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Biden administration will veto Republican bill that forces arms transfers to Israel

Freeze on arms transfers amounts to less than one percent of total military aid US has provided Israel since October
Palestinian women and children flee Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on 15 May 2024 (AFP)

The Biden administration says it will veto a Republican-backed bill that would force the US to expedite all approved arms shipments to Israel, including those that the White House has delayed over concerns about its assault on Rafah.

The White House said the bill would “undermine the President's ability to execute an effective foreign policy” and raises "serious concerns about the infringement” of the president’s authority under the US Constitution.

The White House statement was in response to a bill introduced over the weekend by Republican lawmakers after Biden decided to pause a shipment of 2,000-pound and 500-pound bombs to Israel.

Progressive lawmakers like Senator Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren welcomed Biden’s decision as "a step in the right direction", while Republicans and pro-Israel lobbying groups have condemned it.

The Republican bill would cut off funding to the State Department, Department of Defence and National Security Council if those arms shipments do not move forward.

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Democrats in Congress have largely rallied behind the president's decision, and the Republican bill faces an uphill fight to become law given the Republicans' low margins in the House.

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A notice shared by senior Democratic Congresswoman Katherine Clark said Biden had provided “ironclad” support for Israel but that the Republican legislation amounted to an “unprecedented limitation” of the president's executive authority and ability to implement foreign policy.

The note added that the freeze on arms transfers amounted to less than one percent of the total military aid the US has provided Israel since 7 October.

Biden warned last week he would delay the transfer of offensive bombs and artillery shells to Israel if they launched a full-scale assault on Rafah, the southern Gaza border town where around 1.4 million Palestinians have been displaced.

Biden's decision to follow through on that public threat is being tracked minute by minute by US voters and supporters and critics of Israel. The Biden administration has not clearly defined what they mean by a "full-scale invasion", as Israel has been heavily bombarding Rafah and has seized control of the crossing with Egypt.

The vast majority of arms transfers to Israel are continuing despite the Rafah threat and current freeze.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that the Biden administration plans to send over $1bn in additional arms and ammunition to Israel.

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