Seventeen Senate Democrats say Israel is violating arms sales conditions policy

The lawmakers previously pushed the administration to impose the new conditions

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Sen. Peter Welch (D-VT) (C) talks to reporters with (L-R) Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA), during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol

Seventeen Senate Democrats said in a statement on Friday that they believe Israel is in violation of the administration’s memorandum placing conditions on U.S. military aid to allies.

The policy was issued amid pressure from many of the same lawmakers, who’ve been among the most critical of Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, to place new conditions on U.S. arms sales to Israel and other allies. The memorandum includes an enforcement mechanism with consequences up to cutting off arms sales to Israel.

If the administration agrees with the lawmakers, it could prompt a significant change in the administration’s policy toward aid to Israel. If not, the statement could preview an attempt by the lawmakers to suspend aid or impose other conditions. Some of the lawmakers are already on record calling for aid to Israel to be suspended.

The Israeli government last week reportedly provided a written assurance, as required under the memorandum, that it is and will facilitate and comply with any U.S. humanitarian efforts. The lawmakers said that assurance does not meet the “credible and reliable” standard laid out in the memorandum.

The lawmakers said Israel is imposing “excessively burdensome restrictions” on the movement of aid and that it is “abundantly clear that Netanyahu’s government is not doing nearly enough to allow aid to reach starving and otherwise desperate people in Gaza.”

They said that “it would be inconsistent with the letter and spirit of [last month’s national security memorandum issued by the Biden administration] to find that assurances made by the Netanyahu Government meet the required ‘credible and reliable’ standard at this time.” They called on the administration to “adhere to the plain meaning and intent” of the memorandum “and use this tool to secure the necessary delivery of aid into and throughout Gaza thereby bringing the Netanyahu Government into compliance with its terms.”

The statement was signed by Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Peter Welch (D-VT), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Tom Carper (D-DE), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Laphonza Butler (D-CA), Jon Ossoff (D-GA), and Chris Murphy (D-CT).

The State Department is required to report to Congress on the issue by May 8. It has not yet made a determination on whether the assurances are “credible and reliable.”

Israeli officials have blamed delays in the distribution of aid inside Gaza for the humanitarian situation inside Gaza. Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, the top U.S. military official in the Middle East, has also said in recent congressional hearings that distribution and security for aid inside Gaza is the primary humanitarian challenge.

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