The U.S. appears to have okayed the sale of precision-guided weapons to Israel worth $735 million amid fears that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could escalate into a full blown war.
The $735 million contract is for Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMS), many of which Israel has already bought. In 2018, the US Department of Defence approved a $1.8 billion deal for both JDAM kits and the bombs they attach to. These kits transform so-called “dumb” bombs into precision-guided missiles.
As per The Washington Post report, the Congress was officially notified of the proposed sale on May 5, a week before Hamas began intense rocket attacks against Israel. Around 90% of Hamas’ 3,000 rockets fired have been intercepted by the Israeli Iron Dome.
The Hamas rockets have been answered with ongoing Israeli airstrikes that have left nearly 200 Palestinians dead and sparked worldwide calls for diplomatic action. The crisis is the worst since a 2014 Hamas-Israeli war that lasted nearly two months.
An Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) air raid also destroyed a building that was home to the offices of the Associated Press and Al Jazeera.
“In the past week, the Israeli military's strikes have killed many civilians and destroyed the building that housed the Associated Press, an American company reporting on the facts in Gaza,” a Democratic lawmaker on the House Foreign Affairs Committee told the outlet. “Allowing this proposed sale of smart bombs to go through without putting pressure on Israel to agree to a cease-fire will only enable further carnage.”
The Biden administration initially avoided calling for an immediate cease-fire and has said that Israel has the right to defend itself against Hamas — a position that a majority in Congress has previously supported.
The administration is required to inform Congress of such sales, although official notification generally comes only after Congress has informally agreed. Once the formal notification is made, lawmakers have 15 days to object with a nonbinding resolution of disapproval.
A spokesperson for the House Foreign Affairs Committee confirmed that Congress was notified on May 5 of the commercial deal in which Boeing will provide the weapons to Israel. But some Foreign Affairs lawmakers were caught off guard over the weekend when they first learned of the sale, according to a source with knowledge of the private conversations.
The Biden administration is also reviewing the sale of weapons – bombs to Saudi Arabia, as well as F-35 jets and MQ-9B combat drones to the U.A.E. – that has met with opposition for their involvement in the Yemen war.
While U.S. provides military aid to Israel (with about $3.8 billion of support annually, most of which goes towards military equipment from U.S. companies), it also provides humanitarian support for Palestine. On April 7, the Biden administration announced it would provide $235 million of aid to Palestinians that had been cut by former U.S. President Donald Trump.