Commentary on Political Economy

Thursday 9 May 2024


Biden Slaps an Arms Embargo on Israel

The President withholds bombs, large and small, to spare Hamas in Rafah.


Students with the Gaza Solidarity Encampment block the entrance of Hamilton Hall at Columbia University after taking over it on April 30. PHOTO: MARCO POSTIGO STOREL/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Call it what it is: a U.S. arms embargo against Israel. That’s the astonishing story this week as the Biden Administration confirms it is blocking the delivery of weapons to its main ally in the Middle East.

The Administration would like to focus on the denial of 2,000-pound bombs, which it says are too destructive. Never mind that a professional force can employ them in a manner that restricts the radius of damage. Mr. Biden is also halting a shipment of 500-pound bombs and holding up Joint Direct Attack Munitions, which convert unguided bombs into precision “smart” bombs. Politico reports that Small Diameter Bombs are being withheld. The Journal adds that the Biden Administration has been sitting on a deal that includes tank shells and mortar rounds.

The message from the White House, in other words, is that Israel shouldn’t have large bombs or small bombs, dumb bombs or smart bombs, and let it do without tanks and artillery too. Now isn’t a good time to send the weapons, you see, because Israel would use them.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and other U.S. officials explain that the goal of the embargo—which they present as a “pause” or “review”—is to prevent a wider Israeli attack on the Hamas stronghold of Rafah. This is the terrorists’ reward for using civilians as human shields.


We’ve written about why Rafah must fall: It is home to Hamas’s leaders, hostages and four military battalions. If Israel can’t complete its invasion of Rafah, Hamas wins. “I refuse to let that happen,” Mr. Biden said on Oct. 20, but that was when it cost the President nothing, before the anti-Israel vote in Dearborn, Mich., had entered the national political conversation. Mr. Biden also promised to make sure Israelis “have what they need to protect their people today and always,” a repetition of his pledges on Oct. 7 and Oct. 10 that had so moved the Israeli people.

No matter how fiercely the President trumpets his “ironclad” support for Israel, his denial of weapons now puts the Jewish state in danger. Israel is at war, assaulted on multiple fronts. Denying it U.S. arms is an invitation to its enemies to take advantage, in hostage talks and on the battlefield.

It hasn’t been four weeks since Iran attacked Israel directly, in the largest drone attack in history, plus 150 or so ballistic and cruise missiles. Hezbollah fires dozens of rockets each day, depopulating the north of Israel for seven months and counting. The terrorist group and its Iranian controllers could decide at any time to precipitate an even larger war. Would it then be OK for Israel to have bombs?

Israel needs to be ready now, and its enemies need to know the U.S. stands behind it. That’s why Congress approved military aid to Israel in April, 79–18 in the Senate and 366–58 in the House. The overwhelming votes, including a majority of both parties, marked an important defeat for the anti-Israel left. Failing in its efforts to disarm Israel, the left lost. Now Mr. Biden is endorsing its policy.

Wonder Land: A highly organized left is targeting the takeover and ruin of liberal institutions and cities. Image: Candice Tang/Zuma Press


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Appeared in the May 9, 2024, print edition as 'Biden Slaps an Arms Embargo on Israel'.

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