Top House Democrat to request pause on arms sale to Israel: reports

Top House Democrat to request pause on arms sale to Israel: reports
© Greg Nash

The chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee was reportedly caught off guard by a White House plan to sell millions of dollars worth of arms to Israel and is planning to ask the Biden administration to delay the sale. 

Rep. Gregory MeeksGregory Weldon MeeksUS delegation departs Haiti after reports of gunshots at ex-president's funeral Biden announces delegation to attend Haitian president's funeral Critical race theory becomes focus of midterms MORE (D-N.Y.) told colleagues during an emergency virtual meeting late Monday that he plans to send a letter to the White House requesting a delay, according to multiple reports, which would allow Congress to review the deal amid ongoing tensions between Israel and Hamas. 

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President BidenJoe BidenBiden authorizes up to 0M for Afghan refugees Poll: 73 percent of Democratic voters would consider voting for Biden in the 2024 primary Biden flexes presidential muscle on campaign trail with Virginia's McAuliffe MORE approved $735 million worth of precision-guided weapons to be sold to Israel, The Hill confirmed on Monday. Congress was officially notified of the sale on May 5. 

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Democrats supportive of the Palestinians have slammed the Biden administration for supporting the Israelis, who they say have carried out unnecessary airstrikes on civilians in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli military says the recent strikes are in retaliation for rocket attacks that have killed its citizens and are part of an ongoing fight with Hamas. 

“The United States should not stand idly by while crimes against humanity are being committed with our backing," Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), said of the arms deal. “It would be appalling for the Biden Administration to go through with $735 million in precision-guided weaponry to [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu without any strings attached in the wake of escalating violence and attacks on civilians." 

But other Democrats have said the U.S. has a responsibility to help Israel. 

“It’s unacceptable,” Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) said of Hamas’s rocket attacks. “Israel being our biggest partner in the Middle East and the only true democracy, we’ve got to make sure Israel has what it needs to defend itself.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday that it is not up to Biden's administration to “provide motivation for any actions," on the part of the Israelis. 

“We want to bring an end to the violence, we want to deescalate the situation on the ground," she said. "The most effective way we feel we can do that is through quiet and intensive diplomacy. That is what our focus is on at this point in time.”