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US considers major new weapons sale to Israel

The Biden administration is mulling a major new arms sale to Israel amid calls to stop sending weapons to the ally as civilian casualties in Gaza mount, The Hill confirmed Monday. 

The U.S. government is considering selling Israel up to 50 new F-15 fighter jets, 30 AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles, as well as Joint Direct Attack Munition kits, equipment that can alter dumb bombs into precision-guided weapons, Politico first reported. 

A House Foreign Affairs Committee aide later confirmed to The Hill that the administration informally notified the relevant congressional panels of the sale. 

The aide confirmed that “the chairman approved the transaction to proceed to formal congressional notification.”

The Pentagon referred questions about the possible sale to the State Department, which did not respond to a request for comment. 

The sale, which is still pending U.S. government approval, comes as there are growing calls for President Biden to withhold arms for Israel if it won’t take actions to limit civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip. A brutal air and ground campaign launched by the Israeli military against Hamas militants in the enclave since October has already killed more than 31,000 Palestinians, the majority women and children.

Many, including those within Biden’s own party, have also argued that the commander in chief should refuse to give Israel weapons should it launch a large-scale invasion into Gaza’s southern city of Rafah. More than 1 million Palestinian civilians are sheltering there after being driven from northern parts of the territory due to fighting. 

American officials have warned against a ground invasion of the city without an accepted plan to move civilians from harm’s way.  

Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said Sunday the United States needs to employ its “leverage” to ensure humanitarian aid reaches Gaza. He also criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying he “continues to rebuff the president of the United States time and time again.” 

“We have different parts of leverage and one of them is sending more offensive weapons. So, President Biden needs to be as serious about ensuring more humanitarian assistance gets into Gaza as Netanyahu has been in making his demands,” Van Hollen said on ABC News’s “This Week.” 

He added, “So, my view … is until the Netanyahu government allows more assistance into Gaza, to help people who are literally starving to death, we should not be sending more bombs.” 

And Josh Paul, who worked for the State Department for more than a decade, resigned in October in protest of Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war, writing in his resignation letter that the harm caused by the “provision of lethal arms to Israel” outweighed the good he could do in his role. 

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