Tim Kaine

02/21/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 02/21/2024 15:48

Kaine Urges Administration to Press for De-escalation and Hostage Release and Ensure Upcoming U.S. Weapons Transfers to Israel Prioritize Defensive Needs

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Following reports of a pending major weapons transfer from the U.S. to Israel, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, urged the Biden Administration today to ensure that the transfer is comprised primarily of defensive weapons critical to the security of the Israeli people, such as restocking the Iron Dome and David's Sling air defense systems. Consistent with concerns raised by the Biden Administration regarding the potential Israeli military offensive in Rafah, Kaine recommended that such defensive articles be prioritized over offensive weapons that risk significant harm to civilians and a further deepening of the Gaza crisis in a manner that is harmful to U.S. and Israeli national security. He also underscored the importance of pursuing a deal to immediately release all hostages taken by Hamas, end the violence in Gaza, and enable the swift delivery of humanitarian aid to civilians in Rafah.

"I understand from public reports that your Administration plans to submit to Congress a notice for another major transfer of U.S. weapons to Israel for use in the war in Gaza," wrote Kaine. "I appreciate the Administration's intent to follow traditional Congressional notification procedures for this transfer; these provisions should be applied equally to all nations."

"I recommend that any transfer of arms to Israel focus on weapons enabling Israel to defend itself against future attacks from Hamas, Hizballah, Iran or other actors posing a threat to our ally. The restocking of Iron Dome and other defensive systems should be of paramount importance," Kaine continued. "But in this delicate moment, when parties are at the table trying to find a path to de-escalation, the Administration should be wary of weapons transfers that are likely to be used in offensive military action causing significant civilian casualties."

Kaine has long been a leading voice calling for Congress to play an assertive and deliberate role in decisions related to war and peace. Kaine raisedconcerns over the Biden Administration's decision last December to transfer weapons to Israel without congressional oversight. Kaine successfully pushed to ensure all U.S. security assistance is used in line with international law and to create robust reporting requirements on the use of U.S. weapons in conflict.

Kaine has been vocal about supporting Israel's right to defend itself against Hamas following Hamas' horrific October 7 terrorist attacks while also addressing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. He's taken a series of steps to prioritize the release of hostages taken by Hamas, including directly engaging the Qatari and Egyptian governments, protect civilians in Gaza and the West Bank, and counter threats to Israel from Hamas and Iran. Kaine led his colleagues in calling for a short-term cessation of violence in order to ensure humanitarian assistance is reaching civilians in Gaza.

Full text of the letter is available here and below:

Dear Mr. President:

I understand from public reports that your Administration plans to submit to Congress a notice for another major transfer of U.S. weapons to Israel for use in the war in Gaza. I appreciate the Administration's intent to follow traditional congressional notification procedures for this transfer; these provisions should be applied equally to all nations. I write to urge that any such weapons transfers be defensive rather than offensive in nature.

I have long supported our ally Israel and have repeatedly emphasized our support for Israel's need to defend itself in the aftermath of the horrific Hamas attack of October 7, when more than 1,200 people were murdered and more than 240 people taken hostage. The shocking violence committed indiscriminately against women, children and elderly civilians was brutal beyond words. And the violence unleashed in the attack's aftermath has forced tens of thousands of Israelis to be displaced from their homes.

The Hamas attack on Israel was particularly despicable in that it was intended to derail a regional discussion that, for the first time in decades, was seriously focused on the future of a Palestinian state. There must be no repeat of October 7. This is one of the reasons why I voted in support of the recent Emergency National Security Supplemental Appropriations Act providing defense support to Israel.

It is also important to recognize the toll the war has taken on Palestinians. Nearly 30,000 Palestinians have been reported killed-two thirds women and children. Tens of thousands have been wounded and over 1.7 million people displaced. The facilities to deal with an injured and desperate population have been dramatically weakened. The amount of humanitarian aid allowed into Gaza has been grossly insufficient and starvation for thousands is a real threat. Hospitals in Gaza have been badly damaged and most are no longer functioning. These harsh consequences are tragic and are stoking escalating violence in the region. The fact that U.S.-provided weapons are being used in this conflict requires that future military support be carefully calibrated to promote Israeli self-defense without deepening the suffering of innocent Palestinian civilians.

Your Administration has been forward-leaning in promoting better flows of humanitarian aid and urging Israel to curb offensive military operations in Rafah. The U.S. has also been at the forefront in focusing on a need for a short-term ceasefire with a release of all hostages. A deal to release all hostages, coupled with a truce of negotiable length to enable massive delivery of humanitarian aid to Gazans, would be the single best path to de-escalation of tensions in Gaza and across the region.

You strive for a difficult balance-supporting Israel's right to defend itself while also obtaining the release of hostages, reducing the suffering of Palestinian civilians and de-escalating a regional conflict that threatens the security of the U.S. and other nations. In order to pursue that balance, I recommend that any transfer of arms to Israel focus on weapons enabling Israel to defend itself against future attacks from Hamas, Hizballah, Iran or other actors posing a threat to our ally. The restocking of Iron Dome and other defensive systems should be of paramount importance. But in this delicate moment, when parties are at the table trying to find a path to de-escalation, the Administration should be wary of weapons transfers that are likely to be used in offensive military action causing significant civilian casualties.

Sincerely,

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