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Fears of Escalating Conflict in Gaza Unite

The Biden administration has taken the extraordinary step of bypassing Congress to approve two emergency weapons sales to Israel, worth a total of 253.5 million dollars, amidst criticism of Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza. The recent sales have raised concerns among some Democratic politicians, who have called for the proposed aid package to Israel to be contingent on concrete steps to reduce civilian casualties in Gaza.

According to the US State Department, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has informed Congress that he has made a second emergency determination to allow the transfer of equipment necessary to make 155mm shells function, which Israel has already purchased. The department emphasized that the urgent need for Israel’s defensive capabilities justifies the bypassing of the congressional review requirement for foreign military sales.

In recent weeks, the US has maintained its commitment to Israel’s security, claiming it is vital to US national interests to ensure Israel’s ability to defend itself against the threats it faces. However, this move has come at a time when the US President Joe Biden’s request for a nearly 106 billion-dollar aid package for Ukraine, Israel, and other national security needs remains stalled in Congress.

Some critics have argued that the emergency determination is a rare move, but not unprecedented, used when administrations feel the need to deliver weapons quickly without waiting for members’ approval. In a similar scenario in May 2019, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an emergency determination for an 8.1 billion-dollar sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan, after it became clear that the Trump administration would have trouble overcoming concerns about the Saudi and UAE-led war in Yemen.

Joe Biden (Via Joe Biden/Twitter)

The State Department has sought to counter potential criticism of the sales on human rights grounds, emphasizing the importance of minimizing civilian casualties in Gaza. The department has been in constant touch with Israel to impress upon them the need to comply with international humanitarian law and take every feasible step to prevent harm to civilians.

Despite these efforts, some Democratic politicians have expressed concerns over the scale of civilian casualties in Gaza, which has soared since Israel began its response to the Hamas attacks on October 7. Many have called for concrete steps to reduce civilian casualties, with some advocating for the proposed 14.3 billion dollars in American assistance to Israel to be contingent on such steps.

In the midst of this escalating conflict, the US administration’s move to bypass Congress has raised questions about the balance between national security interests and human rights considerations. While the administration claims that the emergency determination is driven by the urgent need for Israel’s defensive capabilities, some critics argue that the move could undermine the traditional process of congressional approval for foreign military sales.

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