Blinken Declines to Identify ‘Red Line’ on Israel as Biden Threatens Weapons Halt

Blinken Declines to Identify ‘Red Line’ on Israel as Biden Threatens Weapons Halt
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a Joint Ministerial Meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)-U.S. Strategic Partnership discussing the humanitarian situation in Gaza at the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Secretariat in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on April 29, 2024. (Fayez Nureldine/AFP via Getty Images)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken declined to provide a “red line” that would cause the United States to pull away from backing Israel as President Joe Biden threatens to withdraw some support.

“We don’t talk about red lines when it when it comes to Israel,” Mr. Blinken told NBC’s “Meet the Press” anchor Kristen Welker on May 12.

It comes as Israel prepares for a ground invasion of Rafah, a densely populated city along the border with Egypt that has become the last safe haven in Gaza for nearly 1.5 million civilians, many of whom were forced to flee from other areas of the Gaza Strip.

Western leaders—including President Biden’s administration—have urged Israel against invading the city, fearing it would prompt unacceptable civilian casualties.

Earlier this week, the Biden administration announced a pause in the shipment of 2,000-pound bombs to Israel, and President Biden threatened further cut U.S. support should Israel proceed with an invasion into population centers of Rafah.

“I made it clear,” President Biden told CNN’s Erin Burnett in Racine, Wisconsin. “If they go into Rafah, I’m not supplying the weapons.”

That would only apply to offensive weapons, however.

President Biden nonetheless said that his “commitment to the safety of the Jewish people, the security of Israel, and its right to exist as an independent Jewish state is ironclad. Even when we disagree.”

“We’re going to continue to make sure Israel is secure in terms of Iron Dome and their ability to respond to attacks,” he said.

President Biden’s remarks were echoed by Mr. Blinken.

“No one has done more to defend Israel when it mattered than President Biden,” Mr. Blinken said, citing the president’s visit to Israel near the start of the conflict and the military support it provided for Israel after the nation was targeted by an Iranian strike.

But he said that there’s also “a deep concern on our part about the possibility of a major military operation in Rafah given the damage it would do to to civilians … absent a credible plan to get them out of harm’s way and to support them.

“[The] president’s been clear for some time that we couldn’t and would not support a major military operation in Rafah now,” Mr. Blinken said. “At the same time, we share Israel’s objective in making sure that [the Hamas terrorist group] cannot govern Gaza anymore, that it be demilitarized, that Israel get its leaders, we continue to support that, but there’s a better way of achieving that than going headlong into Rafah.”

But when asked what the red line would be for President Biden to make good on his threat to withhold weapons, Mr. Blinken demurred.

Still, he cited the withholding of 2,000-pound bombs from Israel, which some fear have too high a payload for use in the densely populated environment of Rafah.

“What the president said is that if Israel goes in with a major military operation Rafah, in that case, there are certain systems that we will not provide Israel that would aid that effort because it’s something that we do not want to be part of,” Mr. Blinken said.

Lawmakers Divided

Lawmakers have been conflicted on this threat from the Biden administration, largely along party lines: many Republicans have expressed outrage at the move, while some Democrats—especially progressives—have praised the president’s actions.

Appearing on “Meet the Press” immediately after Mr. Blinken, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) made clear that he was among those supporting the move by the White House.

“The president is clearly right,” Mr. Sanders said.

He went a step further, calling for a complete end to military aid for Israel.

“The reality is, I think any objective observer knows, Israel has broken international law,” Mr. Sanders said. “It has broken American law. And in my view, Israel should not be receiving another nickel in U.S. military aid.”

Mr. Sanders notably walked back somewhat on earlier comments he had made warning that Israel could be “Biden’s Vietnam.”

Republicans, meanwhile, have responded to the threat with fury.

During an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.)—among those considered a contender to replace outgoing Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)—accused President Biden of being politically motivated in his decision.

“I’ve always believed that, you know, Biden is unfortunately now part of the pro-Hamas wing of his party—that’s all they’re worried about is—he’s worried about winning a presidential election,” Mr. Scott said.

Many other Republicans have also accused the administration of weakening its support for Israel as a political face-saving move amid nationwide college protests demanding a ceasefire—representing a threat that President Biden could be on track to lose massive amounts of support from young voters.

This was also Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-S.C.) reaction to the news.

“Americans should be all in in helping Israel against an existential threat,” Mr. Graham said, dismissing calls by Mr. Sanders for the United States to end all support to the Middle Eastern state as “the most dangerous, irresponsible statement in the history of the U.S. relationship” with Israel.

By threatening Israel, Mr. Graham said, President Biden is simply “trying to appease the radical left.”

The remarks also come after a investigation by the U.S. State Department into whether Israel had committed war crimes came to no clear conclusion.

In spite of President Biden’s recent remarks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has remained defiant, indicating that Israel plans to go into Rafah with or without the United States’ blessing.

From The Epoch Times

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