on the hill

House to vote on bill forcing arms sales to Israel to move forward

The administration released its report on Israel’s compliance with international law and humanitarian aid efforts, which is angering both Republicans and progressive Dems

USAF via Getty Images

In this U.S. Air Force handout, a U.S. Air Force F-15E carries the Boeing Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) system August 14, 2003 near Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.

The House is set to vote this week on a bill that, in response to the administration’s decision to halt certain arms sales to Israel and threaten to cut off all offensive weapons, aims to force the administration’s hand. 

The bill is not likely to pass the Senate and would likely be vetoed by President Joe Biden, but it will be a key barometer of how many Democrats back the administration’s recent moves, amid growing condemnation from moderate pro-Israel lawmakers. The legislation will require a simple majority vote.

The Israel Security Assistance Support Act condemns the administration’s moves and calls on the administration to permit all approved arms transfers to Israel to move forward and to utilize all existing congressional funds. It also carries a series of penalties that aim to force the issue.

The bill demands that any arms being withheld be delivered to Israel within 15 days of the bill’s passage and would cut off funding from the Department of Defense, Department of State and and National Security and Homeland Security Councils if that requirement is not fulfilled.

It would require that any other weapons and defense services expected for Israel, including direct Israeli weapons purchases, be delivered promptly.

It would also mandate that no funds appropriated for the Department of State or Department of Defense may be used to withhold or prevent the delivery of military equipment and services to Israel or to pay any official of either agency involved in such activity.

The bill would also implement a series of new reporting requirements to Congress, including a report from the State and Pentagon inspectors general on efforts to withhold aid, and monthly reports on U.S. security aid to Israel.

Separately, the House Oversight Committee announced that it is investigating the administration’s holds on weapons shipments.

Also on Friday, the administration released its report on Israel’s compliance with U.S. humanitarian efforts in Gaza, U.S. foreign aid law and international humanitarian law in its prosecution of the war in Gaza.

The report ultimately judged that Israeli assurances to use U.S. arms in compliance with the law are “credible and reliable” and that Israel did not intentionally obstruct humanitarian aid. 

But it also stated that “​​given Israel’s significant reliance on U.S.-made defense articles, it is reasonable to assess that defense articles covered under NSM-20 have been used by Israeli security forces since October 7 in instances inconsistent with its [international humanitarian law] obligations or with established best practices for mitigating civilian harm.”

The result is angering both Republicans, who opposed the new policy — known as NSM-20 — that required the report to be issued, and same progressive Democrats who demanded that the policy be put in place.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) said the report “fails to do the hard work of making an assessment and ducks the ultimate questions that the report was designed to determine” and that “the part of the report that was also supposed to look at whether or not the use of American weapons by the Netanyahu government was consistent with US best practices is woefully inadequate.”

He also said the administration “entirely ducked the question of the conduct of the Netanyahu government with respect to humanitarian aid up to this point.”

Van Hollen and more than 80 House progressives said before the report was issued that it should find Israel out of compliance. But critics of Israel are also likely to seize upon language in the report critical of Israel’s conduct to further push the case for cutting U.S. support.

Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the report is “politically damaging” to Israel and that the administration “is attempting to placate voters on the far left at the expense of a close ally in the midst of its justified war with Hamas terrorists.”

“I am not surprised the administration concluded Israel is in compliance as this self-imposed reporting requirement is wholly redundant and unnecessary, and only contributes to politically-motivated anti-Israel sentiment. Hamas started this war with their October 7th attack that murdered 1,200 people,” Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, added in a separate statement.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, said that the report “raised concerns” but “I agree with its assessment that Israel has not violated International Humanitarian Law and that military assistance to support Israel’s security remains in the U.S. interest and should continue. In this regard, I differ with President Biden’s recent decision.”

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