newsU.S.-Israel Relations

Republicans slam Biden for pausing Israel arms shipment

“This is obscene. It is absurd,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). “Give Israel what they need to fight the war they can’t afford to lose.”

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Air Force Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff testify at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on the Department of Defense fiscal 2025 budget request and Future Years Defense Program in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on May, 8 2024. Credit: Chad J. McNeeley/U.S. Department of Defense.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Air Force Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff testify at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on the Department of Defense fiscal 2025 budget request and Future Years Defense Program in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on May, 8 2024. Credit: Chad J. McNeeley/U.S. Department of Defense.

House and Senate Republicans slammed U.S. President Joe Biden’s decision to pause an arms shipment to Israel and demanded that the administration explain why it failed to notify Congress.

Sens. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Ted Budd (R-N.C.) wrote to the Biden administration on Monday asking for answers about the frozen arms deal.

“We are shocked that your administration has reportedly decided to withhold critical ammunition to Israel,” the senators wrote.

“You promised your commitment to Israel was ironclad,” they added. “Pausing much-needed military support to our closest Middle Eastern ally signals otherwise.”

The Biden administration withheld the approval of the sale of two types of precision-guided bombs, the first such delay of an arms sale since Oct. 7, Politico reported on Tuesday.

The administration informed Congress of the potential $260 million sale of “up to 6,500 Joint Direct Attack Munitions—kits that enable unguided bombs to be steered to a target” in January, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, citing officials familiar with the deal.

The Biden administration has not taken any action on the sale since, and the U.S. State Department is reviewing the sale, per the Journal. The paper cited a senior administration official who said that Washington paused a shipment of weapons, including 1,800 bombs that weigh 2,000 pounds each and 1,700 bombs that weigh 500 pounds each.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin confirmed the pause during testimony at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on Wednesday about the Defense Department fiscal 2025 budget request. 

“We have paused one shipment of high payload munitions,” Austin said. “We’ve not made a final determination on how to proceed with that shipment.”

Austin added that the administration continues to oppose any Israeli ground offensive in the city of Rafah in southern Gaza. He also said that the paused arms sale is not connected to the recently passed foreign aid bill, which includes billions of dollars in military aid for Israel.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) hit back at Austin’s comments in the hearing, saying that pausing the arms shipment sends the wrong signal to Israel during an “existential” battle with its enemies.

“Israel’s been hit in the last few weeks by Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas—dedicated to their destruction—and you’re telling me you’re going to tell them how to fight the war, and what they can and can’t use when everybody around them wants to kill all the Jews?” Graham said.

“This is obscene. It is absurd,” the South Carolina senator added. “Give Israel what they need to fight the war they can’t afford to lose.”

Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.) said that the decision to withhold the arms shipment is proof that the Biden administration has accepted the claims of anti-Israel activists.

“Israel is continually held to a double standard by members of the international community that far too often overlook the conduct of other countries with some of the worst human-rights abuses in the world,” Lawler said. 

“That should come as no shock when U.N. employees were found to have direct ties to Hamas,” he added. “What is shocking, however, is that the Biden administration would buy into the lies and create distance between us and Israel.”

Speaking on the Senate floor on Wednesday, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) applauded the president’s initial support for Israel after Oct. 7 but said that Biden’s recent actions have undermined his claims that he is an “ironclad” supporter of the Jewish state.

“We’ve seen that iron bend under the heat of domestic political pressure from his party’s anti-Israel base and the campus communists who decided to wrap themselves in the flags of Hamas and Hezbollah,” McConnell said.

“I speak with some experience in the difficulties of standing up to extreme elements in one’s own political party,” McConnell added. “But the president’s apparent inability to keep the most radical voices on his left flank out of the situation room isn’t just a shameful abdication of leadership, it’s actually dangerous.”

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