President Biden must halt $735 million U.S. weapons sale to Israel

Jun 16, 2021
In May 2021, the Israeli military bombarded the Gaza Strip using U.S.-manufactured and sourced weapons. (Photo credit: AFP / Bashar Taleb)

Washington, June 16, 2021—Defense for Children International - Palestine and a coalition of more than 100 civil society organizations call upon President Biden to immediately halt U.S. weapons sales to Israel.

The coalition, which includes Jewish Voice for Peace Action, the Friends Committee on National Legislation, Churches for Middle East Peace, and others, sent a letter to President Biden urging him to block the delivery of $735 million worth of weapons to Israel. The letter was signed by more than 100 civil society organizations that advocate for human rights and social justice, including Demand Progress, Win Without War, Justice Democrats, MoveOn, Working Families Party, Indivisible, and Sunrise Movement. 

DCIP has launched a petition and urges the public to join our call demanding that President Biden halt this weapon sale to Israel. 

In May 2021, Israeli forces launched an 11-day military offensive against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli military used U.S.-manufactured and sourced weapons in a massive assault that resulted in the deaths of at least 256 Palestinians, including 67 children, according to evidence collected by DCIP. More than 91,000 Palestinians were forcibly displaced at the height of the bombardment, all while the COVID-19 pandemic continued to dangerously spread in the Gaza Strip. 

In the midst of the May military assault, the Biden administration approved a $735 million weapons sale to Israel, which included the same kinds of weapons used against Palestinians in Gaza.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY-14) introduced a joint resolution of disapproval in the House of Representatives on May 19, and the following day Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced a similar resolution in the Senate. However, the State Department approved the sale before Congress could debate and vote on the resolutions. Most weapons sales provide Congress with a 30-day window to debate and vote on the sale, whereas Israel is one of several countries that enjoys a 15-day window, according to the Center for International Policy

Additionally, Israeli Minister of Defense Benny Gantz is reportedly asking the United States for $1 billion in emergency military funding to replenish Israel's Iron Dome aerial missile system. 

Israel is the largest recipient of the U.S. State Department’s Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program, receiving $3.3 billion annually and constituting more than 50 percent of the FMF program’s annual funding. The FMF provides grants to foreign militaries to purchase American weapons. 

Israel also receives $500 million annually in missile defense funding from the U.S. government. The $3.8 billion provided by the U.S. government to Israel accounts for 20 percent of the Israeli military’s annual budget. 

Israel is permitted to use a portion of its FMF funding to purchase weapons from Israeli weapons manufacturers, which is known as “offshore procurement.” Offshore procurement has no end-use monitoring in place, so it is unknown exactly how these funds are used. 

Most countries that receive military funding from the U.S. must purchase weapons through the Foreign Military Sales process, where the U.S. government manages the transaction. However, Israel is permitted to engage in direct commercial sales with weapons manufacturers, which results in a process with little to no transparency. 

On April 16, 2021, Rep. Betty McCollum introduced H.R. 2590, the Palestinian Children and Families Act, which would prohibit U.S. military funding from being used to detain and torture Palestinian children, demolish Palestinian homes and property, and further annex the occupied West Bank. The bill also calls for State Department certification and an annual Government Accountability Office report that confirms to Congress that U.S. funds have not been used for these purposes. 

International humanitarian law prohibits indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks and requires all parties to an armed conflict to distinguish between military targets, civilians, and civilian objects. While Israel relies on the principle of self-defense to justify military offensives on Gaza, Israeli forces are bound to customary international law rules of proportionality and necessity. As the occupying power in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the Gaza Strip, Israel is required to protect the Palestinian civilian population from violence.

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