You would never know it from watching that mess of a press conference last night, but Joe Biden yesterday issued an important memorandum that lays out the standards countries that receive U.S. weapons must adhere to and, for the first time, requires the administration to submit an annual report to Congress about whether countries are meeting the requirements. So here it is. Via the Washington Post:
The national security memorandum comes after prominent Democratic lawmakers have raised concerns about Israel’s military campaign in Gaza and whether the country, which has received hundreds of millions of dollars worth of U.S. weapons, has adhered to international law. Nearly half of Senate Democrats have supported a measure that would ensure Israel and other countries are held accountable for meeting those standards.
The memorandum does not include new guidelines or conditions but instead calls for the State Department to receive written assurances from countries receiving U.S. weapons that they will abide by existing U.S. standards. Those include abiding by international law and facilitating transport of U.S. humanitarian assistance.
The memorandum comes just as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that the Israeli military will continue its Gaza campaign in Rafah, where more than 1 million Palestinians have fled for safety under Israeli guidance. On Thursday, White House spokesman John Kirby said any Israeli operation in Rafah under the current circumstances “would be a disaster for those people, and we would not support it.”
This story makes it sound like so much meaningless blather. It’s not. This is real national security policy, and it really does ramp up the pressure on Netanyahu. Here’s the full text.
Via the Guardian:
“I’m pushing very hard now to deal with this hostage ceasefire,” Biden said. “There are a lot of innocent people who are starving, a lot of innocent people who are in trouble and dying, and it’s gotta stop.”
The comments mark a sharp change in language from the US president, who has been very supportive of Israel, including in the immediate aftermath of Hamas’s 7 October attack on southern Israel.
His remarks came as his administration issued a national security memorandum on Thursday that calls on the state department to procure written assurances from countries receiving US weapons that they will abide by international law, including the provision of humanitarian assistance.
The White House has become increasingly frustrated with statements from Israeli ministers, including the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. It denied reports earlier this week that Biden had privately called Netanyahu “a bad fucking guy”.
Sources of friction include Israel’s resistance to winding up a war that has caused so many civilian casualties and Netanyahu’s rejection of US calls for progress towards a Palestinian state when the war is over.