Biden Ally Opposes Halting US Weapons Transfers to Israel

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(Bloomberg) — A Senate ally of President Joe Biden said the US should continue sending weapons to Israel, rejecting a call by House members to withhold arms transfers pending a full investigation into the Israeli missile strike that killed seven World Central Kitchen aid workers in Gaza.

Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat from Delaware, cited a heightened risk of an attack by Iran or its proxies after a strike on an Iranian consulate in Syria that Iran blamed on Israel.

“In the face of a possible attack from Iran, I don’t agree that we should in any way constrain or stop the delivery of defensive material that is essential for Israel’s defense,” Coons said on Fox News Sunday.

Biden has come under renewed pressure to restrict US support for Israel after the aid workers, including a US-Canadian dual national, were killed last week. Israel’s army responded by dismissing two officers, calling the strike a case of “mistaken identification, errors in decision making, and an attack contrary to standard operating procedures.”

Biden delivered a warning to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday, urging him to take new steps to protect civilians and deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza or face a consequential shift in US support.

More than three dozen House Democrats, including former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, went further in an open letter on Friday, calling on the administration to withhold weapons transfers from Israel until an investigation “into the airstrike is concluded and, if it is found this strike violated US or international law, those responsible are held accountable.” 

Asked about the letter, Coons said he disagrees.  

“It’s important that we continue to show strong support for the defense of Israel, that we continue to support the Iron Dome and other ballistic missile defenses that we’ve jointly developed and that we make it clear we will defend Israel against any Iranian proxy attack or any direct attack by Iran,” Coons said.  

Read more: Iran Tells US to Step Aside as It Readies Response to Israel

In the six months since Hamas militants attacked Israel, parts of Gaza have been bombed to rubble. At least 33,000 Palestinians have died, according to the health ministry, which is run by Hamas, designated a terrorist organization by the US and European Union. The United Nations estimates that at least 75% of Gaza’s population has been displaced and more than half a million civilians are on the brink of famine. 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the World Central Kitchen attack last week, while saying that recent deliveries of US weapons to Israel reflect a pipeline of long-term commitments notified to Congress, often “years ago.”

House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Republican, sought to cast Democrats as wavering in their support for Israel.

“It’s time to stop lecturing Israel on how it should best defend itself and begin equipping our friend with the resources necessary to eliminate the threat of Hamas, once and for all,” he said in a statement Sunday.

(Updates with House speaker’s comments in final two paragraphs.)

More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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Published: 08 Apr 2024, 03:30 AM IST

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