Biden reportedly delayed saying he withheld arms from Israel until after Holocaust speech
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers the keynote address at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Annual Days of Remembrance ceremony on May 7, 2024 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Photo: Adam Schultz/White House

The president’s decision drew criticism from the American Jewish Committee and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

By Andrew Bernard
May 9, 2024

(JNS) — U.S. President Joe Biden delayed revealing that he ordered an arms shipment to Israel be paused last week until after he delivered a Holocaust remembrance day address at the U.S. Capitol, the Associated Press reported.

“There seem to be two Bidens,” wrote Abe Foxman, director emeritus of the Anti-Defamation League, the one who “spoke at the Holocaust event, who flew to Israel during war against Israel” and who supported Israel militarily and financially,” and the “political Biden, who engages in party politics—telling Israel it has [a] right to defend itself—but we will tell you when and how.”

“What is so egregiously offensive is that Biden thought that his antisemitism and Holocaust speech would make his abandonment of Israel more tolerable,” wrote  Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin confirmed in congressional testimony on Wednesday that the Biden administration paused a “shipment of high payload munitions” to Israel, amid objections from Washington to a proposed Israeli ground operation against Hamas in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

The AP reported that the shipment consisted of 3,500 bombs weighing 2,000 and 500 pounds.

Biden told CNN in an interview on Wednesday that he would cut off American-supplied munitions to Israel if it went into Rafah. “I made it clear that if they go into Rafah—they haven’t gone in Rafah yet—if they go into Rafah, I’m not supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah, to deal with the cities—that deal with that problem,” Biden said.

The paused arms shipment was first reported on Sunday, but the AP reported that the National Security Council sought to keep the news from the public “until it had a better understanding of the scope of Israel’s intensified military operations in Rafah and until Biden could deliver a long-planned speech on Tuesday to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day.”

During that speech, Biden repeated his claim that his support for Israel’s security was “ironclad.”

Disappointment and dismay

Ted Deutch, CEO of the American Jewish Committee, wrote that Biden “should not take steps that could impair Israel’s ability to prevent Hamas from attacking it again and again—as its leaders have promised.”

The leadership of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations stated that it is “deeply disappointed and dismayed by President Biden’s counterproductive remarks regarding the potential cessation of congressionally mandated aid to our ally Israel.”

“Congress recently approved this aid with a bipartisan supermajority, which should signal to the Biden administration that support for Israel in her existential war remains strong,” added Harriet Schleifer and William Daroff, chair and CEO, respectively, of the Conference of Presidents.

The Jewish Federations of North America had not commented at press time.

“Yesterday, I commended the president for his speech; he stressed that ‘it was Hamas that unleashed this terror’ and started the war. But today’s threat to withhold arms from Israel betrays this truth,” wrote Nathan Diament, executive director for public policy at the Orthodox Union. “It undermines Israel’s ability to defeat Hamas and gives Hamas leverage and hope to survive.”

“It also puts a deal to free the hostages, including American hostages, further out of reach and potentially prolongs the war,” he added.

‘Mockery of our credibility’

Republicans and some Democrats have sharply criticized Biden for pausing the arms shipment during Israel’s ongoing war against Hamas.

“We’ve seen that iron bend under the heat of domestic political pressure from his party’s anti-Israel base and the campus communists who decided to wrap themselves in the flags of Hamas and Hezbollah,” said Senate minority leader MitchMcConnell (R-Ky.) on Wednesday.

“We stand by allies. We don’t second guess them,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) wrote. “Biden’s dithering on Israel weapons is bad policy and a terrible message to Israel, our allies and the world.”

“As the leader of the free world, America cannot claim that its commitment to Israel is ‘iron-clad’ and then proceed to withhold aid from Israel,” wrote Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.). “The mixed messaging makes a mockery of our credibility as an ally. No one will take our word seriously.”

“How in the hell do you criticize Israel for being imprecise in its bombing and then refuse to deliver them what they’re willing to pay for to make the bombs precise?” Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) told Jewish Insider after Biden’s interview. “I mean, my God.”

“The Biden decision to halt weapons transfer to Israel over Rafah was made some time ago. But Biden didn’t announce [it] before, because he didn’t want it to get in [the] way of his big Holocaust Remembrance Day speech,” wrote Arsen Ostrovsky, the CEO of the International Legal Forum. “This is just below contempt. Unconscionable. Inexcusable.”

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