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Liberal Dems launch 11th-hour push to stop Israel arms sale
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is leading the effort, along with Reps. Rashida Tlaib, Mark Pocan, Ilhan Omar and others, according to a draft resolution obtained by POLITICO.
By: Lara Seligman, Andrew Desiderio and Nahal Toosi, Politico, May 19, 2021:
A group of lawmakers is cobbling together an effort to block a controversial sale of precision-guided weapons to Israel as President Joe Biden ratchets up the pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to bring to a halt the increasingly deadly conflict in Gaza.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) is leading the effort, along with Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), and others, according to a draft resolution obtained by POLITICO. An Ocasio-Cortez spokesperson confirmed she is releasing the resolution Wednesday.
The resolution of disapproval, as drafted, aims to prohibit the proposed $735 million sale of a Boeing-built arms guidance kit to Israel. The Joint Direct Attack Munitions kit, as it’s known, converts unguided or “dumb” bombs into precision-guided munitions
The eleventh-hour Democratic effort comes one day after a group of senior House Democrats on Tuesday backed off an emerging push to delay the sale amid intensifying violence in the region. Lawmakers wanted to use the impending arms transfer as leverage to push the Israelis to drop their resistance to a ceasefire.
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As of Wednesday, Israel’s military operations in Gaza have killed 217 Palestinians, including 63 children, while 12 Israelis have died in the conflict, which escalated after Hamas launched thousands of rockets into Israel.
The resolution of disapproval isn’t likely to advance through the House or even the Foreign Affairs Committee; the period given to Congress for review of the Israel arms sale in question expires at the end of the week. Although symbolic, the Ocasio-Cortez-led push reflects progressive Democrats’ increasing uneasiness over the lack of conditions on U.S. support for Israel, skepticism that’s only deepened as Israel continues to bombard Gaza with air strikes.
Republicans, meanwhile, have remained staunchly behind Israel and Netanyahu. At a press conference on Wednesday, GOP senators hammered Biden for not being more outspoken in favor of Israel’s military campaign in Gaza — even suggesting that the administration was tacitly supporting Hamas.
“Joe Biden needs to stand up and reject this radical anti-Israel proposal,” Sen. Tom Cotton (D-Ark.) said, referring to Ocasio-Cortez’s effort. “But Joe Biden has been rapidly caving to the left this week.”
Lawmakers said Tuesday that the weapons, bought directly from Boeing in a deal that had been in the works for years, would not arrive in Israel for months. Unlike foreign military sales, direct commercial sales do not get posted online, and lawmakers only get a 15-day window for objections. Congress was first notified on May 5.
A State Department spokesperson declined to comment on the sale, citing federal laws restricting public comments on licensing activity related to direct commercial sales.
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