HomePoliticsBiden's $1 billion arms package to Israel continues to haunt him

Biden’s $1 billion arms package to Israel continues to haunt him

  • The Israeli attack on Rafah will give no cause Biden to limit military aid, a US official said.

  • The White House said it did not violate Biden’s warnings against targeting population centers.

  • Biden’s decision could weaken his image and harm his election chances.

Before the Israeli attack on Rafah, President Joe Biden issued several stark warnings to the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Speaking to CNN earlier this month, Biden said he had made it clear that if Israel invaded the southern Gaza city, he would not “provide the weapons that have historically been used to deal with Rafah, to deal with the cities to deal with, to deal with that problem.”

In a separate interview with MSNBC, he said an invasion of Rafah would be a “red line” in his relationship with Netanyahu.

For many, Israel seemingly crossed that red line on May 6 when it began what it called “targeted” ground operations in eastern Rafah.

Biden and Netanyahu

Biden and Netanyahu embrace.BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/Getty Images

Since then, at least 45 Palestinians have been killed and hundreds of others injured in airstrikes that caused a devastating fire in Tal al-Sultan in southern Gaza on Sunday, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

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Rafah had sheltered more than a million Palestinians who had fled Israeli attacks elsewhere in Gaza.

‘No change in policy’

The IDF confirmed that the airstrikes killed two Hamas militants and said it was investigating the civilian casualties, the Associated Press reported.

On Tuesday, the White House said the attack had not violated Biden’s earlier warnings against launching a large-scale attack on population centers. US officials on Monday noted Netanyahu’s comments that the civilian casualties were a “tragic mistake.”

State Department spokesman Matt Miller said the U.S. is “deeply saddened by the tragic loss of life in Rafah” but that it has “made no change in our policy.”

“We made it clear that there would be some change if there was a large-scale military operation. But so far there has been no change. I mean, we support – as we always have – their ability to go after legitimate weapons. Hamas terrorists.”

A $1 billion arms deal

The statement suggests Biden will move forward with a $1 billion arms package to Israel. Congress must still be officially notified of and approve the sale.

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According to The Wall Street Journal, the package could include $700 million in tank ammunition, $500 million in military vehicles and $60 million in mortar shells.

Black smoke rises over several parts of the region after the Israeli attacks in Rafah, Gaza on May 27, 2024Black smoke rises over several parts of the region after the Israeli attacks in Rafah, Gaza on May 27, 2024

Black smoke rises after the Israeli attacks in Rafah, Gaza on May 27, 2024Anadolu/Getty Images

Speaking to The Washington Post, Senator Chris Van Hollen said Biden should suspend military assistance to Israel “until we know that all of the president’s requests, including regarding Rafah and the urgent delivery of humanitarian aid, will be respected.”

“A partnership should be a two-way street, not a one-way blank check,” he added.

As BI previously reported, the arms deal could be seen as an attempt to repair Biden’s relationship with Netanyahu and put an end to accusations that the US is encouraging Iran.

But the Biden administration has imposed only minor sanctions against Netanyahu’s government as the death toll in Gaza rises. For example, Biden previously withheld a shipment of bombs before announcing that the planned arms deal would go ahead.

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Biden seems weak

Andrew Payne, a US foreign policy expert and lecturer at the City University of London, told Business Insider that Biden’s handling of the Gaza war could hurt his chances in the upcoming elections.

“Nobody’s going to go in and say, ‘I didn’t like the May arms deal, so I think I’ll go for Trump.’ Instead, the way foreign policy politics works is to vote for candidates who project images that you like. And in the American context, people want their commanders in chief to be tough, competent and strong,” Payne said.

Payne’s comments resonated analysts who said that of Biden the handling of the war is one of the issues responsible for undermining his support among younger voters.

“I think Biden’s problem is that his policies have failed to change the course of Israeli behavior for several months, and that makes him relatively weak,” Payne added.

Dave Harden, former mission director at the US Agency for International Development in the West Bank and Gaza, told the BBC in March that Netanyahu “treats Biden almost as some kind of insignificant second secretary of a low-ranking European power.”

“The divide between Israel and the US is only widening,” he said.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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