Virginia senator Tim Kaine condemns Biden’s arms transfer to Israel

Photograph: J Scott Applewhite/AP © Provided by The Guardian

Virginia senator Tim Kaine has added his voice to a rising chorus within the Democratic party questioning the Biden administration’s legislatively unconstrained transfer of US munitions to Israel.

In a news release on Saturday, the Democratic senator – a member of the Senate armed services committee – said weapons transfers must come under congressional oversight.

“Just as Congress has a crucial role to play in all matters of war and peace, Congress should have full visibility over the weapons we transfer to any other nation. Unnecessarily bypassing Congress means keeping the American people in the dark,” Kaine wrote.

“We need a public explanation of the rationale behind this decision – the second such decision this month,” he added.

On Friday, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency said the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, had approved the sale of 155mm projectiles and related equipment valued at $147.5m, an increase from an earlier approved order for tens of thousands of rounds of the heavy artillery munitions.

It said that Blinken had “determined and provided detailed justification to Congress that an emergency exists that requires the immediate sale to the Government of Israel” and that the sale was “in the national security interests of the United States” and thereby exempt from congressional review under arms-export control laws.

“The United States is committed to the security of Israel, and it is vital to US national interests to assist Israel to develop and maintain a strong and ready self defense capability,” the statement added.

Kaine said in his statement that he “strongly condemned” Hamas’s 7 October attacks on Israeli civilians, which killed about 1,200 people, and had been vocal about the need to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

At least 21,672 people have been killed in Gaza and 56,165 wounded since the war began, according to the most recent numbers from the Gaza health ministry.

Kaine’s statement added to administration concerns that its policy of military transfers to Israel, including a $14.3bn package announced in November that Biden called “an unprecedented support package for Israel’s defense”, is out of step with US domestic and international public opinion.

On Friday, South Africa called on the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to find that Israel’s war in Gaza is a violation of the Genocide Convention of 1948. The filing accused Israel of engaging “in genocidal acts against the Palestinian people in Gaza”.

Separately, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) said that soldiers with the IDF fired on a UN aid convoy returning from a delivery in northern Gaza, an incident the UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths condemned as “unlawful”.

Source: The Guardian