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Biden Promises Cuts in Offensive Weapon Supplies to Israel If Rafah Invasion Proceeds

 May 9, 2024

In a decisive move, President Joe Biden has vowed to restrict specific weapons to Israel contingent on its military actions in Rafah, Gaza.

Biden has made it clear that the U.S. will withhold offensive weapons from Israel if it proceeds with the planned invasion of Rafah, a significant site within Gaza and considered the last stronghold of Hamas, as Fox News reports.

The decision underscores a pivotal stance in U.S.-Israel relations, aligning with the Biden administration's emphasis on reducing civilian casualties in conflict zones.

The United States will reportedly continue to support Israel's defensive capabilities, including ongoing supplies for the Iron Dome system, which is crucial for defending against external threats.

However, this support comes with stipulations focused specifically on the nature of military actions undertaken by Israel.

Biden Draws Red Line on Civilian Areas

According to President Biden, entering Rafah and targeting civilian centers would cross a red line that could alter the dynamics of U.S. military aid to Israel. This stance comes amid rising tensions and diplomatic challenges, particularly concerning Israel's relationship with neighboring Egypt.

The president referred to the yet-to-be-crossed boundary of entering population centers in Rafah during his recent interview with CNN's Erin Burnett, emphasizing the potential implications for U.S. weapon supplies.

Biden stated, "Civilians have been killed in Gaza as a consequence of those bombs and other ways in which they go after population centers," highlighting the grave humanitarian concerns that accompany military operations in densely populated areas.

Domestic Reactions and International Implications

The decision to potentially withhold weapons follows a wave of criticism within the United States, from both Republicans and progressive groups. These critics argue that continued weapon shipments to Israel, despite Congressional approval, exacerbate conflict rather than deterring it.

Nationwide protests, particularly on college campuses, have also voiced opposition to the U.S. policies towards Israel. These demonstrations have sparked a broader discussion on the balance between free speech and hate speech, especially concerning the safety and well-being of Jewish students.

Biden addressed these protests by reinforcing the legitimacy of free speech while condemning any form of hate speech and threats towards Jewish students, stating, "There's a legitimate right to free speech and protest. There's not a legitimate right to use hate speech. There's not a legitimate right to threaten Jewish students. There's not a legitimate right to block access to class. That's against the law."

Continued Support Amidst Strategic Constraints

While reiterating the U.S. commitment to Israel's security, Biden has also expressed that any further military escalation in Rafah must avoid impacting civilian areas. "I’ve made it clear to Bibi and the war cabinet: They’re not going to get our support, if in fact they go on these population centers," he affirmed.

This nuanced approach aims to balance the geopolitical necessity of supporting a key ally with the ethical considerations that arise from military engagements in conflict zones.

Biden further detailed, "We’re going to continue to make sure Israel is secure in terms of Iron Dome and their ability to respond to attacks that came out of the Middle East recently. But it’s just wrong. We’re not going to – we’re not going to supply the weapons and artillery shells."

Reflecting on the Broader Middle Eastern Dynamics

Biden's statements also reflect what his defenders suggest are ongoing efforts to maintain and enhance relationships within the Middle East, especially with Egypt, acknowledging the broader regional implications of Israel's military strategies.

He noted the challenges posed by Israeli military activities near Rafah to the U.S.'s diplomatic efforts with Egypt, emphasizing the importance of these relations in stabilizing regional tensions.

"They haven’t gone into the population centers. What they did is right on the border. And it’s causing problems with, right now, in terms of -- with Egypt, which I’ve worked very hard to make sure we have a relationship with and help," Biden explained.

Conclusion: Balancing Ethics and Alliances

In conclusion, President Biden’s stance on limiting offensive weapons to Israel if it invades Rafah represents a significant policy shift the administration says is aimed at balancing ethical considerations with strategic alliances.

The continued support for Israel’s defense through the Iron Dome, juxtaposed with the withholding of weapons used in offensive operations, underscores a nuanced approach to foreign policy that seeks to minimize civilian impact while ensuring regional security.