Republicans Demand Biden Address Decision to Stall Bomb Deliveries to Israel

Two Republican senators asked President Biden to confirm what types of munitions deliveries are being held up and why.

A pair of Republican senators are demanding answers from President Joe Biden, over his administration’s decision to stall deliveries of specific bomb variants to Israeli forces.

Axios first reported on Sunday, citing two unidentified Israeli officials, that the Biden administration had placed a hold on deliveries of certain munitions the week prior. The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday, again citing unnamed officials, that the holdup is over a delivery of up to 6,500 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs); a guidance kit attached to existing unguided bombs to steer them onto a target with greater precision.

Politico has since reported the holdup also impacts deliveries of Small Diameter Bombs. NBC News reported shipments to Israel of larger 2,000-pound bombs were also being held up.

The Biden administration did not immediately confirm the delays in the weapons deliveries. Sens. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Ted Budd (R-N.C.) eventually called on the president to address the reports more directly.

“We are shocked that your administration has reportedly decided to withhold critical ammunition to Israel. You promised your commitment to Israel was ironclad. Pausing much-needed military support to our closest Middle Eastern ally signals otherwise,” the senators wrote in a letter they sent to President Biden on Monday and made public on Tuesday.

The two Republican senators asked President Biden to confirm what, if any types of munitions deliveries are being held up and why. Their letter calls on the president to provide answers by May 20.

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Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin finally gave the first official confirmation at a Wednesday Senate hearing that weapons deliveries to Israel were indeed held up. Mr. Austin linked the decision to the Biden administration’s opposition to a major Israeli military operation in the southern Gazan city of Rafah.

“We’re going to continue to do what’s necessary to ensure that Israel has the means to defend itself. But that said, we are currently reviewing some near-term security assistance shipments in the context of unfolding events in Rafah,” Mr. Austin said.

The defense secretary added that the Biden administration is worried about protecting civilians within Rafah and said the delay impacts “one shipment of high-payload munitions.”

Biden, Netanyahu Divided Over Rafah Assault

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government have consistently set the complete elimination of Hamas as one of the major objectives of the ongoing war in the Gaza Strip and have cast Rafah as one of the remaining strongholds of the Hamas terrorist group. But the Biden administration has warned that an expansive operation there creates high risks of civilian casualties without sufficient planning.

Earlier on in the war in Gaza, Israeli forces routinely advised residents in the northern parts of the Gaza Strip to evacuate southward to avoid being caught in the crossfire. More than a million people have since relocated to Rafah, which runs along the southern Gaza border with Egypt.

Last week, Mr. Netanyahu warned that an Israeli assault in Rafah would come, regardless of whether Israeli negotiators reach a temporary ceasefire deal with Hamas. In his own comments last week, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Biden administration has “not yet seen a plan that gives us confidence that civilians can be effectively protected.”

During a Tuesday afternoon press briefing, U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller reiterated the Biden administration’s opposition to a large-scale assault in Rafah and said the administration is continuing to monitor the Israeli moves. Mr. Miller the Israeli military’s seizure of the Rafah Crossing “appears to be a limited operation, but of course, much of that depends on what comes next.”

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) asked Mr. Austin on Wednesday whether the decision to pause the weapons delivery to Israel sends a signal that U.S. support is conditional and whether the delay emboldens Israel’s enemies.

Mr. Austin said the Biden administration has “been very clear about the steps that we’d like to see Israel take to account for and take care of those civilians before major combat takes place” while adding that the current pause in the delivery of “high-payload” weapons is not a “final determination on how to proceed with that shipment.”

The Monday letter from Ms. Ernst and Mr. Budd asks why the Biden administration didn’t notify Congress before delaying the weapons shipment to Israel and asks if the administration will notify Congress before ordering any further delays in weapons deliveries.

NTD News reached out to the White House for further comment but did not receive a response by press time.

Biden Urged Congress to Approve More Aid

Ms. Ernst and Mr. Budd noted military aid for Israel comprised a major component of a recently passed $95 billion supplemental foreign aid bill. That bill linked about $26 billion in military assistance for Israel and humanitarian aid in the Gaza Strip, to another $61 billion to support Ukraine in its ongoing war with Russia, and billions more on other alliances and security partnerships around the world.

President Biden began pushing for the combined foreign aid package in October, in the days after Hamas terrorists infiltrated southern Israel and carried out widespread attacks killing about 1,200 and taking around 240 people back to the Gaza Strip as hostages.

The foreign aid package had divided congressional Republicans, many of whom had shown skepticism of continued support for the Ukrainian war effort. Republican lawmakers had also sought to attach stricter border enforcement measures to the bill, but that effort collapsed. Ms. Ernst voted in favor of the aid package in its final Senate passage on April 23, while Mr. Budd was among dozens of Republican lawmakers across the House and Senate who opposed the aid deal.

While support for Ukraine and calls for increased border security divided Republicans considering the aid package, a wing of President Biden’s own party had expressed opposition to U.S. support for Israel’s war efforts in the Gaza Strip. Several congressional Democrats had called for a ceasefire and attempted to place conditions on new rounds of military aid for Israel. Some Democratic voters have also signaled they may withhold their support for President Biden in the 2024 election.

The Monday letter from Ms. Ernst and Mr. Budd pressed President Biden to reconcile his public support for the supplemental aid package with his reported decision to delay munitions deliveries to Israel.

“In October 2023, you said that the funding package was imperative to ‘provide the necessary security assistance to Israel [and] support Israeli efforts to secure the release of the hostages.’ On April 24, you signed the national security supplemental into law and promised that you ‘will always make sure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself against Iran and terrorists it supports,’” the two Republican senators wrote.

During his questioning on Wednesday, Mr. Moran asked Mr. Austin to address whether the weapons shipment the Biden administration is holding up was part of the supplemental foreign aid package lawmakers had spent months negotiating.

“Many of us in this room worked hard to get aid included and passed by the House and Senate in the emergency supplemental,” Mr. Moran noted, before asking whether the move impacts the appropriations in the supplemental.

Mr. Austin insisted the delayed weapons shipment was not part of the recent aid supplemental.

Original News Source Link – Epoch Times

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