This article comes from Security in Context's institutional partner Forum on the Arms Trade, under the title "Biden Administration Arms Sales and Transfers to Israel." Click here to be redirected to a continually updating timeline on the topic.

This resource page details developments related to U.S. arms sales to Israel under the Biden administration, beginning with a May 5, 2021, notification by the Biden administration to Congress of a possible direct commercial sale of $735 million in precision-guided weapons to Israel. That became controversial as fighting in Israel intensified and the notification became more broadly public around May 17, 2021.

In October 2023, as fighting erupted again, the Biden administration promised to rapidly deliver additional military assistance.

As explained in CRS reports, "In 2016, the U.S. and Israeli governments signed their third 10-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on military aid, covering FY2019 to FY2028. Under the terms of the MOU, the United States pledged to provide—subject to congressional appropriation—$38 billion in military aid ($33 billion in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) grants plus $5 billion in missile defense appropriations) to Israel."

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On October 20, President Biden requested supplemental funding, including "procurement of Iron Dome and David’s Sling missile defense systems and components, and development of Iron Beam" for Israel. See factsheet.

On October 19, Defense Department confirmed that in addition to Iron Dome, the United States had been providing "precision-guided munitions, such as joint direct attack munitions, small-diameter bombs, 155-millimeter artillery ammunition and other categories of critical equipment." President Biden gave a national address from the Oval office in which he said he would be "asking Congress to do is an unprecedented commitment to Israel’s security that will sharpen Israel’s qualitative military edge, which we’ve committed to..."

On October 14 during a visit to Israel, President Biden said " later this week, I’m going to ask the United States Congress for an unprecedented support package for Israel’s defense. We are going to keep Iron Dome fully supplied so it can continue standing sentinel over Israeli skies, saving Israeli lives."

On October 14, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced that he had directed the"USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group (CSG) to begin moving to the Eastern Mediterranean..." and that "Earlier in the week, the U.S. Air Force announced deployment to the region of squadrons of F-15, F-16 and A-10 fighter aircraft."​

On October 13, in prepared remarks in Israel, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said, "security assistance from the Department of Defense is already rapidly flowing into Israel. That includes munitions, air-defense capacities, and other key equipment and resources. It also includes more interceptors for Iron Dome...".

October 10, according to media reports, Israel received 1,000 250-pound small diameter bombs that were expedited under a pre-existing contract.

October 8, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced that the U.S. would move the Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group to the Eastern Mediterranean and that "the United States government will be rapidly providing the Israel Defense Forces with additional equipment and resources, including munitions."

October 7, as news of Hamas attacks in Israel and Israeli responses were coming, Ben Cardin, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee promised to introduce legislation to provide missile defense and other military support to Israel.

On March 29, U.S. lawmakers Representative Bowman and Senator Sanders issued a statement to Secretary of State Blinken and President Biden, calling for an investigation into if weapons sent to Israel are being used to commit human rights violations against Palestinians. If this were the case, it would be in violation of Section 502B of the Foreign Assistance Act (see media here).


According to CRS reporting, for FY2023 (Oct 1, 2022 to Sept 30, 2023), "Congress authorized $520 million for joint U.S.-Israel defense programs (including $500 million for missile defense) in the FY2023 James M. Inhofe National Defense Authorization Act. Per the terms of the MOU, Congress appropriated $3.8 billion for Israel (FMF and missile defense) in the FY2023 Consolidated Appropriations Act, and added $98.58 million in funding for other cooperative defense and nondefense programs."

In the omnibus appropriations legislation that became law on March 15, 2022, Congress provided $1 billion for Iron Dome supplies to Israel as stipulated in sec. 8142. This is in addition to the $500 million contributed annually for Israel's missile defense, bringing the total to $1.5 billion in 2022 (see media here).


On September 21, 2021, House Democrats, responding to pressure from progressive colleagues, removed a provision from the stopgap government funding bill that would have provided $1 billion in funding to Israel's Iron Dome air defense system. The next day, Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee introduced a separate bill (H.R. 5323)  to provide the Iron Dome funding, which passed the House in a 420-9 vote on September 23 (see vote). On October 4, Senator Menendez called for unanimous consent to approve funding, to which Sen. Paul objected. (See update, above, from March 2022.)

On July 30, a new notification of a possible $3.4 billion foreign military sale was notified to Congress, including 18 heavy lift helicopters and other equipment.

On July 27, Human Rights Watch issued a report finding that Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups carried out attacks during the May 2021 fighting "that violated the laws of war and apparently amount to war crimes."

On June 8, a diverse group of more than 100 organizations sent a letter to President Biden urging him to halt the sale (see also press release).According to news reports on May 25, licenses for these sales were granted by the State Department on May 21. Votes are not expected now on the resolutions of disapproval.

On May 25, Senator Ted Cruz introduced a resolution of approval for the sales, with 6 initial co-sponsors (S.Res. 237).

On May 19, Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mark Pocan, and Rashida Tlaib announced the introduction of a House resolution opposing the sale (with twelve additional initial co-sponsors), endorsed by dozens of organizations (see H.J.Res 49). On May 20, Senator Bernie Sanders introduced the resolution in the Senate (see S.J.Res 19).

On May 17, news broke that the Biden administration had notified Congress of the potential direct commercial sale of $735 million weapons to Israel on May 5 for Joint Direct Attack Munition variants and Small Diameter Bomb Increment I variants for end use by the Ministry of Defense for Israel (license document DDTC 20-084 - not available publicly). In the interim between May 5-17, fighting in Israel had intensified, with a great deal of attention and concerned placed on the actions of Israeli forces.

While for sales to most countries, Congress has 30 days from formal notification to pass joint resolutions of disapproval that bar the President from concluding sales, for NATO member states, NATO, Japan, Australia, South Korea, Israel, and New Zealand that timeline is 15 days. However, at any point until delivery, Congress can pass legislation blocking arms sales. (See CRS resource.)

According to a fact sheet from the Security Assistance Monitor, since fiscal year 2001, Israel has received more than $63 billion in U.S. security assistance, with over 90% funded by the State Department's Foreign Military Financing program. ​(Note: it does not appear, but is unclear, whether FMF funding is being used in this instance.)

Experts to contact: Josh Ruebner, Elias Yousif, Seth Binder, William Hartung, Jeff Abramson. Additional suggested experts include Hassan El-Tayyab (FCNL).

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Government (Biden administration)


Congressional Research Service

​Civil Society

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Oct 16, 2023
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