US committed to ‘giving Israel means to defend itself’: Blinken

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks on ABC's "This Week," Sunday, May 23, 2021.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the Biden administration remains committed to providing Israel with what it needs to defend itself following the regime’s recent brutal airstrikes on Palestinians.

Presided Joe Biden "has been equally clear we're committed to giving Israel the means to defend itself,” Blinken said in an interview with ABC News program This Week on Sunday.

He also pointed to what he claimed to be the Biden administration's "relentless, determined, but quiet diplomacy" in the region, saying it's "what got us to where we needed to be."

His remarks came as progressive US legislators, including Democratic Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, have criticized Biden for his unequivocal support for Israel during its recent bombing campaign on the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli regime intensified its attacks on Palestinians in the holy city with the start of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. The escalation saw Israeli forces assaulting Palestinian worshippers and preventing them from gathering and performing their religious duties.

Later in the month, the regime tried to evict Palestinians from the city’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.

Gaza rose up in protest against the atrocities, with the regime responding with ramped up military attacks. Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, its fellow Gaza-based resistance movement, then started firing thousands of rockets against the occupied territories, eventually forcing the regime to accept a ceasefire on Friday.

The Biden administration has claimed its behind-the-scenes diplomacy helped secure the ceasefire in Gaza. However, experts have criticized that approach, arguing Israel only responds to public pressure.

“The more Israel is coddled, supported, sustained, the more belligerent and intransigent Israel becomes to making any concessions,” Nader Hashemi, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Denver, has told Al Jazeera.

Blinken also said in the interview on Sunday that “any arms sale is going to be done in full consultation with Congress, we’re committed to that. And we want to make sure that that process works effectively.”

However, he declined to comment on calls by progressive US legislators to curb arms sales to Israel.

“One of the things I don’t do in this job is I don’t do politics. I focus on the policies. So I’ll leave the politics to others,” Blinken said.

US legislators have recently questioned a planned $735m weapons sale to the regime that was first reported on during the Israeli military aggression on Gaza.

“The United States should not be rubber-stamping weapons sales to” Israel because it deploys “our resources to target international media outlets, schools, hospitals, humanitarian missions and civilian sites for bombing,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted on May 19, a day before a Gaza ceasefire was reached.

The New York lawmaker proposed a resolution that same day in the US House of Representatives aiming to block the arms transfer, and a day later, Senator Bernie Sanders put forward a similar resolution in the Senate.

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