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Biden Signs Security Memorandum; Does Not Expect To Enforce It with Respect to Israel

On Thursday night, Feb. 8, the White House published a new national security memorandum that lays out the standards countries that receive U.S. weapons must adhere to and, for the first time, requires the administration to submit an annual report to Congress about whether countries are meeting the requirements. It requires the Secretary of State to “obtain certain credible and reliable written assurances” from countries receiving U.S. military equipment under applicable laws that they “will use any such defense articles in accordance with international humanitarian law and, as applicable, other international law.”

The memorandum was issued in response to Senate Democrats who had expressed concerns that Israel was violating the human rights of Palestinians while employing U.S.-supplied weapons. However, within about half a day of issuing the memorandum, the White House said it did not expect to take action to suspend U.S. arms transfers to Israel. “There are no new standards in this memo,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at a Feb. 9 press conference. “Instead, we are spelling out publicly the existing standards by the international law, including the law of armed conflict.”

“We did brief the Israelis on this,” said Jean-Pierre. “They reiterated their willingness to provide these types of assurances.”

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