US approves sale of 14,000 tank shells to Israel without congressional review

The Pentagon reported that the Biden administration has approved the sale of 14,000 tank shells to Israel using emergency authority without congressional approval. Secretary of State Antony Blinken granted the green light for the sale of 120mm M830A1 High Explosive Anti-Tank Multi-Purpose with Tracer (MPAT) tank cartridges with related equipment that will cost an estimated $106.5 million upon compleation. The United States Army stocks will supply the items instead of additional appointed representatives participating in the sale. A Defense Security Cooperation Agency statement said, “The United States is committed to the security of Israel, and it is vital to U.S. national interests to assist Israel to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defense capability.”

According to the agency, the sale of the tank shells will not impact American defense readiness. Israel will use the enhanced capability to deter regional threats and bolster its homeland defense. Mr. Blinken was granted emergency waiver for the sale to Israel which is in the national security interests of the United States. This waiver is an exception to the Congressional review requirements under Section 36(b) of the Arms Export Control Act.

It is speculated that there is going to be a bigger arms sale which the Biden administration is seeking Congress approval for. The deal is estimated to be worth more than $500 million and will include 45,000 shells for Israel’s Merkava tanks. This report comes from a Reuters report which cited current and former U.S. officials, including names as well as anonymous sources.

This bigger deal is questioned by Josh Paul, a former State Department official who resigned in October over what he called an administration’s “blind support” for Israel during the Gaza offensive. A State Department spokesperson stated that “we do not confirm or comment on proposed defense transfers or sales until they have been formally notified to Congress.”

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) expressed the importance of Congressional review for large weapons sales. He added, “The administration should not consider short-circuiting the already short time frame for congressional review of this or any other arms transfer.” Mr. Hollen pushed for an amendment to require that U.S. military aid to Israel and other countries come with the conditions of using weapons in accordance with U.S. law, international humanitarian law, and the law of armed conflict.

The emergency approval of the sale of the 14,000 tank shells drew criticism from Mr. Paul who expressed his belief that it is “expedited provision of lethal military assistance to Israel continues our complicity in what I believe to be war crimes.” The request for the sale comes amid concerns regarding civilian deaths associated with U.S. weapons used in Israel’s military operation in Gaza.

Hamas, which is designated as a terror group by Israel and the United States, launched a brutal attack on Israel in October, resulting in multiple Israeli deaths and a large number of captives. In response, Israel launched an invasion of Gaza. The Hamas-controlled Palestinian health ministry reported a death toll of at least 17,700 in Gaza and another 48,780 wounded.

The announcement of this deal appears against a backdrop of mounting criticism of the Israeli military’s offensive in Gaza by a number of U.S. Senators as well as international condemnation.


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