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Top Democrat to weigh delay request for Biden’s $735m weapons package to Israel

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

US Rep. Gregory Meeks speaks during a news conference outside the USPS Jamaica station, August 18, 2020, in the Queens borough of New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
US Rep. Gregory Meeks speaks during a news conference outside the USPS Jamaica station, August 18, 2020, in the Queens borough of New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Gregory Meeks is considering sending the Biden administration a letter in the coming days requesting that it delay the sale of $735 million worth of precision-guided missiles to Israel in order to give his panel time to review the purchase, a congressional staffer tells The Times of Israel.

Democrats on the committee met earlier today to discuss the ongoing violence in Israel and Gaza, and one of the members raised a Washington Post report that broke the story on Biden’s advancing of the weapons sale at the beginning of the month, the staffer says.

The report stated that the White House notified Congress on May 5 of the sale — five days before the Gaza flareup — but several members voiced during the meeting that they had been unaware of the announcement.

Meeks responded that he was weighing a delay request in order to provide adequate time for the panel to discuss the sale, the staffer says, adding that members of the committee were split on the decision.

The chairman, an AIPAC-endorsee, has long been seen to be aligned with more moderate Democrats along with the panel’s Reps. Ted Deutch and Kathy Manning, who rarely criticize Israel. Those backing a delay or blocking of the purchase, including Rep. Ilhan Omar, have been far more critical of the Jewish state.

Lawmakers have 15 days to object to the sale from when the administration officially notified them.

The Post said some Democrats who are critical of unconditional aid to Israel are now pressing for details and may hope to use the sale as potential leverage to broker a ceasefire in Gaza.

“Congress must intervene and stop the sale of these weapons,” tweets Omar.

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