Two high-ranking Republicans in Congress on Thursday asked the president to stand by US military sales to Israel. Their letter came in response to efforts to block support for Israel amid the war there and in the Palestinian territories.
Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho and Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas wrote a letter to US President Joe Biden regarding “calls to delay the sale of important munitions” to Israel. The two are the top Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee, respectively.
“We are especially concerned by calls to delay the pending sale of precision munitions to Israel,” they said in the letter.
Their remarks were in response to efforts by some Democratic and independent lawmakers to limit a recent US military sale to Israel because of the Israeli military’s conflict with Palestinian groups. Also Thursday, independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont introduced a resolution to block a recent weapons sale to Israel in light of the situation. Sanders said he took action because Israel, which receives considerable US military assistance, was killing Palestinian civilians.
“At a moment when U.S.-made bombs are devastating Gaza, and killing women and children, we cannot simply let another huge arms sale go through without even a Congressional debate,” said Sanders in a press release.
The Biden administration informed Congress of the $735 million sale of precision-guided earlier this month.
Risch and McCaul said that the sale was properly vetted and is necessary for Israel to fight the Gaza-based Palestinian military organization Hamas.
“The chairs and ranking members of the committees did not raise any issues during the review process. Only now, as Israel strikes back against Iranian-backed Hamas terrorism, have voices called to halt the sale,” they said. “Israel has a right to defend itself, and the United States has pledged to help maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge.”
Israel has been battling Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups for 11 days. Hamas and allies have sent thousands of rockets into Israel, while Israel has conducted extensive airstrikes on Gaza. More than 220 Palestinians have been killed as well as 12 Israelis, including civilians on both sides.
Israel and Hamas agreed Thursday to an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire that will take effect Friday.
A group of progressive House Democrats also worked on a resolution to block the same sale this week.
The current conflict has exposed disagreements among members of Congress on the US-Israel relationship. Pro-Palestine voices have gained more influence in the Democratic Party in recent years. Support for US aid to Israel remains strong in Congress, however, and there are still many outspoken Democratic supporters of Israel. Most of the Republican Party in Congress is also supportive of the US-Israel alliance.