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China Daily Global / 2021-05 / 21 / Page006

US progressives try to bar arms sale to Israel

China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-05-21 00:00

Deal would add 'fuel to the fire' in Gaza, China's foreign ministry spokesman says

The administration of US President Joe Biden is on course to approve a $735 million arms sale to Israel in the middle of a raging conflict in the Middle East, as a group of Democratic lawmakers launched an apparently futile attempt on Wednesday to block the sale.

The latest Israel-Hamas conflict has prompted calls for leveraging Washington's annual $3.8 billion military aid as "a force for peace" in the Middle East.

A clear majority of US Republicans back Israel in its military confrontation with Gaza that authorities say has claimed more than 221 Palestinian lives and killed 12 people in Israel.

Israel unleashed a wave of airstrikes on Thursday across the Gaza Strip. Explosions shook Gaza City and orange flares lit up the night sky. Airstrikes were also reported in the central town of Deir al-Balah and the southern town of Khan Younis.

The US Congress was notified by the Biden administration on May 5 of the commercial deal in which Boeing will provide precision-guided weapons to Israel. Lawmakers have a 15-day review period, meaning that there were just two days left as of Wednesday if they want to halt the sale.

On Wednesday, a group of House Democrats, led by progressive Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, offered a resolution seeking to block the deal.

"For decades, the US 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,"Ocasio-Cortez said in a statement.

Cease-fire possibility

"At a time when so many, including President Biden, support a cease-fire, we should not be sending 'direct attack' weaponry to (Israeli)Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu to prolong this violence."

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, when asked on Tuesday to comment on the US arms deal, said: "Instead of actively preventing the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the United States is prepared to add fuel to the fire."

The US on Wednesday opposed a France-drafted United Nations Security Council resolution calling for an end to the fighting. The Israel ally has vetoed several prior statement drafts proposed by China, Norway and Tunisia.

As a responsible major country, China has done a lot of constructive work after the violence broke out, Zhao said at a news conference on Thursday. He added that China will not stop its efforts to promote dialogue and peace talks as long as the conflict continues.

The move by progressive Democrats represents just a "symbolic push", as it is unlikely to succeed, not likely to advance through the House or even the Foreign Affairs Committee, said several US media outlets.

Most Democrats have defended the arms sale even as they have pushed Israel to agree to a cease-fire. Senate Armed Services Chair Jack Reed, a Democrat, noted earlier this week the Boeing kit is precision-guided and thus intended to reduce civilian casualties as well as collateral damage, news portal reported on Wednesday.

Karine Jean-Pierre, White House principal deputy press secretary, did not answer a reporter's question about the weapons sale on Wednesday when she briefed the media about Biden's phone call with Netanyahu in which the US president said he expected "a significant de-escalation today on the path to a cease-fire". Later a senior Hamas official predicted a cease-fire within days, Reuters reported.

But after the call, Netanyahu pledged to continue pressing ahead with a military offensive in Gaza, saying he was "determined to continue this operation until its aim is met".

Zhao Huanxin in Washington and agencies contributed to this story.


Two Palestinians sit on Thursday in a building that was damaged by Israeli airstrikes. MOHAMMED SALEM/REUTERS



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