A longtime State Department official in the bureau that oversees arms transfers resigned this week in protest of the Biden administration’s decision to continue sending weapons and ammunition to Israel in support of its war with Hamas.
Josh Paul, who served as the director of congressional and public affairs for the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs for 11 years, said the Biden administration’s “blind support for one side” had led to policy decisions that were “shortsighted, destructive, unjust and contradictory to the very values we publicly espouse.”
“Let me be clear: Hamas’ attack on Israel was not just a monstrosity; it was a monstrosity of monstrosities,” the letter reads. “But I believe to the core of my soul that the response Israel is taking, and with it the American support both for that response… will only lead to more and deeper suffering for both the Israeli and the Palestinian people – and is not in the long term American interest.”
“I fear we are repeating the same mistakes we have made these past decades, and I decline to be a part of it for longer,” the letter continues.
Paul told the NY Times that Israel cutting off water, food, medical care and electricity to the two million or so residents of Gaza should trigger a slew of federal laws that should normally prevent US weapons ending up in the hands of human rights violators.
“The problem with all of those provisions is that it rests on the executive branch making a determination that human rights violations have occurred,” Paul said. “The decision to make a determination doesn’t rest with some nonpartisan academic entity, and there’s no incentive for the president to actually determine anything.”
In a Wednesday visit to Tel Aviv while his administration prepares a $10 billion military aid package, Biden warned Israelis not to give in to an “all-consuming rage” that would be looked upon as an overreaction to the attack by Hamas earlier this month in which over 1,400 Israelis were killed and nearly 200 hostages were taken.
Paul, whose resignation was first reported by the Huffington Post, said he’s seen the US Government approve several sales or shipments of matériel to other Middle Eastern countries seemingly in violation of federal law.
“On all of them there’s a moment where you can say, OK, well, you know, it’s out of my hands, but I know Congress is going to push back,” he said, adding “But in this instance, there isn’t any significant pushback likely from Congress, there isn’t any other oversight mechanism, there isn’t any other forum for debate, and that’s part of what got into my decision making.”
By continuing to give Israel what Paul described as carte blanche to kill a generation of enemies, which will only create a new one, US interests are not served.
“What it leads to is this desire to sort of impose security at any cost, including in cost to the Palestinian civilian population,” he said. “And that doesn’t ultimately lead to security.”
“This administration, I think, knows better and understands some of the complexity but brought very little of that nuance to the policy decisions that are being made.”
Paul says he’s received an outpouring of support from State Department colleagues and congressional staff members.
“A lot of people are wrestling with this being the current policy and are finding it to be deeply problematic,” he said, adding “I’ve really been quite moved by some of the folks who have reached out to say that they understand where I’m coming from. They respect my decision. It’s been very supportive.”