update deskIsrael at War

Virginia senator: Don’t send Israel weapons ‘likely to be used in offensive military action’

Arms transfers should “focus on weapons enabling Israel to defend itself against future attacks from Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran or other actors posing a threat to our ally,” Sen. Tim Kaine said.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) at a committee hearing on June 13, 2017. Credit: Mark Reinstein/Shutterstock.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) at a committee hearing on June 13, 2017. Credit: Mark Reinstein/Shutterstock.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), a former U.S. vice presidential candidate and former Virginia governor, is urging the White House to provide Israel with “defensive” weapons only.

The United States should not supply Israel arms that could be used in an “offensive” attack on the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, the senator said.

“I understand from public reports that your administration plans to submit to Congress a notice for another major transfer of U.S. weapons to Israel for use in the war in Gaza,” the senator wrote to President Joe Biden. “I appreciate the administration’s intent to follow traditional congressional notification procedures for this transfer; these provisions should be applied equally to all nations.”

Kaine wrote that any arms transfers to Israel ought to “focus on weapons enabling Israel to defend itself against future attacks from Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran or other actors posing a threat to our ally.

“The restocking of Iron Dome and other defensive systems should be of paramount importance,” he continued. “But in this delicate moment, when parties are at the table trying to find a path to de-escalation, the administration should be wary of weapons transfers that are likely to be used in offensive military action causing significant civilian casualties.”

Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees, noted Biden administration concerns about “the potential Israeli military offensive in Rafah.”

Despite frequent public statements from the Biden administration, including directly from the president, discouraging Israel from conquering Rafah, the Israel Defense Forces freed two hostages in Rafah earlier this month.

Kaine stated that Israeli military action in Rafah would lead to “further deepening of the Gaza crisis in a manner that is harmful to U.S. and Israeli national security.”

The Israeli government has repeatedly said that it is necessary to eradicate the Hamas terror organization in Rafah.

“I speak with world leaders every day. I tell them decisively: Israel will fight until we achieve total victory, and indeed, this includes action in Rafah, of course after we allow the civilians found in the combat zones to evacuate to safe areas,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Feb. 17.

“Whoever wants to prevent us from operating in Rafah is telling us in effect to lose the war,” he said. “I will not allow this.”

A press release from Kaine’s office touted him as “a leading voice calling for Congress to play an assertive and deliberate role in decisions related to war and peace.” It also said he led colleagues “in calling for a short-term cessation of violence in order to ensure humanitarian assistance is reaching civilians in Gaza.”

In his letter to Biden, Kaine claimed that Hamas’s Oct. 7 terror attack was “particularly despicable in that it was intended to derail a regional discussion that, for the first time in decades, was seriously focused on the future of a Palestinian state.”

The senator also appeared in his letter to rely on statistics about Palestinian deaths released by the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza. The United States has designated Hamas a terrorist organization since 1997.

“The fact that U.S.-provided weapons are being used in this conflict requires that future military support be carefully calibrated to promote Israeli self-defense without deepening the suffering of innocent Palestinian civilians,” he wrote.

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