The White House said on Sunday there was no change in its Israel policy after NBC News reported the United States was discussing using weapons sales to Israel as leverage to convince the Israeli government to scale back its military assault in Gaza.
“Israel has a right and obligation to defend themselves against the threat of Hamas, while abiding by international humanitarian law and protecting civilian lives, and we remain committed to support Israel in its fight against Hamas,” a spokesman for the White House National Security Council said. “We have done so since October 7, and will continue to. There has not been a change in our policy.”
NBC News reported earlier on Sunday that at the direction of the White House, the Pentagon has been reviewing what weaponry Israel has requested that could be used as leverage. The report cited sources and said no final decisions were made.
The report added that the US is considering slowing or pausing the deliveries in hopes that doing so will make the Israelis take actions such as opening humanitarian corridors to provide more aid to Palestinian civilians.
“There has been no request from the White House for DoD (Department of Defence) to slow down weapons deliveries to Israel,” a White House official said when asked about the NBC News report. “And not aware of any request to review weapons to potentially slow walk deliveries either.”
Among the weaponry the US discussed using as leverage, the NBC News report added, were 155mm artillery rounds and joint direct attack munitions (JDAMs), which are guidance kits that convert dumb bombs into precision-guided munitions.
Pelosi, who made the remarks in a CNN interview, provided no evidence for her claims. She was asked whether opposition to Biden’s policy in the war in Gaza could hurt the Democrat in November’s presidential election.
“I think some of these protesters are spontaneous, and organic, and sincere. Some I think are connected to Russia,” she said. “Some financing should be investigated and I want to ask the FBI to investigate that.”
Pelosi’s comments marked the first time a prominent US lawmaker has accused Russia’s leader of backing US protesters calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.
Protests demanding a ceasefire in Gaza have recently erupted across the US, including near airports and bridges in New York and Los Angeles, vigils outside the White House and marches in Washington. Demonstrators have also interrupted Biden speeches and events.
The protests have been organised by a range of human rights, Jewish and anti-war activist groups.
Democratic US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said on Sunday that opposition by many to the war in Gaza was based on “the indiscriminate loss of life” in the region.
“I think what we are seeing right now throughout the country is that young people are appalled at the violence and the indiscriminate loss of life,” she told NBC News when asked about the protests against Biden’s policy in Gaza.
Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel killed 1,200 people, according to Israeli tallies. Israel’s subsequent assault on Gaza has killed more than 26,000 Palestinians, over 1 per cent of the 2.3 million population there, according to Gaza’s health ministry. Many are feared buried in rubble.
Israeli bombardments have flattened much of the densely populated enclave, leaving most Gazans homeless, sparking food shortages and incapacitating most hospitals.