Antony Blinken and Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks on as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks to the media in Tel Aviv on October 12, 2023.

(Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Biden Officials Claim No Leverage Over Israel as US Prepares $14 Billion in Military Aid

"Instead of funding more bombs with American taxpayer dollars, our leaders should be calling for a cease-fire now," said Rep. Rashida Tlaib.

Claiming they have no practical leverage to influence the Israeli government, Biden administration officials have dismissed calls to place conditions on U.S. aid or cut it off entirely as Israel continues to carry out mass atrocities in the Gaza Strip, including recent attacks on the enclave's largest refugee camp.

The Washington Postreported Sunday that the Biden administration is growing increasingly alarmed by the severity of the death toll from Israel's bombing campaign, which has killed nearly 10,000 people in Gaza in less than a month, displaced more than a million, and sparked a humanitarian catastrophe.

But administration officials say they are "unable to exert significant influence on America's closest ally in the Middle East to change its course," a claim that drew outrage given U.S. plans to deliver more than $14 billion in additional military assistance to Israel on top of the weaponry already provided in the wake of the Hamas-led October 7 attack.

"Come on," Matt Duss, executive vice president of the Center for International Policy and a former foreign policy adviser for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), wrote in response to the Post's reporting. "What this means is the [White House] is unwilling to use the enormous leverage it has."

The U.S., Israel's top weapons supplier, provides the nation with nearly $4 billion in military aid each year under a deal inked during the Obama presidency. In the wake of the October 7 attack, the U.S. rushed munitions to Israel and pressed American arms manufacturers to expedite existing weapons orders.

Nearly two weeks into Israel's latest bombing campaign in Gaza, U.S. President Joe Biden called on Congress to approve over $14 billion in extra, no-strings-attached military assistance for Israel even as the death toll in Gaza climbed rapidly and the administration faced warnings that it could be complicit in genocide.

Israel has also requested 24,000 assault rifles from the U.S., prompting fears that the far-right Israeli government intends to distribute some of the guns to extremist West Bank settlers as they ramp up violence against Palestinians.

On Thursday, the Republican-controlled U.S. House approved a military aid package that's likely dead on arrival in the Senate due to proposed Internal Revenue Service cuts. The Senate is working on its own aid package for Israel.

"U.S. funding for the Israeli military with no humanitarian conditions will take us farther away from ending the violence and reaching peace," Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), who voted against the House package, said in a statement. "Not only do some of my colleagues want to send more weapons to carry out war crimes and violations of international law, but they want to do it by providing tax breaks to billionaires and undermining crucial investments in our communities."

"Instead of funding more bombs with American taxpayer dollars," Tlaib added, "our leaders should be calling for a cease-fire now, before this violence claims thousands more lives."

In recent days, the Biden administration has endorsed "humanitarian pauses" to allow aid to enter the Gaza Strip, something Israel has rejected. During a Middle East visit over the weekend, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken dismissed Arab leaders' calls for a cease-fire, insisting it would allow Hamas to "regroup."

The Biden administration has publicly declared that there are no conditions on U.S. aid as it faces an internal revolt and mass protests over its unwavering support for the Israeli government and refusal to support a cease-fire.

The Post reported Sunday that "administration officials and advisers say the levers the United States theoretically has over Israel, such as conditioning military aid on making the military campaign more targeted, are nonstarters, partly because they would be so politically unpopular in any administration and partly because, aides say, Biden himself has a personal attachment to Israel."

Duss noted Sunday that during the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden dismissed as "bizarre" Sanders' proposal to put conditions on U.S. military aid to Israel.

"Time to rethink that," Duss wrote.

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