least 197 Palestinians killed, according to Al Jazeera. Gazan and Israeli authorities disagree on how many of the Palestinian victims were militants, the BBC reported.
Biden expressed support for a cease-fire in a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Monday after growing pressure from top Democrats. He had previously held back, saying that Israel had “the right to defend itself.”
Press Secretary Jen Psaki told a Monday press briefing that the administration was making use of “intensive, quiet diplomacy behind the scenes.”
The proposed weapons sale is largely of kits that convert unguided rockets into precision missiles, according to The Post. Lawmakers have 15 days – until May 20 – to object, but a resolution of disapproval would be nonbinding, The Post reported.
Such moves have generally gone without objection in Congress, but in the shadow of the current conflict, the Israeli arms sale is now being questioned by a small number of progressive Democratic voices.
‘We’re lucky to catch this weapons sale’
Rep. Ilhan Omar said in a statement Monday that it would be “appalling” if the sale went ahead unconditionally.
“We should be standing unequivocally and consistently on the side of human rights – holding all state and non-state actors accountable for their crimes and using every tool at our disposal to end the violence and bring about peace,” she said.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee met Monday night to discuss the sale, and decided to ask for it to be delayed, Politico reported.
“We’re lucky to catch this weapons sale,” an unnamed Democratic aide told The Post.
Regardless, The Post noted that it would be “highly unlikely” that Congress can block the arms sale by pushing through a disapproval resolution in time.
The resistance comes amid a broader questioning of the Biden administration’s stance toward the Israel-Gaza conflict.
Twenty-nine Democratic senators, led by Sen. Jon Ossoff, called for an immediate cease-fire in the conflict on Sunday night in an implicit rebuke to Biden’s hesitation at the time to do so.
-Jon Ossoff (@ossoff) May 16, 2021
Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted Sunday that the US should take a “hard look” at the aid its sends to Israel every year.
-Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) May 16, 2021