US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a press conference with British Foreign Secretary David Cameron at the State Department in Washington, DC, on December 7, 2023.AFP
The move comes as President Joe Biden’s request for a nearly $106 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other national security is languishing in Congress, caught up in a debate over U.S. immigration policy and border security.
Some Democratic lawmakers have spoken of making the proposed $14.3 billion in American assistance to its Mideast ally contingent on concrete steps by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to reduce civilian casualties in Gaza during the war with Hamas.
The State Department said it had notified Congress of the sale late Friday after Secretary of State Antony Blinken determined “an emergency exists that requires the immediate sale” of the munitions in the U.S. national security interest.
That means the purchase will bypass the congressional review requirement for foreign military sales. Such determinations are rare, but not unprecedented when administrations see an urgent need for weapons to be delivered without waiting for lawmakers’ approval.
“The United States is committed to the security of Israel, and it is vital to U.S. national interests to assist Israel to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defence capability. This proposed sale is consistent with those objectives,” the department said in a statement. “Israel will use the enhanced capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defence.”
The sale is worth $106.5 million and includes 13,981 120 mm High Explosive Anti-Tank Multi-Purpose with Tracer tank cartridges as well as U.S. support, engineering and logistics. The material will come from Army inventory.
Bypassing Congress with emergency determinations for arms sales is an unusual step that has in the past met resistance from lawmakers, who normally have a period to weigh on proposed weapons transfers and, in some cases, block them.