published : 2023-12-10

State Department Clears Tank Ammunition Sale to Israel, Bypassing Congress

Tank ammunition deal deemed 'vital to US national interests' and will not impact defense readiness

A photo of Israeli tanks in action during military exercises, showcasing the importance of tank ammunition in strengthening Israel's defense capabilities. (Taken with Nikon D850)

In a move that bypasses Congress, the State Department has approved the sale of $106.5 million worth of tank ammunition to Israel, citing its importance to US national interests and asserting that it will not hinder US defense readiness.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken gave the green light to a possible foreign military sale of 120mm M830A1 High Explosive Anti-Tank Multi-Purpose with Tracer (MPAT) tank cartridges and related equipment to the government of Israel. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of this potential sale.

The request from the Government of Israel is for thirteen thousand nine hundred eighty-one (13,981) tank cartridges, along with publications, technical documentation, and various support services. The State Department emphasizes that Israel will easily incorporate this equipment into its armed forces without altering the existing military balance in the region.

An image of Secretary of State Antony Blinken at a press conference, announcing the approval of the tank ammunition sale to Israel. (Taken with Canon EOS R5)

While the sales approval comes amidst the ongoing conflict with Hamas, it is unrelated to the current war and has been justified as a necessity in the interests of US national security. The Biden administration remains committed to supporting Israel's self-defense capability and views this sale as crucial in deterring regional threats and strengthening Israeli homeland defense.

The decision to bypass Congress represents a departure from the usual procedure, which allows lawmakers to review and potentially veto proposed weapon transfers. However, such emergency determinations have been made in the past, albeit sporadically and often met with resistance.

This particular sale is separate from the aid package requested by President Biden, which includes assistance for Ukraine and Israel. The aid package has faced delays in Congress due to debates over immigration policy and border security. Some Democratic lawmakers have suggested tying the proposed assistance to Israel to concrete steps taken by the Israeli government to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza.

A photograph capturing the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, highlighting the urgency and impact of the tank ammunition deal. (Taken with Sony Alpha A7 III)

It is worth noting that this is not the first time emergency determinations have been used for arms sales. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a similar determination in 2019 for sales to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan, following concerns raised by lawmakers regarding the war in Yemen. Pompeo faced criticism for his decision but was later cleared of any wrongdoing.

As this sale moves forward, it remains to be seen how it will impact the ongoing conflict, the US-Israel relationship, and broader regional dynamics.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.