A State Department official at the bureau that oversees the arms trade resigned this week in protest of the Biden administration’s decision to continue sending weapons and ammunition to Israel as it besieges Gaza in its war with Hamas.
In his letter of resignationJosh Paul, who for more than 11 years served as director of congressional and public affairs for the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, said the Biden administration’s “blind support for one side” led to policy decisions that were “short-sighted, destructive, unfair and contradictory to the very values that we publicly represent.”
“The response that Israel is taking, and with it the American support for that response and the status quo of the occupation, will only lead to greater and deeper suffering for both the Israeli and Palestinian people,” he wrote, adding, “I fear that we are repeating the same mistakes that we’ve made for the past decades and I refuse to be a part of it any longer.”
In an interview, Mr. Paul said Israel’s cutoff of water, food, medical care and electricity to Gaza, a territory of two million people, should trigger protections in a series of longstanding federal laws aimed at keeping American weapons out of the hands of human rights abusers. . But those legal safeguards are failing, he said.
“The problem with all these provisions is that it depends on the decision of the executive branch that there was a violation of human rights,” said Mr. Paul. “The decision to make a decision does not rest with some non-partisan academic entity, and there is no incentive for the president to actually determine anything..”
Mr. Biden has embraced Israel since Hamas killed more than 1,400 people and took nearly 200 hostages in an attack earlier this month, and his administration is preparing a request for $10 billion in mostly military aid, aides familiar with the plan said. But during a visit to Tel Aviv on Wednesday, Mr. Biden also warned Israelis against indulging in “all-consuming rage” that could take the country too far in response, and his administration pressed Israel to limit civilian deaths.
Israel said the scale and gruesomeness of the Hamas attack justified its response and that it was acting in accordance with international law. The State Department’s press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday night.
Mr. Paul, whose resignation was was previously reported by The Huffington Posthe said he has seen the US government approve numerous sales or shipments of materials to other Middle Eastern countries, even when he believed federal law should have prevented them from moving forward.
“For all of them, there’s a point where you can say, OK, well, you know, it’s out of my hands, but I know Congress is going to say no,” he said, stopping short of transferring or warming officials at Capitol hearings. “But in this case, there’s no likely significant pushback from Congress, there’s no other oversight mechanism, there’s no other forum for debate, and that’s part of what went into my decision-making.”
Continuing to give Israel what he described as carte blanche to kill a generation of enemies, only to create a new one, ultimately does not serve the interests of the United States, Mr. Paul said.
“What this leads to is a desire to impose security at any cost, including the cost to the Palestinian civilian population,” he said. “And that ultimately doesn’t lead to safety.”
“I think this administration knows better and understands some of the complexity, but has brought very little of that nuance to the policy decisions that are being made.”
Since posting his resignation letter online on Wednesday, Mr. Paul said he has received an outpouring of support from State Department colleagues and congressional staff members.
“A lot of people struggle with that being the current policy and find it deeply problematic,” he said. “I’ve been really touched by some people who have come forward to say they understand where I’m coming from. They respect my decision. She was very supportive.”