Home News U.S. State Department approves ‘emergency’ sale of tank ammunition to Israel

U.S. State Department approves ‘emergency’ sale of tank ammunition to Israel

On Friday, the State Department informed Congress about the sale of munitions. Secretary of State Antony Blinken made the determination that there is an urgent need for the immediate sale due to an existing emergency.

Bypassing Congressional approval, the Biden administration announced on December 9 that it has greenlit an emergency sale of nearly 14,000 rounds of tank ammunition to Israel. The value of the ammunition exceeds $106 million, and the decision comes in the context of Israel’s heightened military activities in the southern Gaza Strip.

Amid a deadlock in Congress over President Joe Biden’s nearly $106 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel, and national security, the approval is stalled due to debates on U.S. immigration policy and border security. Some Democratic lawmakers are considering linking the proposed $14.3 billion assistance to Israel in the Middle East with specific actions by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. These actions would aim at reducing civilian casualties in Gaza during the ongoing conflict with Hamas.

On Friday, the State Department informed Congress of the sale after Secretary of State Antony Blinken concluded that an urgent situation necessitated the immediate sale of munitions, citing it as being in the interest of U.S. national security.

This implies that the acquisition will circumvent the necessity for congressional review in foreign military sales. While infrequent, such determinations are made in cases where administrations perceive an urgent demand for weapons and opt to proceed without awaiting approval from lawmakers.

“The United States is dedicated to ensuring the security of Israel, considering it crucial to U.S. national interests to aid Israel in cultivating and sustaining a robust and prepared self-defense capability. The planned sale aligns with these goals,” stated the department. “Israel intends to employ the improved capability as a deterrent against regional threats and to fortify its defense of the homeland.”

Valued at $106.5 million, the sale encompasses 13,981 units of 120 mm High Explosive Anti-Tank Multi-Purpose with Tracer tank cartridges, along with U.S. support, engineering, and logistics. The materials will be sourced from the Army inventory.

Sidestepping Congress through emergency determinations for arms sales is an uncommon measure that has previously faced opposition from lawmakers. Typically, legislators are afforded a period to assess proposed weapons transfers and, in certain instances, have the authority to impede them.

In May 2019, the then-Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, issued an emergency determination for an $8.1 billion weapons sale to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan. This decision was prompted by the evident challenge faced by the Trump administration in addressing lawmakers’ apprehensions regarding the Saudi-UAE-led conflict in Yemen.

Pompeo faced severe criticism for the action, with some expressing concerns that it might have breached the law, given that numerous weapons included in the sale were yet to be manufactured and could not be promptly delivered. However, he was later exonerated of any misconduct following an internal investigation.

The authority has been invoked by at least four administrations since 1979. President George H.W. Bush’s administration employed it during the Gulf War to expedite the provision of arms to Saudi Arabia.


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