Leading Democratic congressman says he wants ‘assurances’ before approving sale of fighter jets to Israel
Rep. Gregory Meeks speaks at the celebration of the 245th Independence Day of the United States at the United States Embassy in Jerusalem July 6, 2021. (Photo: U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem/Creative Commons)

By Ben Sales
April 11, 2024

(JTA) — Rep. Gregory Meeks, the leading Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has said he would not approve a U.S. sale of F-15 fighter jets to Israel without “assurances” on what the jets would be used for.

“I’m waiting for assurances,” Meeks, who represents a district in New York City, told CNN on Tuesday. “It is enough of the indiscriminate bombing. I don’t want the kinds of weapons that Israel has to be utilized to have more death.”

Meeks is one of four lawmakers on Capitol Hill with the power to hold up weapons sales. He has previously supported Israel’s battle against Hamas and called in the CNN interview for Hamas to immediately release hostages.

His statement is the latest signal that support for Israel’s war effort is eroding among Democratic lawmakers, particularly following an Israeli strike that killed seven aid workers earlier this month and even as the Biden administration has signaled its support as Israel anticipates Iranian retaliation for its killing of a senior Iranian commander this month.

Days before Meeks’ interview, more than 50 Democratic members of Congress — including leading progressives and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — signed a letter calling on President Joe Biden to halt weapons transfers to Israel. Meeks was not one of the signatories.

“If this strike is found to have violated U.S. or international law, we urge you to continue withholding these transfers until those responsible are held accountable,” the letter says. “We also urge you to withhold these transfers if Israel fails to sufficiently mitigate harm to innocent civilians in Gaza, including aid workers, and if it fails to facilitate – or arbitrarily denies or restricts – the transport and delivery of humanitarian aid into Gaza.”

In another sign of tensions, last week Sen. Elizabeth Warren, commenting on Israel’s trial on the charge of genocide at the International Court of Justice, said, “I believe they will find it is genocide, and they have ample evidence to do so.” Israel vehemently rejects that accusation and says it takes measures to protect civilian life.

Following the strike on the aid convoy, the Biden administration expressed its outrage and called on Israel to do more to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid into Gaza. Israel has since increased the flow of aid, stemming Biden’s criticism. In recent days, his administration has rebuffed criticism of Israel and conveyed its support ahead of a possible Iranian attack. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Tuesday that the United States has not seen “any evidence” that Israel is committing genocide.

“As I told Prime Minister Netanyahu, our commitment to Israel’s security against these threats from Iran and its proxies is ironclad,” Biden said at a press conference on Wednesday. “Let me say it again, ironclad. We’re going to do all we can to protect Israel’s security.”

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