U.S. Officials Divided Over Israel's Assurances on Weapons Use in Gaza

State Dept. officials divided on Israel's assurances over using U.S. weapons in Gaza, raising concerns about potential violations of international law and implications for U.S. foreign policy.

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Hadeel Hashem
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U.S. Officials Divided Over Israel's Assurances on Weapons Use in Gaza

U.S. Officials Divided Over Israel's Assurances on Weapons Use in Gaza

Senior U.S. State Department officials are divided on whether to accept Israel's assurances that it is using U.S.-supplied weapons in accordance with international humanitarian law in Gaza. An internal State Department memo reveals that some officials have advised Secretary of State Antony Blinken that they do not find Israel's assurances credible or reliable, while others have upheld support for Israel's representations.

The memo, which has not been previously reported, provides an extensive picture of the divisions within the State Department over Israel's potential violations of international humanitarian law. A joint submission from four State Department bureaus raised serious concerns over non-compliance, citing examples of Israeli military actions that raise questions about potential violations. These examples include instances of Israel arbitrarily restricting humanitarian aid.

However, the bureau of Political and Military Affairs warned that suspending U.S. weapons sales to Israel would limit its ability to meet potential threats and require a re-evaluation of sales to other countries in the world. The State Department's legal bureau did not take a substantive position on the credibility of Israel's assurances.

Why this matters: The divisions within the State Department highlight the ongoing debate over U.S. support for Israel and the potential consequences of Israeli military actions in Gaza. The credibility of Israel's assurances has significant implications for U.S. foreign policy and its commitment to upholding international humanitarian law.

The State Department is required to report to Congress by May 8, 2024, on whether Blinken finds Israel's assurances credible. The Biden administration has repeatedly stated that it has not found Israel in violation of international law, but the warnings about possible breaches come as Israel vows to launch a military offensive in Gaza. The National Security Memorandum issued by President Biden in February required the State Department to demand written assurances from countries receiving U.S. military assistance that they are not violating international humanitarian law or blocking U.S. humanitarian assistance.

As the State Department continues its deliberations ahead of the report's deadline, the divisions among officials underscore the complexity of the issue and the potential ramifications for U.S.-Israel relations. The complete assessment of credibility will be rendered in the report to Congress, which is expected to provide further insight into the State Department's position on Israel's use of U.S.-supplied weapons in Gaza.

Key Takeaways

  • State Dept. officials divided on Israel's assurances on using U.S. weapons in Gaza.
  • Internal memo cites concerns over Israel's potential violations of humanitarian law.
  • Suspending U.S. weapons sales to Israel could limit its ability to meet threats.
  • State Dept. required to report to Congress by May 2024 on Israel's assurances.
  • Divisions among officials highlight complexity of U.S.-Israel relations and policy.