Israeli infantry soldiers train with light weapons outside the Tze'elim base in southern Israel near the Gaza Strip on November 20, 2023. A new U.S. security memorandum attaches requirements for countries receiving military to certify their compliance with international law. File Photo by Jim Hollander/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 10 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden has issued a national security memorandum requiring foreign governments receiving U.S. military aid to provide written assurance the assistance will be used in compliance with international law.
The White House's demand for extra accountability, issued Friday, takes place as Biden has ramped up his criticism of Israel's military campaign in Gaza, calling the continuing assault on Hamas "over the top" last week.
While Biden's ultimatum was not aimed at any specific country, it was noteworthy as it came on the heels of concerns voiced by lawmakers regarding Israel's Gaza campaign amid increasing accusations of genocide.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., last year proposed a budget amendment in which military aid would be similarly subject to international law compliance, but now says he will withdraw it in light of Biden's order.
"All of these key elements of the amendment have now been incorporated into the national security memo issued by the president, he said.
Van Hollen and more than a dozen Democratic lawmakers welcomed Biden's latest move, saying it would put additional guardrails on the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to protect human rights.
"Because we succeeded in getting the provisions of the amendment adopted as a matter of U.S. government policy, we will no longer be seeking a vote on the amendment because we've accomplished our goal now with the assistance of the president and the administration," Van Hollen added.
Biden's action comes 18 weeks after the Oct. 7 surprise attack against Israel by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which in turn led to an all-out invasion of Gaza by the Israeli military.
The action has so far resulted the deaths of 28,000 Palestinians, including Hamas militants, according an estimate issued by the Gaza Ministry of Health on Saturday.
Biden ordered 100 governments receiving weapons from the United States to provide "credible and reliable written assurances" to ensure compliance with global legal standards.
The directive further requires foreign governments to assure the delivery of U.S. humanitarian aid to civilian populations affected by conflicts, with regular progress reports submitted to Congress and the White House.
U.S. allies face a deadline to sign off on the assurances within 180 days. However, those involved in active conflicts such as Ukraine and Israel have just 45 days to comply.
Biden's order specifies that if any issues emerge with compliance, a plan must be implemented to address and resolve the situation.
"Such remediation could include actions from refreshing the assurances to suspending any further transfers of defense articles or, as appropriate, defense services," the memorandum says.
Since 1950, Israel has been the largest recipient of U.S. military aid, with about $3.8 billion annually from Washington, making it the top beneficiary of such funding worldwide.