Biden Stopped Fast Tracking US Arms to Israel Following Pressure from Anti-Israel Democrats, GOP Senator Says

'[Biden's] administration is engaged in bureaucratic sleight-of-hand to withhold this crucial aid to Israel,' Cotton says

President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
June 20, 2024

The Biden administration stopped fast tracking weapons to Israel in early January after a pressure campaign from Democratic lawmakers who oppose American support for Israel’s war to eradicate Hamas, a GOP senator said on Thursday.

Federal law allows the president to forgo formal congressional notifications on arms sales "when emergencies exist," and the Biden administration invoked this power last year as it worked to quickly provide Israel with the arms it needed to combat Hamas. However, the administration "stopped acknowledging the emergency in Israel after receiving a letter from nearly twenty congressional Democrats in January, urging [it] to end expedited weapons sales to Israel," Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) wrote in a Thursday letter pressing the White House to explain the delay in arms shipments to Israel.

"Your administration is engaged in bureaucratic sleight-of-hand to withhold this crucial aid to Israel during a shooting war," Cotton wrote, according to a copy of the letter obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. "You’re playing politics with the nation’s honor and our ally’s security. Worse still, your administration lacks the honesty to communicate its true policy to the American people, instead preferring to hide behind weasel words and bureaucratic process."

The letter comes just days after Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly accused President Joe Biden of withholding U.S. weapons and ammunition the Jewish state is relying on to eradicate Hamas in the Gaza Strip and combat a growing threat from Hezbollah on its northern border. The White House denied the accusations, saying it does "not know what [Netanyahu is] talking about," but said it had delayed shipments of 2,000-pound and 500-pound bombs.

Cotton, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, says the administration is being dishonest about the delay and that it has not sent an assortment of promised weapons, prolonging Israel’s war and endangering its soldiers at a time when both Hamas and Hezbollah continue to rearm, regroup, and coordinate attacks on Israeli civilians.

"The Arms Export Control Act requires the administration to notify Congress before sending weapons to a foreign country," Cotton said. "Your administration has manipulated this requirement by withholding this formal notification to Congress of approved weapons sales, including F-15s, tactical vehicles, 120-mm mortars, 120-mm tank rounds, joint direct attack munitions, and small diameter bombs. Your administration can then claim that the weapons are ‘in process’ while never delivering them."

This bureaucratic delay tactic has allowed the Biden administration to deny accusations of withholding arms to Israel while also placating the far-left flank of the Democratic Party that is pressing the president to punish Israel based on false charges of "genocide," according to Cotton.

After Netanyahu’s accusations this week, the United States reportedly released one ship carrying an arms supply, but Cotton says this "modest step doesn’t cure the damage done by the delay."

"Any delays to military support to Israel blatantly disregard Congress’s bipartisan mandate to supply Israel with all it needs to defeat the Hamas terrorists and other Iranian-backed groups," Cotton wrote. "Our ally is under sustained threat, and we must use all available resources to expedite military aid."

The senator is asking the White House to come clean about the status of U.S. arms shipments to Israel and to detail what has been paused in recent months amid a pressure campaign from anti-Israel activists and Democratic lawmakers in Congress.

Cotton asks the White House to explain by July 1 "what weapons and ammunition are being withheld from Israel," including "any weapons or ammunition delayed more than two weeks beyond their original delivery date." This is to include a detailed list of all foreign military and direct commercial arms sales requested by Israel and the current status of each request.

Cotton also wants to know about "any weapons or ammunition Israel has requested be expedited, the status of each request, and an explanation for that status."

The senator says that if Congress must intervene to fast track any outstanding weapons, it will do so.

White House envoy Amos Hochstein reportedly chastised Netanyahu earlier this week for going public about the arms situation, saying the Israeli leader’s comments were "unproductive" and "more importantly, completely untrue," according to CNN.