Federal lawmakers opposed to selling military aircraft and tanks to the Egyptian government pressed on Thursday, despite the defeat of an amendment that would have blocked the sale and apparent uncertainty about how their plan would affect Israel’s security.
“I think it is a blunder of the first proportion to send sophisticated weapons to a country that allowed a mob to attack our embassy and to burn our flag,” Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul said on the Senate floor. “I find it objectionable to send weapons, F-16s and tanks to a country that allowed a mob chanting ‘death to America’ to threaten our American diplomats.”
Paul also argued that “these weapons threaten Israel’s security” and “someday may be used against Israel.”
But the pro-Israel lobbying group American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) actually opposed Paul’s amendment. An AIPAC official explained to The Daily Caller News Foundation that the committee feared that the measure, if passed, would diminish U.S. influence in Egypt.
The Senate voted 79 to 19 to table the amendment, which would have revised the debt ceiling bill to prohibit the federal government from selling F-16 fighter jets, M1 tanks and similar weaponry to Egypt.
Paul quickly reintroduced the measure as a separate bill, while Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe introduced his own legislation to suspend the sales.
“For months, I have been calling on the President and his Administration to delay F-16 deliveries to Egypt,” Inhofe said in a statement. “I still am insisting the Administration suspend this transaction to Egypt.”
But Inhofe didn’t support Paul’s amendment, which would have unconditionally banned the weapons transfer, because he wanted to make a distinction between the Egyptian government and its military.
“We need to continue to support the Egyptian military, which [Egyptian President Mohammed] Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood have currently distanced themselves from,” Inhofe said. “Egypt’s military is our friend — Morsi is our enemy.”
All 19 votes against tabling Paul’s amendments came from Republicans.