WHAT does a state allied to the West have to do before arms sales to it are stopped? Here is a gruesome question which Israel has forced us to ponder.

After tens of thousands of violent deaths, many of them of children; the maiming of countless others; the mass destruction of most of Gaza’s civilian infrastructure, including its medical system; and an entirely manufactured famine, even US president Joe Biden is finally getting queasy.

The Westminster Government? Less so.

Biden suddenly decided that red lines do in fact exist. For seven months, as Israeli leaders, generals and media outlets publicly engaged in bloodthirsty promises to exact collective punishment and the mass destruction of Gaza, which they acted on, the weapons kept flowing.

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Congress was bypassed by the US administration so the Israeli state could keep flattening a strip of land no bigger than east London.

As Rashida Tlaib, the only Palestinian-American representative in Congress, put it: “It’s no coincidence that immediately after our government sent the Israeli apartheid regime more than $1 billion with absolutely no conditions on upholding human rights, Netanyahu began a ground invasion to continue the genocide of Palestinians – with ammunition and bombs paid for by our tax dollars.”

The US State Department had commissioned a report to establish whether Israel had violated US and international humanitarian law in Gaza. It was due to be published this week but has been indefinitely delayed.

You don’t need to have insider knowledge to know that, notwithstanding an absurd stitch-up, the report would have established Israel has indeed engaged in wanton war crimes, which would then require the US to stop sending arms.

Yet instead Biden announced that his administration would stop supplying bombs and artillery shells if the Israeli state continued with its planned onslaught on Rafah.

He declared that would mean not “supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah, to deal with the cities”, adding that “civilians have been killed in Gaza as a consequence of those bombs and other ways in which they go after population centres”.

His mangling of the English aside – oh really, Mr President? You’ve only just noticed? Perhaps someone could tell him that, after the Israeli state ordered the mass forcible displacement of the Palestinian population, declaring they would be protected in the south, 2000lb bombs supplied by the US were repeatedly used in areas described as “safe zones”, causing mass civilian fatalities.

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In truth, what Biden said here should be regarded as a confession, rather than as something laudable. Of course he is aware of the consequences he directly facilitated of one of the most intense military onslaughts of our time.

Take Khan Younis, a city in the south near Rafah which, supposedly, could have been expected to be spared the obliteration suffered by the north. In truth, what it endured was even worse.

Journalists on the scene estimated 90% of its buildings were severely damaged and destroyed. As Nahedh, a Palestinian journalist, told me after fleeing Rafah with his family: “I can’t describe what is Khan Younis. It is totally destroyed. It’s something like ‘end of the world’ movies … horrible, sad, empty. Death everywhere. No inhabitants.”

Israel has enough ammunition to destroy Rafah if it so wishes. What is really going on here is panic on the part of Biden. Panic, because polling shows that a large majority of Democratic voters believe Israel is committing genocide.

That means millions of Americans are expected to vote for someone they believe has facilitated a genocide.

You can scream about lesser evils in their faces but expecting them to wear that moral stain for the rest of their life is a big ask. Similarly, Biden knows US power – already severely damaged by cataclysms like Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya – has been catastrophically damaged by Israel’s genocidal rampage. So his limited threat over weapons must be seen in a rather cynical light.

That said, it shows pressure from the peace movement works – and it underlines that the US always had huge leverage but has chosen not to use it. With public attitudes dramatically shifting against the Israeli state, pressure must now be built to force Biden to go even further.

He must also be held to account for the further horrors which will be unleashed by a Rafah offensive he made possible, despite his current handwringing, by offering Israel limitless military and diplomatic support for so long.

But note how our own Foreign Secretary, Lord David Cameron, has declared there will be no arms exports suspension.

That’s despite the fact that Alicia Kearns, Tory chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, was recorded declaring that government legal advice was that Israel had broken international law, necessitating an end to weapons sales and intelligence sharing.

Rebuttals that such sales are small in quantity are a nonsense – such weapons still kill, and if Britain ended sales, that would put pressure on other nations to follow suit.

That’s why the new Scottish administration must redouble calls for these arms sales to end – and why The National’s campaign was so important.