Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hugs U.S. President Joe Biden

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hugs U.S. President Joe Biden upon his arrival at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport on October 18, 2023.

(Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

Biden Request Would Create 'Free-Flowing' Arms Pipeline to Israel

The request would remove most conditions on Israel's use of a U.S. weapons stash, including a requirement that it only use surplus or obsolete weapons and a cap on how much the U.S. can spend resupplying the stash.

President Joe Biden has requested that Congress to lift most of the restrictions on Israel's access to a U.S. stockpile of weapons in the country, The Intercept reported Saturday.

The request came in the administration's supplemental budget request to the U.S. Senate, sent October 20. It concerns the War Reserve Stockpile Allies-Israel (WRSA-I) that the U.S. has stored in Israel since the 1980s for its own use in a potential conflict in the region. The U.S. allows Israel to access the stockpile under certain conditions, but Biden's request would remove most of these conditions, including a requirement that Israel only use surplus or obsolete weapons and a cap on how much the U.S. can spend resupplying the stash.

"The President's emergency supplemental funding request would essentially create a free-flowing pipeline to provide any defense articles to Israel by the simple act of placing them in the WRSA-I stockpile, or other stockpiles intended for Israel," Josh Paul, a former State Department official who resigned over U.S. arm transfers to Israel in the midst of its bombardment of Gaza, told The Intercept.

"The Biden administration's supplemental budget request would further undermine oversight and accountability even as U.S. support enables an Israeli campaign that has killed thousands of children."

The news comes in the midst of a four-day cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, which has given journalists and humanitarian organizations a moment to assess the extent of the death and destruction unleashed by Israel in Gaza since October 7, when Hamas attacked Israel, killing 1,200 and taking around 240 hostages. In retaliation, the Israeli military has killed more than 14,800 people in Gaza, around 10,000 of them women and children. That means the number of women and children killed in Gaza in less than two months is more than double the number confirmed killed in Ukraine in two years of fighting with Russia, The New York Times concluded Saturday. One of the reasons for the high civilian toll, the Times said, is Israel's use of 2,000-pound, U.S.-made bombs in a densely populated Gaza Strip.

Despite this, Biden's request would allow Israel to access all weapons from the WRSA-I, not just excess or obsolete ones, something that could hurt U.S. preparedness, Paul told The Intercept. The request would also remove a requirement that Israel provide concessions to the U.S. in exchange for accessing the weapons, lift the $200 million per year restocking cap, and shorten a requirement that the government inform Congress 30 days ahead of a weapons transfer under "extraordinary" circumstances.

"The Biden administration's supplemental budget request would further undermine oversight and accountability even as U.S. support enables an Israeli campaign that has killed thousands of children," John Ramming Chappell, a legal fellow with the Center for Civilians in Conflict, told The Intercept.

The U.S. typically provides Israel with $3.8 billion in military aid every year, more than it sends to any other nation, according to Al Jazeera. The House has already approved additional aid this year to the tune of $14.3 billion.

The Intercept story came the day after Biden seemed open to the idea of putting conditions on military aid to Israel while answering questions from reporters in Nantucket.

"I think that's a worthwhile thought, but I don't think if I started off with that we would have gotten where we are today," Biden said, as HuffPost reported. "We have to take this a piece at a time."

On the campaign trail in 2020, Biden said the idea of putting conditions on aid to Israel was "absolutely outrageous." But the administration's seemingly unconditional support for Israel as it carried out its siege, bombardment, and invasion of Gaza has led to backlash among progressives, who have marched for a cease-fire and carried out direct actions in several major cities. A Reuters/Ipsos poll released on November 15 found that 68% of the U.S. public backed a cease-fire.

In an appearance on NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan did not rule out the idea that Biden would sign legislation putting conditions on military aid to Israel, though he said currently what was proving effective was behind-doors diplomacy with Israel and Arab nations.

"He is going to continue to focus on what is going to generate results," Sullivan said.

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