Video snippet of an airstrike on October 9th in the Gaza Strip

Despite a May 8 deadine, Politico has reported that the Biden administration pushed off submitting a report to Congress on whether Israel has breached international humanitarian laws during its ongoing conflict in Gaza—a matter that could have major repercussions. This report has sparked considerable contention within the State Department, with some divisions casting doubt on Israel's assurances of compliance, particularly in relation to the use of US-supplied weapons. Despite the Politico report, the administration has not commented on a delay and thus, its submission is still possible. One thing is certain, as confirmed by the U.S. Secretary of Defense, is that shipments of armaments to Israel have ben suspended.

Amidst internal debates, the urgency of the report for some Democrat lawmakers in America is magnified by the potential of an Israeli incursion into Rafah, which President Joe Biden has specifically advised against. This comes as tensions remain high with Hamas, with no progress on ceasefire or hostage negotiations, compounded by widespread pro-Palestinian protests leading to the cancellation of numerous university graduation ceremonies.

The pressure from far-left Democrats has been significant, leading President Biden to issue a national security memorandum in February. This memorandum mandates a swift assessment of Israel's adherence to international human rights laws in its military engagements. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is tasked with delivering these findings to Congress by Wednesday, although there are indications of a possible delay.

Calls for an investigation began almost immediately after Hamas invaded Israel on October 7th and Israel began its aerial campaign, but it ramped up when an independent task force, led by a former State Department official who resigned over US support for Israel and a human rights attorney who is also a Palestinian American activist, concluded that Israeli forces exhibited a “systemic disregard for fundamental principles of international law” in their use of US weapons.

The task force provided seven examples of such infractions, one being the attack by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on Jabalya refugee camp on October 9th, 2023 which resulted in 39 casualties according to the Hamas-led Gaza Health Ministry. The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights did not identify a clear military target in this incident. Other examples are related to the withholding of humanitarian aid, despite evidence showing the aid being hijacked by militants as it crosses the border and subsequently sold in Gaza markets.

The Judean contacted retired U.S. Colonel John Spencer, a leading expert in Urban Warfare at the Modern War Institute at West Point, to discuss the October 9th incident. On that day, the IDF targeted terror tunnels within the densely populated Jabalya camp, issuing prior warnings and notifying specific buildings about the impending strikes. The targeted tunnels were destroyed, causing two buildings to collapse due to the tunnel collapse.

When asked whether the strike constituted a war crime, Colonel Spencer, who had visited the area on an invitation from the IDF, responded firmly: "Hell no it is not a war crime to strike a building in urban warfare that clearly has a tunnel complex under it and what the IDF said was a Hamas commander (high value/military advantage)." Notably, despite his expertise in urban warfare and status within the U.S. military system, Colonel Spencer was not consulted by the administration for the forthcoming report.

While the State Department has been tight-lipped about the details of the report, it is understood that the document, drafted with inputs from various bureaus and in collaboration with the Defense Department and National Security Council, does not propose a policy shift but could potentially lead to one, depending on its findings.

In an XSpaces conversation earlier today with Lieutenant Colonel (retired) Jonathan Conricus, a former IDF spokesman and a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Conricus expressed to The Judean his concerns about bias within the State Department, noting the significant number of staff who have publicly criticized or made allegations against Israel, some even resigning in protest against US support for Israel. He emphasized the importance of addressing these issues for future US-Israel relations and strategic interests.

Conricus also linked the State Department's pressures with anti-Israel protests on American campuses and the war crimes allegations, stating: "I tie that with the reports you cited and with the allegations made. I think the allegations are false. I think they are unfounded. And I think that if a real, fair investigation is done, the outcome would be pretty clear that these allegations are false. But the motion of doing it, the motion of sending it in, I think is the result of a lot of pressure applied from within the State Department but also from circles that feed the State Department; the politic and foreign relations establishment. The Ivy League Schools, the same places that are now unsafe environments for Jewish Students to be in, are the same places where most of the people who work in the State Department are so-called educated and I draw a direct line between these things and I don't think you can refute the link, the connection between the two."

The anticipation of the report has caused considerable anxiety within Israeli political circles, fearing it could lead to conditional US military aid. Recent admonishments from Israeli leaders against potential cuts in military aid highlight their concerns, especially in light of prior human rights violations noted before the Gaza conflict.

Despite the escalating humanitarian crisis, the Biden administration has hesitated in imposing punitive measures against Israel. However, recent acknowledgments of withholding military assistance indicate a shift, following Amnesty International's report last month, which accused Israel of using US weapons in violation of international laws.

A significant critique has come from progressive Democrats, who, facing electoral pressures, have vocally criticized the administration for taking Israeli assurances at face value. Over two dozen House Democrats have expressed their dissatisfaction through a letter demanding more stringent scrutiny of Israel's actions, echoing sentiments from Senator Chris Van Hollen who insists on evidence rather than mere assurances.

This internal discord within the Democratic Party has been termed as potential "fratricide" by a Republican congressional aide, highlighting the deep divisions caused by the national security memorandum, which Republicans argue only serves to frustrate US allies by adding bureaucratic layers.

Meanwhile, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced a temporary halt on delivering "high-payload munitions" to Israel, citing concerns about possible ground operations in Rafah and the safety of civilians in the area.

“We’re going to continue to do what’s necessary to ensure that Israel has the means to defend itself, but that said, we are currently reviewing some near-term security assistance shipments in the context of unfolding events in Rafah,” Austin stated during a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee. The Judean reported on May 6th that the US had suspended the delivery of 1,800 bombs weighing 2,000 pounds each, along with 1,700 bombs weighing 500 pounds each, over worries they could be used in Rafah.

Austin clarified the U.S. position, emphasizing, “We’ve been very clear … that Israel shouldn't launch a major attack into Rafah without accounting for and protecting the civilians that are in that battlespace.”  He also noted that a decision on the future of the weapons shipment is still pending and clarified that these munitions were not included in the recent supplemental spending bill passed by Congress, which provided lethal aid to Ukraine and Israel.

Sources on Capitol Hill who were not authorized to speak have told The Judean that Israeli officials have privately voiced significant concerns to U.S. lawmakers about the halt in weapons shipments and the public disclosures regarding this decision, according to a knowledgeable source.  The officials stressed that the pause could adversely affect ongoing negotiations for a hostage release deal at a critical juncture. The specific level at which these discussions occurred was not disclosed by the source.

Furthermore, one Israeli representative highlighted that pressure should be applied to Hamas rather than Israel, asserting the expectation that the U.S. will maintain its support for Israel in its efforts to counteract Hamas, the source added.

As the administration continues to deliberate, the far-left's demands for greater accountability and transparency in US-Israel relations underscore a growing rift within the party, emphasizing a critical juncture in US foreign policy debates.

Sign Up For The Judean Newsletter

I agree with the Terms and conditions and the Privacy policy