Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) is set to introduce a new bill this week that pushes back against the Biden administration’s proposed multimillion-dollar package of bomb equipment for Israel. This move represents the first congressional challenge to the continuous and expanding military support that the U.S. provides to Israel during its ongoing military campaign in Gaza.
The bill, known as a “resolution of disapproval,” specifically targets a $320 million sale of gear for precision guidance kits for bombs. Together with a group of Democratic lawmakers, Omar intends to file the bill by Wednesday. If both the House of Representatives and the Senate pass the resolution, the Biden administration would be unable to transfer the bomb equipment unless President Joe Biden vetoed the bill.
While a spokesperson for Omar declined to comment on the matter, it is worth noting that the arms deal between the U.S. and Israel was agreed upon earlier this year, before the recent outbreak of violence in Gaza. However, the administration informed Congress on October 31, after Israel’s offensive had claimed numerous lives, that it would begin transferring the advanced bomb equipment. This revelation was reported by The Wall Street Journal.
It remains uncertain whether Omar’s bill will receive a vote, as that decision lies with the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The majority of Republicans, who control the committee, strongly support military aid to Israel.
However, if a senator were to introduce a similar bill, it would trigger an automatic vote in the upper chamber. Senator Bernie Sanders used this process in 2021 to seek a Senate vote on aid to Israel during a previous large-scale conflict in Gaza.
Josh Paul, a former State Department official who resigned over Biden’s Gaza policy, commended Omar’s efforts as a significant step. Speaking to HuffPost, he stated that the bomb equipment being sold represents “the sort of capability Israel has been using for the last month to devastate Gaza.” However, Paul acknowledged that challenging the status quo would be an uphill battle, but suggested that it might signify the start of a slow turning of the tide.
Some observers on Capitol Hill anticipate additional resolutions in the near future aimed at various aspects of U.S. military support for Israel. However, due to lawmakers’ broad bipartisan support for the country, these bills would likely face significant obstacles. Nevertheless, there are signs that legislators want to emphasize that their support is not unconditional.
Just last week, Representative Gregory Meeks, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, stated his opposition to the Biden administration’s attempt to expedite additional weapons shipments to Israel without normal oversight.
Brian Finucane, a former State Department lawyer, warned that Biden might find it challenging to defend the sale of the targeted equipment, given his aides’ statements that they are not assessing whether Israel is following the laws of war in its Gaza operation. While Biden administration officials expect Israel to adhere to international norms, punishing Hamas without causing disproportionate harm to civilians, they have not indicated any consequences for Israel if it fails to do so. Human rights groups have accused Israel of committing war crimes during its offensive.
Many U.S. officials, including counterterrorism experts and State Department personnel, are privately frustrated with the president’s reluctance to take stronger action to urge Israel to exercise restraint. They argue that this undermines American values and risks long-term ramifications from observers who are angered by the conflict.
The Israeli campaign has resulted in the deaths of over 11,000 Gazans, roughly one out of every 200 people in the region. In addition, since October 7, more than 1,200 Israelis have also lost their lives, with over 200 still being held hostage by Hamas.