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House demands Biden keep promises to Israel

A bill to force aid delivery passes with bipartisan support

From left, GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., Majority Whip Tom Emmer, R-Minn., speak to reporters about President Joe Biden pausing a shipment of bombs to Israel. The Associated Press/Photo by J. Scott Applewhite

House demands Biden keep promises to Israel

After the U.S. House approved roughly $26 billion in aid for Israel last month, Republicans are adding extra pressure on President Joe Biden to ensure it reaches its intended destination.

On Thursday the House passed the Israel Security Assistance Support Act by a vote of 224-187. The measure is aimed at forcing the Biden administration to unfreeze all congressionally approved armaments for Israel. Although it’s expected to fail in the Democratically controlled Senate, the bill’s bipartisan supporters hope Thursday’s vote will give the president clear direction from Congress to follow through on his stated support for Israel. Sixteen Democrats voted for the bill.

“We all wish the Biden administration would spend way more of its efforts pressuring Hamas and Iran and its proxies for causing the war. Our adversary is not Israel,” Rep. Nick LaLota, R-N.Y., told me moments before casting his vote in favor of the resolution.

The bill, which has 119 Republican co-sponsors, would prohibit the administration from withholding any aid designated by the United States for Israel and instruct the secretaries of defense and state to ensure its prompt delivery. The bill would also compel the United States to deliver all scheduled “defense articles and services” to Israel in 2024 and 2025.

House Republicans expressed outrage earlier this month at the news that Biden had withheld the delivery of 2,000- and 500-pound bombs to Israel, citing humanitarian concerns. Last week, Biden warned he might withhold further ammunition shipments if the Israeli military invaded Rafah, the southernmost city in Gaza. Since the start of the war, Rafah has become a hotbed for refugees fleeing battles farther north—but also is the last stronghold of Hamas, according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu has said Israel will continue its campaign to eradicate the extremist group.

“I made it clear that if they go into Rafah—they haven’t gone into Rafah yet—I’m not supplying the weapons that have historically been used to deal with Rafah, to deal with the cities, to deal with that problem,” Biden told CNN last week.

Hours before Thursday’s vote, U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson blasted the administration’s direction.

“Just weeks after Congress passed the national security supplemental, which included $26 billion for Israel, the Biden administration is defying the will of Congress and withholding weapon shipments to Israel,” Johnson said. “[The president] said just not long ago that we had to have ironclad support for Israel. Well, that’s what he previously proclaimed but his actions are doing exactly the opposite.”

Biden has said he would veto the Israel assistance bill if it reached his desk.

While 16 Democrats voted for the bill, most of the caucus shares the president’s humanitarian concerns. Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., said the possibility of invasion is already compounding the plight of many Palestinian refugees sheltering in Gaza. Crow sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“I won’t speak to what I’ve learned in committee since that’s classified,” Crow said. “[But] I do know that there’s a pretty massive displacement of the population and many of these folks are people who have already moved several times who … are already food insecure or have illnesses and medical issues. It’s a pretty dire situation.”

Short of withholding arms, I asked Republicans if they see another way the Biden administration could compel Israel to take additional humanitarian precautions. LaLota said he doesn’t think that should be the concern of the United States.

“If we rewind the clock back to 9/11, to Pearl Harbor, America’s allies didn’t put conditions on their support of America as we pursued our adversaries who caused us great death and destruction. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, America shouldn’t do that to our closest allies,” LaLota said.

Similarly, Rep. Maria Salazar, R-Fla., who also sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, believes that halting weapons to Israel—in any form—is a mistake that infringes on Israel’s sovereign ability to defend itself.

“Stopping arms is never a good idea. Period,” Salazar said. “Who is Biden to say anything? No one can say anything to the Israelis on how to defend themselves.”

Leo Briceno

Leo is a WORLD politics reporter based in Washington, D.C. He’s a graduate of the World Journalism Institute and has a degree in political journalism from Patrick Henry College.


This keeps me from having to slog through digital miles of other news sites. —Nick

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