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Senate Dems unveil new push on conditions for Israel

More than a dozen Senate Democrats are pushing to condition U.S. military aid for Israel over its adherence to international laws for armed conflicts and delivery of humanitarian aid to Palestinian civilians in the war-torn Gaza Strip.

Progressive senators led by Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) introduced an amendment to the Israel-Ukraine-Taiwan supplemental funding bill that imposes these conditions. The proposal requires a report to Congress on each country’s use of U.S.-supplied weapons.

The effort is a reflection of some Democrats’ criticisms of Israel’s military operations in Gaza, which began in response to the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas terrorists. Several top Democrats have suggested Israel isn’t doing enough to limit civilian casualties, pointing to the thousands of Palestinian deaths. They’ve argued that Israel’s efforts to destroy Hamas have therefore been made less effective.

The amendment applies to all countries receiving U.S. aid as part of President Joe Biden’s new foreign-aid funding request, so it doesn’t mention Israel by name.

But the senators who sponsored it are among those progressives who’ve urged Biden to do more to ensure that Israel’s military is minimizing civilian casualties and allowing humanitarian assistance to enter Gaza. Five of the Senate sponsors named Israel in their statements supporting the amendment.

“American support cannot be a blank check to a right-wing Netanyahu government that has demonstrated a gross disregard for the lives of Palestinian civilians,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said.

Those Democrats who support placing conditions on the aid have noted that Congress routinely does this with other nations, including on human rights grounds. They argue that Israel shouldn’t be an exception.

But a majority of Democrats –including Biden – and pretty much all Republicans oppose the idea of conditioning aid for Israel, so it’s safe to say this amendment isn’t going anywhere.

Still, it’s been a point of contention within the Senate Democratic Caucus lately and among progressives nationwide, many of whom have called for a permanent ceasefire.

Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), a former synagogue president and a vocal Israel supporter, spoke on the Senate floor this week lambasting the idea of placing conditions on military assistance for Israel.

Rosen called out “members of my own party” for advocating an approach that she says would “undermine Israel’s ability to defend itself, and would send a signal to the world that America’s support for our ally is weakening, which is exactly what Iran and its terrorist proxies… want.”

Other Democrats have said the Biden administration’s current strategy — publicly and privately urging Israel to exercise more caution in its military operations — is a more effective one and has yielded results.

— Andrew Desiderio

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