Senate Democrats challenge Biden on Israel, seek assurances on aid | ET REALITY


The Republican-led House of Representatives approved money for Israel last week, but that bill did not reach the Senate because it also includes domestic spending cuts and omits aid from Ukraine. The Senate has not yet adopted any alternative.

The senators did not threaten to withdraw their support for aid to Israel, but their direct requests for more information and accountability about the weapons they will be asked to approve were further evidence of a change in tone among Democrats on the war. It has paralleled that of Biden himself, who has become more critical of Israel’s response to the Hamas attack, in which more than 1,400 people were killed and hundreds taken hostage, which caused an increase in casualties and sparked a humanitarian crisis. in Gaza.

The senators made a distinction between defensive aid to Israel, for which they expressed unequivocal support, and military assistance that would go to further Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip, about which they raised important questions.

“We believe that the United States should immediately provide Israel with the funding it needs to replenish its defensive systems, including Iron Dome and other air defense capabilities,” the group wrote. “But to better understand the effectiveness of US funding supporting Israel’s operations inside Gaza, we respectfully ask your team to provide us with information regarding these two clear US priorities: supporting an Israeli strategy that will effectively degrade and defeat the threat of Hamas and taking all possible measures to protect civilians in Gaza.”

The senators said they were committed to Israel’s success and that their concerns were based on a desire for Israel to avoid the kind of strategic mistakes that could worsen its long-term security.

“The October 7 attacks brought back chilling memories of the United States’ own confrontation with terrorism 22 years ago,” they wrote. They encouraged Israel to “learn from the mistakes the United States made in our fight against terrorism by focusing on realistic and achievable military objectives, and to respect the laws of war, including the protection of civilians.”

The letter from Senate Democrats also comes amid growing pressure from the party’s left wing, where lawmakers and activists have been campaigning for a ceasefire and condemning Biden for being complicit in what they see as a genocide of Palestinians. genocide is defined under international law as a crime committed with the intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, whether in times of war or peace. Israel’s leaders have said they are targeting Hamas, not Palestinian civilians.

On Tuesday night, the House censured Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat and the only Palestinian American in Congress, for her harsh criticism of Israel and her suggestion that its policies led to Hamas’s attack and acceptance of a pro-Palestinian slogan that many consider calls for the destruction of Israel. She took advantage of the debate on the resolution to ask for solidarity with the plight of the Palestinian people.

In the letter, Senate Democrats asked for information on “what specific mechanisms they are putting in place to ensure that Israeli military operations conducted inside Gaza are carried out in accordance with international humanitarian law and to ensure that any equipment provided by the United States is use safely.” manner consistent with U.S. law.” They specifically requested an assessment of whether Israel’s military rules of engagement, particularly with regard to mitigating civilian casualties, are in line with US policy and practice.

White House officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the letter.

Biden and his top deputies have repeatedly stated that the United States stands shoulder to shoulder with Israel as it seeks to eradicate the Hamas threat. But in recent weeks, he and senior administration officials have spent a lot of time emphasizing the importance of protecting Palestinian civilians caught in the crossfire, urging Israeli leaders to commit to humanitarian pauses to facilitate food deliveries, water and fuel to the besieged residents of Gaza. leave the Strip to escape the fighting.

Many of the letter’s signatories have openly urged the administration to prioritize the protection of Palestinian civilians, both in Gaza and the West Bank, where dozens have died from settler violence since the start of the war. In the letter, they ask Biden to obtain public guarantees from both Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president with authority over the West Bank, to quell violent attacks against each other’s people.

The signatories are a cross-section of Senate Democrats who have taken different positions on the conflict in recent days. Durbin is the only one who has backed calls for a ceasefire under certain conditions, including that Hamas first agree to release all hostages in its custody. Also signing the letter were two independent senators, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine.

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