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The Eleventh Hour Democratic effort comes a day after a group of senior House Democrats pulled back on Tuesday an emerging push to delay sales amid mounting violence in the area. Legislators wanted to use the impending arms transfer as a lever to get the Israelis to drop their opposition to a ceasefire.
Earlier Wednesday, Biden told Netanyahu that he “expected significant de-escalation today on the way to a ceasefire,” according to a White House ad on her phone call. Last week, the US blocked the UN Security Council’s efforts to call for a ceasefire, effectively backing Israel’s bombing campaign against Hamas, the Palestinian militant group.
As of Wednesday, Israel’s military operations in Gaza had killed 217 Palestinians, including 63 children, while 12 Israelis were killed in the conflict that escalated after Hamas fired thousands of rockets into Israel.
Resolving the disapproval is unlikely to be driven by the House or even the Foreign Affairs Committee. The deadline given to Congress to review the arms sales in question in Israel is the end of the week. Though symbolic, the push led by Ocasio-Cortez reflects the growing concern of progressive Democrats over the lack of conditions for US support for Israel. This skepticism will only worsen if Israel continues to bomb Gaza with air strikes.
Most Democrats, however, have defended arms sales despite pushing Israel to agree to a ceasefire. Jack Reed (DR.I.), chairman of the Senate Armed Forces, noted earlier this week that the Boeing kit is precision-guided and therefore intended to reduce civilian casualties and collateral damage. Israel has been criticized internationally for its strikes against Hamas, which have resulted in civilian deaths and injuries.
Lawmakers said Tuesday that the guns Boeing bought direct from Boeing and which had been in the works for years would not arrive in Israel for months. Unlike overseas military sales, direct commercial sales are not posted online and lawmakers are only given a 15-day window for objections. Congress was first notified on May 5.
A State Department spokesman declined to comment on the sale, citing federal laws restricting public comments on licensing activities related to direct commercial sales.
“We remain deeply concerned about the current violence and are working on a sustainable calm,” said the spokesman.
The US has long supplied Israel with lethal weapons, including precision-guided bombs, tanks, and sophisticated warplanes. Since 1985, the US government has provided almost $ 3 billion in foreign military aid annually to Israel to maintain its military advantage over its Arab neighbors.
Washington has also built war reserves in Israel to store military equipment such as ammunition, “smart” bombs, missiles and military vehicles. Although the equipment is intended for use by US forces in the Middle East, it has on rare occasions been brought to Israel for use in conflict, including during the 2014 Gaza War.
In recent years, however, the political dynamic associated with US support for Israel has changed significantly. While both parties broadly continue to express their strong support for Israeli sovereignty, some progressive Democrats have become more determined to potentially cut US military aid to the Conservative government of Netanyahu, especially after considering part of the West Bank to be annexed in 2020.
Sarah Ferris and Connor O’Brien contributed to this report.