Congressman Gregory Meeks, the Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Tuesday that he has opted against requesting a delay of the Biden administration’s proposed $735 million munitions sale to Israel—a decision that progressives immediately slammed as a gross capitulation to the White House.
“Disgraceful, looks like even this little step toward transparency was shut down from the top,” said Palestinian-American writer and political analyst Yousef Munayyer after Meeks backtracked on his Monday vow to send a letter asking the Biden administration to postpone final approval of the deal.
“Not sure who needs to hear this, but a briefing is not a pause on the sale.”
—Stephen Miles, Win Without War
During a virtual call with other Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee late Monday, Meeks said he was caught off guard by the administration’s proposal to sell $735 million in Boeing-made Joint Direct Attack Munitions to Israel, which is currently engaged in a deadly and internationally condemned bombing campaign against the occupied Gaza Strip.
But Meeks dropped his push for a delay after “late-night discussions” with senior Biden administration officials who urged the New York Democrat not to send the letter, according to CNN‘s Zachary Cohen.
“Instead, the Biden administration has agreed to brief members of the House Foreign Committee,” Cohen reported. “One source told me the briefing [is] expected to happen this week. Some progressives are frustrated by Meeks’ change of heart.”
Vox‘s Alex Ward tweeted Tuesday that one unnamed House Democrat he spoke to was “incensed by Meeks’ decision not to send a letter asking for a delay on the Israel sale.”
“It looks like Democratic leadership forced Meeks to drink the Kool-Aid overnight,” the anonymous lawmaker said.
As Common Dreams reported earlier Tuesday, Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), and other progressives in Congress voiced outrage over the proposed arms sale, about which the Biden administration notified Congress on May 5—just days before Israel launched its latest bombardment of Gaza.
If Congress does not pass a resolution against the weapons agreement within several days, the sale will proceed.
“It would be appalling for the Biden administration to go through with $735 million in precision-guided weaponry to [Israeli Prime Minister] Netanyahu without any strings attached in the wake of escalating violence and attacks on civilians,” said Omar, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Since last Monday, bombs manufactured by U.S.-based military contractors such as Boeing and General Dynamics have been used by the Israeli government to massacre civilians in Gaza and destroy major buildings in the besieged territory, including a high-rise that housed offices of the Associated Press and Al-Jazeera.
In total, more than 210 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli assault, which has also done severe damage to key Gaza medical facilities such as its lone coronavirus testing lab.
Despite warnings from lawmakers and humanitarian groups that allowing the proposed $735 million weapons sale to advance would deepen U.S. complicity in Israel’s onslaught against Gaza, Meeks’ office indicated in a statement Tuesday that the New York Democrat is satisfied with receiving a closed-door briefing on the deal from Biden administration officials.
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“A letter is no longer necessary given that the White House has now agreed to engage with members at the highest level on their concerns,” said a spokesperson for Meeks, a 12-term lawmaker recently characterized by the New York Times as “a fixture at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.”
In response to Meeks’ abrupt reversal, Win Without War executive director Stephen Miles tweeted, “Not sure who needs to hear this, but a briefing is not a pause on the sale.”