Rising democratic dissent as Biden sidesteps Congress for another Israeli arms deal

This decision marks the second instance within a short span where the administration has circumvented legislative scrutiny in arms transactions.

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In a move that’s stirring significant dissent within his own party, President Biden’s administration has bypassed congressional review to push through a $147.5 million arms deal with Israel. This decision, made amidst the escalating conflict in Gaza, marks the second instance within a short span where the administration has circumvented legislative scrutiny in arms transactions.

Senator Peter Welch (D-Vt.) voiced strong objections, aligning with Senator Tim Kaine’s (D-Va.) earlier disapproval. “Congress must discuss the merits of supporting the transfer of lethal aid, which has grave implications not only for the millions of civilians trapped in Gaza but also for the United States,” Welch stated. Senator Kaine emphasized the importance of Congressional oversight in matters of international arms sales, critiquing the administration for keeping American citizens in the dark.

The U.S. State Department cited Israel’s urgent “defensive needs” in the Gaza Strip as the rationale behind its emergency decision. This justification, however, stands in stark contrast to the administration’s approach towards Ukraine, where arms support and transparency have been more openly discussed. The repeated bypassing of Congress in such critical decisions is sparking debates over the executive branch’s use of emergency powers in foreign arms sales.

Human rights groups are raising alarms over the devastating humanitarian crisis in Gaza, where Israeli actions have led to thousands of civilian casualties and massive displacement. The Biden administration’s decision to continue arming Israel amidst this crisis has drawn criticism from various quarters, with calls for an arms embargo on Israel growing louder. Critics argue that continuing arms sales to Israel could implicate the U.S. in potential war crimes or acts of ethnic cleansing.

The legal implications of bypassing Congress for arms sales are complex and contentious. Legally, such actions may undermine the checks and balances integral to U.S. governance. Ethically, these decisions put the U.S. at risk of being complicit in international law violations, considering the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza. The administration’s sidestepping of congressional review has ignited a debate about the ethical responsibilities involved in international arms deals.

Since Oct. 7, Israel has received approximately 10,000 tons of U.S. military equipment, including Joint Direct Attack Munitions and 2,000-pound bombs. The scale of these transfers, coupled with the administration’s secretive handling of the deals, contrasts starkly with the more transparent aid provided to Ukraine. This secrecy has further fueled concerns about the potential misuse of U.S.-supplied arms in the ongoing conflict.

Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) echoed his colleagues’ concerns, emphasizing the importance of congressional review in maintaining transparency and accountability in arms sales. “The administration’s decision to repeatedly short-circuit what is already a quick time frame for congressional review undermines transparency and weakens accountability,” Van Hollen said. These sentiments reflect a growing unease within the Democratic Party about the administration’s unilateral approach to arms sales.

Public opinion in the U.S. shows a significant portion of Americans calling for a more balanced approach to the Israel-Gaza conflict. International observers have also scrutinized the U.S. arms sales to Israel, with some advocating for a reevaluation of U.S. foreign military assistance policies. This situation places the U.S. in a challenging position on the global stage, particularly with its allies.

The Biden administration’s recent actions in facilitating arms sales to Israel without congressional approval have sparked a notable backlash within the Democratic Party. Lawmakers are calling for a re-commitment to the processes of democratic oversight and transparency in matters of international significance. “The war in Gaza has generated immense controversy and concern in the United States and around the world,” Welch concluded. “The president should follow the established procedure of submitting his arms sales recommendations to Congress for prior approval.”

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