Gaza Conflict Sheds Light on Extensive Pipeline of U.S. Arms to Israel

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TL/DR –

The U.S. committed to providing Israel with $38 billion in arms over 10 years under an agreement finalized by the Obama administration in 2016. The deal, which includes $3.3 billion annually for weapons and an additional $500 million each year for missile defense, has become a point of contention for the Biden administration, with some lawmakers and liberal activists calling for restrictions or cessation of arms shipments due to Israel’s military campaign in Gaza. Though President Biden has criticized Israel’s “indiscriminate bombing”, he has resisted limits on U.S. military aid.


US-Israel Military Agreement Under Spotlight Amid Gaza Conflict

In 2016, the Obama administration agreed to support Israel with a $38 billion military aid package over 10 years. The aid package provides Israel with $3.3 billion per year for weapons, along with an additional $500 million annually for missile defense.

Presently, this agreement has become a point of contention in the Biden administration, with some lawmakers and activists urging for restrictions or cessation of arms shipments to Israel due to the ongoing military campaign in Gaza. Despite criticism, President Biden remains reluctant to limit US military aid to Israel.

Israel’s long-established military relationship with the US has seen the country purchase fighter jets, helicopters, air defense missiles, and uncontrolled and guided bombs among other equipment.

Despite the ongoing conflict, the complex process of arms delivery to Israel continues. The US has sent numerous weapons to Israel since the Hamas attackers incident on October 7.

However, Biden has the ability to limit foreign arms deliveries, including those previously approved by Congress. Instead of acting on this, Biden is advocating for $14 billion in extra arms aid to Israel, a request that has been halted in Congress due to disputes over Ukraine aid and US border security.

Israel’s Arms Requests and Delivery Process

Due to a legal loophole, the State Department isn’t obligated to inform Congress or the public about some of Israel’s new arms orders. This secrecy has attracted criticism, especially considering the public attention given to arms deliveries to Ukraine. Since the Hamas attacks, the State Department has continued to authorize arms shipments to Israel as part of previously approved orders.

Israel’s Reliance on American Arms

Israel regularly receives arms from the U.S. Defense Department and directly from American weapons makers. The largest arms orders are often fulfilled over several years in smaller groups of specific items. These orders go through a State Department review and occasionally congressional review, depending on the cost.

Concerns Over US-Israeli Arms Sales

Israel is currently waiting for State Department approval for 24,000 assault rifles, a direct commercial order that has sparked concern due to instances of Israeli settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank.

The Politics Around Israel’s Arms Sales

Since October 7, Israel has asked the US to expedite filling cases from long-existing orders. Given the political sensitivities surrounding Israel, any change in policy would need to come directly from President Biden.

Israel’s recent requests have led to a drawdown from U.S. stockpiles, including munitions ranging from 250- to 2,000-pound bombs. Most cases have been for 500-pound bombs.

New Orders and Congressional Oversight

Since October 7, Israel has placed new orders. The State Department only needs to notify Congress when a price tag is above a certain threshold. That amount varies by country and the type of military aid. If Israel orders a major weapons system, the department only informs Congress if the tranche is valued at over $25 million.

At least three of the new Israeli orders have crossed the threshold required for congressional review. However, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken bypassed legislative review twice last December by invoking a rare emergency authority to push through two orders worth $253 million in total.

Concerns and Dissent Within the State Department

There has been some dissent within the State Department about the arms transfers. Critics argue that the exercise adds little to existing U.S. requirements that military aid recipients observe international and humanitarian law.

Despite internal concerns about Israel’s commitment to international law, Mr. Blinken accepted Israel’s assurances. The department continues to conduct ongoing assessments about Israel’s compliance with international humanitarian law.

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