The Biden administration has recently authorized an emergency sale of nearly 14,000 rounds of tank ammunition valued at over $106 million to Israel.
This decision comes as Israel escalates its military operations in the southern Gaza Strip.
The move, bypassing Congress, highlights the urgency perceived by the administration amid a stalled $106 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel, and other national security matters embroiled in congressional debates over immigration and border security.
Let’s take a quick dive into the details of this report.
Congressional Impasse and Urgency of Sale
The emergency sale circumvents the customary congressional review for foreign military sales, a rare but not unprecedented occurrence.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken invoked the existence of an immediate emergency in the US national security interest, allowing the direct sale of munitions to Israel without awaiting legislative approval.
The State Department approves the sale of tank ammunition to Israel in a deal that bypasses Congress https://t.co/fN7AiLdrFB
— The Associated Press (@AP) December 9, 2023
Details of the Emergency Sale
This sale, comprising 13,981 120mm High Explosive Anti-Tank Multi-Purpose with Tracer tank cartridges alongside US support, engineering, and logistics, is valued at $106.5 million.
The ammunition will be drawn from Army stock and will be used to strengthen Israel’s defensive capabilities.
In addition, the sale includes “publications and technical documentation; US Government and contractor engineering, technical, and logistics support services; studies and surveys; and other related logistics and program support elements.”
A statement from the State Department emphasized America’s unwavering commitment to Israel’s security, portraying the sale as pivotal to fortifying Israel’s defense against regional threats and enhancing its homeland security.
“The United States is committed to the security of Israel, and it is vital to US national interests to assist Israel to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defense capability. This proposed sale is consistent with those objectives,” the statement read.
However, bypassing Congress for arms sales via emergency determinations stands as an unconventional move.
Unconventional Bypass of Congressional Oversight
Typically, lawmakers have a designated period to deliberate on proposed weapons transfers and, in certain scenarios, exercise the authority to impede them.
Similar emergency determinations were made in the past, notably in 2019 by then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who authorized a $8.1 billion arms sale to Middle Eastern countries Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan in response to concerns over their military actions in Yemen.
The use of this authority has not been without controversy.
A Washington Post investigation found Israel injured at least nine civilians in Lebanon with U.S.-supplied white phosphorous during an October attack. pic.twitter.com/ql53VyYlkf
— AJ+ (@ajplus) December 13, 2023
Historical Precedence and Controversies
Pompeo faced criticism amid suspicions that the move might have breached the law as some weapons involved were yet to be constructed and were not immediately deliverable.
Nonetheless, an internal investigation ultimately absolved Pompeo of any wrongdoing.
This maneuver to bypass congressional oversight in arms sales has historical precedence, dating back to at least 1979.
Previous administrations, including President George H.W. Bush’s administration during the Gulf War, resorted to such measures to swiftly supply arms to nations like Saudi Arabia.
The Complexity of Geopolitical Interplay
The sale to Israel underscores the complexities of navigating legislative processes amid escalating global conflicts.
With Congress embroiled in debates, the administration’s invocation of emergency measures serves as a testament to the urgency perceived in addressing Israel’s immediate defense needs.
However, this move is not without its critics, and the precedent of bypassing congressional scrutiny in arms sales remains a point of contention.
Anticipated Reactions and Ongoing Discourse
As the situation evolves, the implications and reactions from Congress and the public are anticipated, shaping ongoing discourse surrounding the delicate balance between executive authority and legislative oversight in matters of national security and foreign policy.
The Biden administration’s decision to expedite this sale reflects the intricate interplay between geopolitical exigencies and the mechanisms of governance, raising pertinent questions about the extent of executive authority in critical matters of foreign policy and national security.
As tensions persist in the Middle East and global security concerns intensify, the implications of such expedited arms sales and the balance of power between branches of government will continue to be subjects of rigorous debate.