Liz Warren, 18 Dems demand information on ‘highly unusual’ US arms transfers to Israel

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) were joined by 17 Democrats in sending a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken demanding additional information on two “highly unusual” U.S. arms transfers to Israel.

According to the left-wing coalition, the administration is circumventing congressional review of arms transfers.

“We shared the world’s horror at Hamas’s terrorist attacks on October 7, in which Hamas killed 1,200 Israelis and foreign nationals, committed gross violations of human rights including using sexual violence as a weapon of war, and took approximately 240 people hostage,” wrote the lawmakers. “However, we are also deeply disturbed that Israel’s response to this attack included indiscriminate bombing and has killed over 22,000 Palestinians, the majority of whom have been civilians, including thousands of children.”

“It is essential for Congress to be able to conduct oversight of these arms transfers and determine whether they are consistent with humanitarian principles and U.S. law and whether they advance or harm U.S. national security,” the coalition added.

The stats cited are from the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, which has proven to be unreliable.

The letter cites the Arms Export Control Act (AECA), saying it requires the State Department to provide Congress advance notification of foreign military sales of defense equipment, but permits notification requirements to be bypassed if the Secretary of State certifies that “an emergency exists.”

“It is highly unusual for the president to bypass congressional oversight through an emergency declaration. In fact, since the AECA was passed into law, an emergency declaration authority has only been used 18 times in nearly 50 years,” the Democrats wrote.

The coalition accused Israel of “indiscriminate bombing of Gaza,” suggesting that the arms transfers violate U.S. policy and international law.

“We are also troubled by the decision to provide equipment for 155mm shells, which over 30 U.S.-based civil society organizations warned poses ‘a grave risk to civilians’ and are “inherently indiscriminate” when used in densely populated areas like Gaza.” The letter said. “Congress and the American public deserve thorough answers on how this policy was applied for these two emergency transfers. Use of a national emergency waiver does not exempt the U.S. government from assessing whether arms sales are consistent with these policies.”

The letter is co-signed by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Peter Welch (D-Vt.); as well as Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), Judy Chu (D-Calif), Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Delia C. Ramirez (D-Ill.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Jill Tokuda (D-Hawaii), and Maxine Waters (D-Calif.).

Tom Tillison

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