Washington-Jerusalem Divide Deepens as Biden Halts Arms Shipment to Israel

President Biden halted an arms shipment to Israel last week to prevent U.S.-made weapons from being used in a potential assault on the city of Rafah, officials stated on Tuesday night. This move signals a growing divide between Washington and Jerusalem regarding the ongoing conflict.

The withheld shipment included 1,800 2,000-pound bombs and 1,700 500-pound bombs, which President Biden feared could be deployed on Rafah, where over a million Gazans have sought refuge.

The administration is currently evaluating whether to withhold future transfers, including guidance kits for converting conventional bombs into precision-guided munitions.

This decision marked the first instance since the October 7 Hamas-led attack that President Biden has utilized his authority to restrict arms shipments as a means of influencing Israel’s military strategy.

Some Democratic allies of President Biden in Congress have been urging him to limit or suspend arms transfers to Israel for weeks, a step he had previously resisted due to his strong support for efforts to combat Hamas.

Confirmation of the arms pause came shortly after Israel deployed tanks into Rafah in southern Gaza. U.S. officials, frustrated by what they perceive as Israeli disregard for American warnings against a major operation in Rafah, finally acknowledged the weapons pause on Tuesday night.

The administration began reviewing arms shipments last month when it became apparent that Israel was considering a potential assault on Rafah. Initially, President Biden insisted that Israel should not attack Rafah without a plan to minimize civilian casualties effectively. However, recent indications from the White House suggest doubts about the feasibility of such a plan.

While Israel has not explicitly indicated plans for a full-scale assault on Rafah, recent actions, such as ordering the evacuation of civilians and mounting airstrikes on border areas, suggest a potential escalation. These moves are likely aimed at increasing pressure on Hamas while negotiations for a ceasefire are underway in Cairo.

Despite withholding the bomb shipment, the administration has not suspended all weapons transfers to Israel and is still deliberating over the withheld bombs. However, officials expressed concern about the potential impact of deploying 2,000-pound bombs in densely populated areas like Rafah.

The seizure of the Gaza side of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt by Israel has also drawn criticism from the Biden administration. This action, along with the closure of the Kerem Shalom crossing, has raised concerns about exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Tensions between President Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu have escalated in recent months, particularly over the potential assault on Rafah. President Biden has indicated that U.S. support for the war could be reevaluated if Israeli actions lead to further civilian casualties.

As Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken prepares to deliver a report to Congress assessing Israel’s use of American weapons, the findings could prompt a contentious debate about U.S. responsibility for Israel’s conduct in the war. A determination that Israel violated international law could intensify pressure on President Biden to further restrict arms deliveries.

Leave a Comment