A coalition of Democratic legislators is making a last minute push to block an arms sale to Israel that would provide the embattled nation with a $737 million Boeing-manufactured arms guidance kit, which converts unguided or “dumb” bombs into precision-guided missiles.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) is spearheading the initiative alongside fellow members of the left-leaning “squad,” including Representatives Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), according to a draft resolution obtained by Politico.
The progressive lawmakers are pushing the Biden administration to use the weapons kit as leverage to push Israel to deescalate the conflict, although their resolution of disapproval is unlikely to make its way through the House in time to stop the arms sale.
The Democratic resistance to the sale comes one day after a group of senior House Democrats on Tuesday abandoned a push to delay the exchange amid the growing hostilities in the Middle East. Lawmakers intended to use the arms deal as passive coercion to persuade the Israeli government to bring about a ceasefire.
The Democratic effort also follows a phone conversation President Joe Biden had with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Monday, during which the White House signaled its support for a “ceasefire” in the rapidly escalating conflict between Hamas terrorist operatives in Gaza and the Israeli military.
Ocasio-Cortez’s group departs from the opinion of many establishment Democrats, who have defended the arms sale. Senate Armed Services Chair Jack Reed (D., R.I.) remarked earlier this week that the weapons package is precision-guided and therefore can minimize civilian casualties as well as collateral damage on both sides of the conflict.
The pending arms sale also follows a press conference with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki Wednesday, during which she refused to reveal whether the Biden administration would commit to “replenishing” Israel’s Iron Dome defense systems, largely exhausted after days of intercepting thousands of Hamas rocket projectiles.
In response to the barrage of Hamas attacks on Israeli soil, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have conducted strategic retaliatory airstrikes targeting weapons stockpile locations, underground tunnels sheltering Hamas leaders, as well as military headquarter centers in Gaza, killing a number of top commanders.
Both territories have suffered civilian casualties. Before deploying bombs, Israel warns Gaza civilians on the ground through telephone and other communication avenues, urging them to retreat to safety before it conducts the military campaign.
Republicans have not swayed in their support of Israel’s right to defend itself from indiscriminate enemy rocket assaults. At a press conference on Wednesday, GOP senators slammed Biden for his tepid comments about the existential threat facing Israel.
“Joe Biden needs to stand up and reject this radical anti-Israel proposal,” Senator Tom Cotton (D-Ark.) said in reference to the Democratic arms sale block. “But Joe Biden has been rapidly caving to the left this week.”
The U.S. has a longstanding military relationship and diplomatic friendship with the Jewish State.
America has historically transferred arms, including precision-guided bombs, tanks and sophisticated fighter jets as well as provided missiles, military vehicles, and other equipment to bolster Israel’s defenses. Since 1985, the U.S. government has allocated nearly $3 billion in military aid annually for Israel to combat foreign aggression and preserve its sovereignty.