US House passes bill forcing Biden to send weapons to Israel News
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US House passes bill forcing Biden to send weapons to Israel

The US House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday that would restrict President Joe Biden’s ability to withhold weapons transfers to Israel, aiming to force the president to deliver certain weapons after he previously placed shipments on hold.

The bill, known as the Israel Security Assistance Support Act, was crafted “[t]o provide for the expeditious delivery of defense articles and defense services for Israel and other matters.” The bill condemns Biden’s decision to pause the shipment of heavy bombs to Israel earlier this month, calling on the president to allow the transfers to proceed. The bill stated that Israel is currently facing “unprecedented threats from Iran and its proxies, including Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Houthis” and that Congress “reaffirms Israel’s right to self-defense.”

Co-sponsor of the bill Mario Díaz-Balart said that “[i]n contrast to the weak and confused policy of the Biden Administration, the House is standing solidly with Israel as it wages an existential battle against the terrorist state of Iran, and its terrorist proxies.”

The bill was approved by a vote of 224 to 187, largely among party lines with only three Republicans voting against the bill and 16 Democrats voting in its favor. If the bill passes the Senate, President Biden has already stated he plans to veto it. Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries indicated Democratic leaders would support that action, stating that “[w]e will sustain the President’s veto, as we have done consistently throughout the 118th Congress.”

Biden, who placed the hold due to concerns that Israel could use those weapons to inflict severe casualties in the city of Rafah, emphasized his opposition to the bill earlier this week. He stated that the bill “seeks to limit the President’s discretion to ensure that the delivery of certain defense articles and services aligns with U.S. foreign policy objectives” and would undermine his ability to act as the Commander-in-Chief and Chief Executive of the United States.

National Security Council Spokesperson Adrienne Watson also stated that Biden remains committed to supporting Israel and “will ensure that Israel has everything it needs to defeat Hamas,” but that the president “is also strongly on the record for the protection of innocent civilians.” She added, “Israel has a right and obligation to protect themselves, but they must do so while avoiding civilian casualties.”

Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, killing 1200 people and taking 240 hostage. Since then, Israel has killed over 35,000 Palestinian civilians in response. Human rights organizations and advocates have called on both the US and Israel to end civilian suffering in Gaza over the past few months, emphasizing that nearly two million Palestinians have been displaced by the war and lack access to food, water, and medical care. In the past week alone, at least 600,000 people have been displaced from Rafah amidst the Israeli offensive in the city.

The International Court of Justice in January ordered Israel to “take all measures within its power” to prevent a “plausible” genocide in Gaza, and the court issued additional emergency measures in March.

The US currently provides Israel with $3.8 billion per year in security assistance and missile defense funding under a 2016 Memorandum of Understanding. The bill also pointed out that Congress has enacted legislation appropriating $12.5 billion in security assistance and missile defense to Israel this year.