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Top House Armed Services Dem: Biden should have kept Israel aid pause quiet

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House Armed Services Committee ranking member Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said President Joe Biden should not have announced his plans to withhold weapons from Israel.

“I don’t think he should have done it publicly,” Smith said Friday on CNN. “I think the private conversations were very appropriate.”

Why it matters: It’s rare for a Democrat to break with Biden, and for the most part the president’s decision has been celebrated by progressives. Smith, as the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, has an outsized voice on national security matters.

Refresher: Biden said in a CNN interview that aired Wednesday that he would halt shipments of bombs and other munitions to Israel if it launched a major military invasion into the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

Support continues: It’s plain that the U.S. supports Israel as evidenced by the recent aid package and the military’s “huge role” in downing a barrage of Iranian missiles fired at Israel, Smith said. What’s less clear is what weapons Biden is restricting and that he wants Israel not to launch a full invasion of Rafah.

“I don’t think that is as clear as it should be, and I think the president should clear it up,” Smith said.

It’s also given Republicans ammunition to attack Biden as having backed off its Israel support.

“The facts don’t back that up,” Smith said.

Blame Hamas: The disclosure obscures that Hamas is the biggest obstacle to a ceasefire that’s been on the table for months, Smith said.

“We have to keep the pressure on Hamas to agree to that ceasefire,” he said.

An alternative to withholding weapons, Smith said, could have been to send them with restrictions on their use, as it does with Ukraine.