Secretary of State Antony Blinken declines to identify 'red line' for aid to Israel

Secretary of State Antony Blinken declines to identify ‘red line’ for aid to Israel

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday declined to identify the Biden administration’s “red line” with Israel, despite President Joe Biden’s comments earlier this week that the U.S. will withhold certain military assistance if Israel launches an offensive on Rafah.

“What we’ve seen over the last few months is a deep concern on our part about the possibility of a major military operation in Rafah given the damage it would do to civilians there,” Blinken said Sunday during an interview on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”

He added, “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.”

His comments come days after Biden told CNN that if Israel goes into Rafah, “I’m not supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah, that deal with the cities, that deal with that problem.”

Blinken told moderator Kristen Welker that the Biden administration doesn’t have a red line, but is “in active conversations with Israel about the provision of heavy or high-payload weapons — large bombs — because of the concern that we have about the effect these weapons can have when they’re used in a dense urban environment like Rafah.”

Blinken’s latest remarks come after the State Department on Friday issued a report to Congress that concluded it was “reasonable to assess” that Israel violated international law in Gaza.

Still, the report found that Israel hasn’t violated the terms of U.S. weapons agreements and Blinken defended the ambiguity of the report, saying it “makes clear that this is an incredibly complex military environment.”

“You have an enemy that intentionally embeds itself with civilians,” he added. “It’s very, very difficult in the heat of war to make a definitive assessment about any individual incident.”

Last week, before the report was issued, the Biden administration halted a planned shipment of 2,000-pound bombs and 500-pound bombs to Israel over concerns about a possible military invasion in Rafah, a city in southern Gaza where over a million refugees are sheltering.

The administration continued to send other military assistance to the country at war with Hamas, but Biden’s decision exposed new fault lines in his own party, with supporters of Israel questioning the decision and supporters of Palestinians condemning the president for not doing enough or doing too little, too late.

Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has called for a cease-fire in Gaza, on Sunday told “Meet the Press” that he thinks “a lot of people are very disappointed. … It’s hurting [Biden] politically, of course it is.”

“Israel should not be receiving another nickel in U.S. military aid,” Sanders added.

Moments later, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. pushed back on Sanders’ call to halt aid to Israel, comparing the war in Gaza with the U.S.’ decision to drop atomic bombs in Japan during World War II.

“Give Israel the bombs they need to end the war. They can’t afford to lose,” Graham told Welker.

Just a few weeks ago, Biden signed into law a package of bills with $26 billion for additional assistance to Israel and humanitarian aid in Gaza.

Alexandra Marquez

Alexandra Marquez is a politics reporter for NBC News.  » …
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