Fuming over report, Democratic senator warns it may fuel calls to further limit weapons to Israel

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland speaks at Prince George's Community College, Center for the Performing Arts, September 14, 2023, in Largo, Maryland. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland speaks at Prince George's Community College, Center for the Performing Arts, September 14, 2023, in Largo, Maryland. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Progressive Democrats are fuming following the release of the State Department’s report accepting Israel’s assurances that it is using US weapons in accordance with international humanitarian law.

The report did find it “reasonable to assess that Israel has at times used US-supplied weapons in ways that were inconsistent with its obligations, but determined that the administration didn’t have enough information to verify those alleged breaches.

“This report contradicts itself,” Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland says in a briefing with reporters following the release of the report. Van Hollen has been one of the leading critics of Israel’s military campaign on Capitol Hill. Pressure applied by him and other Democrats is seen to have played a major role in US President Joe Biden’s decision to adopt a memo in February requiring all US security aid recipients to provide a written assurance that they’re using American weapons in accordance with international law.

That National Security Memo — known as NSM-20 — required the Biden administration to issue a report to Congress determining whether it accepts assurances from aid recipients that they are complying with international law, which the State Department did Friday right before the start of the weekend in an indication that it wanted the determination to be buried.

The memo ultimately was not used in the way Van Hollen and other progressives had hoped.

“It provides a useful accountability structure, but it will be most useful if judgments can be made based on the facts and the law and not driven by what we wish the facts and the law were,” Van Hollen continues. “They’re ducking a determination on the hard… politically inconvenient cases.”

“The report might create an atmosphere where people will push for more limitations on offensive weapons to Israel,” Van Hollen warns.

But given that Congress is split and a sizeable number of Democrats aren’t as critical of Israel’s military campaign as he is, it is less likely that such limitations will get very far on the Hill.

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