update deskU.S.-Israel Relations

Key Democrat holdouts green-light major Israel arms sale

Rep. Gregory W. Meeks (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) signed the deal, which includes 50 F-15s worth $18 bil after months of intense pressure from the Biden administration and pro-Israel advocates.

Israel Air Force fighter jet F-15, at the Tel Nor airforce base on Jan. 1, 2024. Photo by Moshe Shai/Flash90.
Israel Air Force fighter jet F-15, at the Tel Nor airforce base on Jan. 1, 2024. Photo by Moshe Shai/Flash90.

Two key Democratic lawmakers have signed off on a major arms sale to Israel following pressure from the Biden administration and pro-Israel advocates, according to The Washington Post.

The deal includes 50 F-15 fighter jets worth $18 billion, along with air-to-air missiles and precision-guided munitions, according to the report, which cites three U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

After months of holding up the sale, Rep. Gregory W. Meeks (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) signed off on the transaction several weeks ago, according to the U.S. officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss arms transfers.

Meeks, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, had publicly vowed to block the arms package unless he received assurances from the administration about how the warplanes and munitions would be used in Gaza, according to the report.

“I don’t want the kinds of weapons that Israel has to be utilized to have more deaths,” Meeks told CNN in April. “I want to make sure that humanitarian aid gets in. I don’t want people starving to death, and I want Hamas to release the hostages. And I want a two-state solution.”

Meeks told the Post that he has been in “close touch” with the White House about the package and “repeatedly urged the administration to continue pushing Israel to make significant and concrete improvements on all fronts when it comes to humanitarian efforts and limiting civilian casualties.” He underscored that the F-15s will be delivered “years from now” and said he remained supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself against threats from Iran and Hezbollah.

A spokesman for Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the sale went through the “regular review processes.”

The report quoted Eric Harris, communications director for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as saying, “Any issues or concerns Chair Cardin had were addressed through our ongoing consultations with the administration, and that’s why he felt it appropriate to allow this case to move forward.”

If ultimately approved, the transaction would be one of the largest arms sales to Israel since the conflict began.

Originally published by Israel Hayom.

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