- The Washington Times
Friday, June 4, 2021

The Biden administration has reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to strengthening the security partnership with Israel, pledging the support during Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s visit to Washington this week.

The pledge bucks congressional Democrats — mostly the party’s younger progressives — who have been critical of Israel’s conduct in the recent war with Hamas and want to pull back from the U.S.’s promised $3.8 billion in military assistance to the Jewish state.

Mr. Gantz was also expected to request another $1 billion in emergency military aid to replenish the Iron Dome, Israel’s missile defense system that was taxed during 11 days of fighting last month between Israel and Hamas.

Hamas fired an estimated 4,360 rockets at Israel during the conflict, and the Iron Dome shot down 90% of the rockets that came within range of the system, according to Israeli officials.

U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan extended President Biden’s support for Israel’s right to defend itself, including support for the Iron Dome specifically, at the meeting Thursday with Mr. Gantz, the White House said.

The White House did not confirm whether Mr. Gantz requested the emergency aid.

Israel’s altercation with Hamas not only tested the Iron Dome but also the Democrats’ solidarity with Israel. Mr. Biden and Democratic leaders in Congress will continue to navigate a sharp rift in the party with a vocal faction increasingly critical of Israel and supportive of Palestinians.

“Palestinian’s aren’t going anywhere no matter how much money you send to Israel’s apartheid government,” Rep. Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian American woman elected to Congress told her colleagues in a recent speech on the House floor.

Several of Ms. Tlaib’s fellow “Squad” members echoed her criticism of Israel and the Biden administration’s response to the conflict. Those voices included Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and Ms. Tlaib later joined Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin in introducing a resolution to block a $735 million arms sale to Israel that had been approved by the White House in early May.

“For decades, the U.S. has sold billions of dollars in weaponry to Israel without ever requiring them to respect basic Palestinian rights. In so doing, we have directly contributed to the death, displacement, and disenfranchisement of millions,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said in a statement. “At a time when so many, including President Biden, support a cease-fire, we should not be sending ‘direct attack’ weaponry to Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu to prolong this violence.”

Sen. Bernard Sanders backed a similar resolution in the Senate aimed at blocking the deal but has since withdrawn the opposition.

During his visit to Washington, Mr. Gantz also met with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Mr. Austin also reaffirmed the administration’s support for replenishing the Iron Dome during their conversation, according to a readout provided by the Defense Department.

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