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“We wanted to have a dialogue,” said Meeks on Tuesday. “The purpose of the letter was initially to make sure there was dialogue.”
A committee spokesman said Meeks would “give members the opportunity to have an open conversation with the administration about arms sales,” adding that a letter was “no longer necessary” given the White House’s commitment.
However, Democratic sources informed of the meeting challenged Meeks’ reasoning, claiming that the letter was not intended to simply get a meeting or briefing from the administration. Democratic lawmakers protesting the sale believed its timing sent the wrong message if the government defied aggressive push for a ceasefire.
The guns “wouldn’t be sent for months anyway,” said a lawmaker who attended the meeting. “The question is whether it would make sense to announce the licensing now while the bombing is going on and we are trying to promote a ceasefire.”
US-Israel relations have openly angered House Democrats in recent years as more progressives advocate the Palestinian cause after decades of bipartisan support for the Israeli government from both parties. Among those outspoken liberals is the first Palestinian-American lawmaker of Congress, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Who was caught talking to Biden on camera when the president arrived in her home state on Tuesday.
And Israel’s military campaign in Gaza against Hamas in retaliation for the terrorist group’s rocket attacks within its borders has shed bright light on the profound divisions among the Democrats over America’s greatest ally in the Middle East.
House Democratic Caucus chairman Hakeem Jeffries (DN.Y.) said the party leadership is not putting pressure on Meeks to post the letter. He said it was “appropriate for these talks to take place and then we’ll see what happens”.
In fact, spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi was the youngest top Democrat on Tuesday to push for a ceasefire using language stronger than that of the White House in Biden.
“Now, after more than a week of hostilities, it has become even clearer that a ceasefire is necessary,” Pelosi said in a statement on rights of both the Israeli and Palestinian people. “
The civilian death toll from the conflict continued to rise on Tuesday. Israel resisted calls for a ceasefire to deteriorate Hamas’ capabilities in Gaza. Biden has come under increasing pressure from the Democrats to urge Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to agree to a mutual cessation of hostilities, but the US has vetoed United Nations Security Council resolutions calling for that outcome.
Congress has the power to block arms sales like those authorized for Israel, but the review window will close at the end of the week so lawmakers cannot act in time – despite the fact that the Foreign Affairs Committee was informed of the sale on May 5.
Some Democrats have defended the arms sale to Israel, noting that it has been in the works for months and that it is a sale from a private company rather than a military transfer. The transaction has been approved as a direct commercial sale rather than a foreign military sale.
The Democrats, who supported the on-time sale, also said the precision of the machines is important to reduce civilian casualties as Israel targets Hamas assets.
“The JDAMs are designed to make weapons precise. In this conflict, this seems like a reasonable transmission, ”said Jack Reed (DR.I.), Chairman of the Senate Armed Forces Committee. “To be honest, this is not a grace supply. They routinely ordered that. “
Lara Seligman contributed to this report.