Top Democrats approve massive weapons package for Israel

Two key Democrats approved the sale of U.S. weapons, including F-15 fighter jets, to Israel after months of inaction on the arms transfer that comes amid the deadly war in Gaza.

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair, signed off on an $18 billion package to Israel that includes some 50 fighter jets, according to The Washington Post. The Hill confirmed the news with Cardin’s office.

The top Democrats and Republicans on the Senate and House foreign affairs committees have the authority to block weapons transfers to other nations. The $18 billion weapons package, among the largest the U.S. has sent to Israel, was first notified to Congress in January, and the Republican leaders on the committee have already signed off on the transfer.

The new weapons package will next be notified to the rest of Congress, which can then act to block the arms transfer by adopting a joint resolution. If the package proceeds, it likely won’t be delivered for at least five years.

Meeks told the Post that he has been in “close touch” with the Biden administration about the arms package, including his concerns about the war, and that he understands the fighter jets won’t be delivered for years. Meeks added that he supports Israel’s right to defend itself.

A spokesperson for Cardin told The Hill that “any issues or concerns” about the weapons package were addressed through consultations with the Biden administration.

Cardin told the outlet that “any issues or concerns” about the weapons package were addressed through consultations with the Biden administration.

Democrats, including President Biden, have grown frustrated with the war in Gaza, where more than 37,000 Palestinians have died as Israel fights to destroy Hamas, the militant group that invaded southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing some 1,200 people and taking another 250 hostage.

Biden has held back high payload bombs but has continued to support Israel and supply the country with other weapons to use in the war. He has threatened to withhold offensive weapons if Israel conducts a major operation in Rafah, the southern Gaza city where more than a million Palestinians fled from after Israeli troops began limited incursions there last month.

The battling over weapons sales to Israel has infuriated many Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In a Tuesday video on the social platform X, Netanyahu said he told Secretary of State Antony Blinken it was “inconceivable that in the past few months the administration has been withholding weapons to Israel.”

“Give us the tools and we’ll finish the job a lot faster,” he said.

While progressive Democrats remain the most concerned about the war in Gaza, more centrist lawmakers in the party have begun to share those concerns.

Meeks expressed doubt about the sale of F-15’s to Israel in an April interview with CNN, saying he was “looking to see for myself what those assurances are” regarding Israel’s use of the weapons.

Laura Kelly contributed.

Updated at 1:44 p.m.

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