President Biden Halts Arms Shipment to Israel Amid Gaza Crisis, Signals Shift in US-Israel Relations

Featured & Cover President Biden Halts Arms Shipment to Israel Amid Gaza Crisis Signals Shift in US Israel Relations

President Joe Biden made a significant move this week that shook up a key global relationship. During a TV interview, he responded to a question about Israel’s potential invasion of Rafah by stating, “I’m not supplying the weapons.” This statement marked a departure from the long-standing tradition of arms shipments being central to the US-Israel alliance. It was the first time in forty years such a crack had appeared. Biden faced pressure from both domestic and international fronts to prevent further civilian casualties and alleviate the worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Consequently, he took the unprecedented step of withholding arms shipments to Israel, a move not seen since President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.

Aaron David Miller, a former State Department analyst, noted Biden’s reluctance to take actions that might harm the US-Israel relationship but highlighted a shift in Biden’s stance due to concerns about Israel’s potential invasion of Rafah.

Israel’s announcement of ground forces beginning “targeted activity” in Rafah, coupled with the looming threat of a full-scale invasion, prompted Biden’s decision. The situation in Rafah had led to over 100,000 people fleeing the fighting, facing dire shortages of basic necessities. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s insistence on launching a full ground invasion exacerbated concerns, despite Washington’s urging for a more targeted approach against Hamas in Rafah.

Biden’s primary concern was de-escalating the conflict and avoiding a crisis with neighboring Egypt while minimizing divisions within the Democratic Party. The temporary halt in arms shipments, including high payload weapons like 2,000-pound bombs and JDAM kits, reflected Biden’s attempt to signal his concerns about the situation in Rafah. However, the impact of this pause on Israel’s military capabilities was deemed inconsequential by some experts.

Nonetheless, Biden’s move sparked strong reactions, with Republicans condemning it as outrageous and a sign of weakness, while Democrats viewed it as a necessary step to address humanitarian concerns. The rift between Biden and Netanyahu comes at a critical juncture in ceasefire negotiations, with disagreements over Hamas’ demands for a permanent end to the war.

The longstanding relationship between Biden and Netanyahu has been characterized by turbulence, with occasional praise from Netanyahu but frequent disagreements over Palestinian policy. Despite historical support for Israel, Biden’s recent actions signal a potential shift in US-Israel relations. Netanyahu’s defiant response to Biden’s move underscores his willingness to resist US pressure, while Democratic senators emphasize the importance of minimizing civilian casualties in any military action by Israel.

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