26 House Democrats send White House letter criticizing Israel arms pause

‘We are deeply concerned about the message the Administration is sending to Hamas and other Iranian-backed terrorist proxies by withholding weapons shipments to Israel,’ the lawmakers said

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ)

Twenty-six House Democrats wrote to the administration on Friday criticizing its recent moves to halt certain arms sales to Israel.

While a few of the signatories already spoke out individually in the previous days, the letter highlights the growing backlash among moderate pro-Israel Democrats to the administration’s recent moves; it does not, however, directly mention President Joe Biden’s interview on CNN on Wednesday where he threatened U.S. weapons sales in the event of a Rafah operation.

“We are deeply concerned about the message the Administration is sending to Hamas and other Iranian-backed terrorist proxies by withholding weapons shipments to Israel, during a critical moment in the negotiations,” the letter, first obtained by Jewish Insider, reads. “With democracy under assault around the world, we cannot undermine our ally Israel, especially in her greatest hour of need. America’s commitments must always be ironclad.”

The letter, addressed to National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, was led by Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Jared Golden (D-ME), co-signed by Reps. Brad Schneider (D-IL), Jared Moskowitz (D-FL), Susie Lee (D-NV), Haley Stevens (D-MI), Kathy Manning (D-NC), Greg Landsman (D-OH), Lois Frankel (D-FL), Norma Torres (D-CA), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Pat Ryan (D-NY), Ritchie Torres (D-NY), Tom Suozzi (D-NY), Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D-WA), Juan Vargas (D-CA), Jim Costa (D-CA), Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Don Davis (D-NC), Grace Meng (D-NY), Darren Soto (D-FL), Marc Veasey (D-TX), Steven Horsford (D-NV), Donald Norcross (D-NJ) and Frank Pallone (D-NJ).

The letter argues that “public disputes with our critical ally only emboldens” Iranian terrorist proxies, “buttresses their agenda of chaos, brutality, and hate, and makes a hostage agreement even harder to achieve.”

And it points to comments from Biden that “Hamas must be ‘eliminated entirely.’”

The lawmakers requested a briefing “to better understand how and when the aid that Congress has authorized and appropriated for Israel will be delivered.” 

Several lawmakers have emphasized in recent days that Biden does not have the legal authority to decline to obligate congressionally approved funds, as he may be doing if he follows through on his threat to suspend offensive weapons sales to Israel.

The letter highlights the ongoing attacks from Iran and its proxies on both Israel and American forces, as well as the spread of global antisemitism and Hamas’ continued holding of more than 130 hostages, including five Americans believed to still be alive. 

“We have a duty to continue to equip Israel with the resources she needs to defend herself and crush the terrorists who also seek to do America harm, free the hostages including the Americans, continue delivering critical humanitarian aid to innocent civilians in Gaza, and to stand by our democratic allies around the world,” the lawmakers wrote.

They said that the pause is sending a conflicting message to Biden’s push to pass emergency supplemental aid to Israel and other allies.

“When we abandon these duties, we leave a vacuum of American leadership for our anti-democratic adversaries to fill,” they said.

The lawmakers also said that slowing down weapons shipments to Israel will also negatively impact the flows of humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, pointing to the temporary closure of the Kerem Shalom Crossing earlier this week as a result of a Hamas attack that killed Israeli troops.

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