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Security Brief: Weapons/Tactics Week of May 17, 2021

Week of May 17, 2021 | Issue 1

Anastasios Giannakis, Jean Scott, Weapons/Tactics (W/T) Team


US President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu[1]


Date: Monday, May 17, 2021

Location: Washington DC, USA

Parties involved: US, Israel, Palestine

The event: According to reports identified on Monday, May 17, 2021 the Biden administration has approved the possible sale of $735 million worth of precision-guided weapons to Israel.[2] The agreement on weapons transaction was reached before the outbreak of the most recent Israel-Gaza conflict. Select lawmakers, such as US Senator Bernie Sanders, have opposed the weapons transaction. However, sources suggest this act is largely symbolic and that the US Congress is anticipated to approve the deal.[3]

The implications:

  • Israel has been accused of potentially committing war crimes in the latest outbreak of Israeli-Palestinian violence.[4] By providing weapons to Israel, international actors may view the US as complicit in any future alleged war crimes, should the recently arranged ceasefire not hold. Should this occur, it could damage the US standing in the international community and have negative implications for the effective execution of US foreign policy. The US staunch support of Israel has already had some consequences, as it has allegedly raised concerns about the US’s credibility and commitment to multilateralism in the United Nations.[5] US rivals, such as China and Russia, may seek to exploit this situation in their efforts to advance their agendas.

  • Strong US support to Israel despite allegations of human rights abuses may indicate a double standard in how the US handles human rights concerns. Countries reported having committed significant human rights violations, such as China in the case of the government's abuses against the Uygur population, may exploit this to dismiss US criticism. Such actions could negatively affect the international community's commitment to human rights.

  • Until now, the Arab-Israeli conflict has not been a priority for President Biden, but the recently escalated violence put the US President under intense pressure. Amid heavy Israeli bombings in Gaza that have left more than 200 dead and many more injured, and despite growing criticism of Tel Aviv, Washington maintained its commitment to Israel.[6] The US president is facing opposition from inside his party for the outspoken pro-Israel stance he has taken in the wake of the recent outbreak of violence. As many American lawmakers question the usefulness of this decision, selling smart weapons without any pressure on Israel would render any agreement on a ceasefire at any given time unsustainable as the threat to utilize such weapons will be ongoing. Biden reiterated the unwavering support of the US for the security of Israel and its legitimate right to self-defense and the defense of its civilian population against attacks by the designated terrorist organization Hamas.[7] If the arms sales are delayed, then Biden’s administration will be considered to overturn his proclaimed support to Israel, which is under attack by a terrorist organization, and such a case could be interpreted by Hezbollah and Iran as a great opportunity to challenge Israel further in conflicted areas.

  • Biden’s approval of arms sales to Israel may trigger further Turkish political and diplomatic involvement in the region, likely to strongly oppose the official US decision to exclude Turkey from the F-35 program and the continued US military empowerment of Israel, a state with which Turkey's relations are downgraded. This is likely to be contrary to Israeli and US interests. These affairs, combined with the current armed conflict in Gaza, will allow the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to bolster his attempt to form a front against Isreal and, of course, present himself as the “protector” not only of the Palestinians but also of all his allied Islamist nations. By criticizing the US and Israel for the disproportionate strike against Gaza resulting in a high death toll, the already strained relations between the US and Turkey are anticipated to be worsened.[8]

[1]US President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu” by US Embassy Jerusalem, licensed under BY CC 2.0

[2] House Democrats, in disarray over arms sale to Israel, take complaints to Biden administration, The Washington Post, May 2021, https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/05/17/power-up-biden-administration-approves-735-million-weapons-sale-israel-raising-red-flags-some-house-democrats/%3foutputType=amp

[3] Bernie Sanders introduces resolution blocking $735m weapons sale to Israel, The Guardian, May 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/may/20/bernie-sanders-israel-weapons-sale-resolution

[4] Gaza Hostilities Underscore ICC’S Role, Human Rights Watch, May 2021, https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/05/20/gaza-hostilities-underscore-iccs-role

[5] Biden’s Moves on Gaza at U.N. Test U.S. Credibility, Foreign Policy, May 2021, https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/05/18/israel-palestine-biden-united-nations-diplomacy-crisis-credibility/

[6] Gaza Hostilities Underscore ICC’S Role, Human Rights Watch, May 2021, https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/05/20/gaza-hostilities-underscore-iccs-role

[7] Biden calls Netanyahu, says Israel has right to defend itself, Business Standard, May 2021, https://www.google.com/amp/s/wap.business-standard.com/article-amp/international/biden-calls-netanyahu-says-israel-has-right-to-defend-itself-121051600045_1.html

[8] Turkey’s Erdogan condemns Western powers for inaction against Israel, Reuters, May 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/turkeys-erdogan-condemns-biden-approval-arms-sales-israel-2021-05-17/


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