By Andrew Trunsky
Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders is set to introduce legislation Thursday that would block a $735 million arms sale to Israel.
The resolution would halt the sale of Joint Direct Attack Munitions and Small Diameter Bombs to America’s top Middle Eastern ally, according to a draft of the legislation first reported by The Washington Post, amid the worst violence between Israel and Hamas in years. It only needs a simple majority to pass the Senate, but would need two-thirds support to overcome a potential veto by President Joe Biden.
“At a moment when U.S.-made bombs are devastating Gaza, and killing women and children, we cannot simply let another huge arms sale go through without even a Congressional debate,” Sanders wrote on Twitter Thursday. “I believe that the United States must help lead the way to a peaceful and prosperous future for both Israelis and Palestinians. We need to take a hard look at whether the sale of these weapons is actually helping do that, or whether it is simply fueling conflict.”
Just a day earlier, Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Mark Pocan introduced a similar resolution opposing the arms sale.
“For decades, the U.S. has sold billions of dollars in weaponry to Israel without ever requiring them to respect basic Palestinian rights,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a statement. “In so doing, we have directly contributed to the death, displacement and disenfranchisement of millions.”
Biden demanded a de-escalation between Israel and Hamas on Wednesday as casualties continued to increase and a growing number of Democrats increased pressure on him to do so. He was rebuffed by Netanyahu, who said he was “determined” to continue airstrikes, leading to a rare break between Israel and the United States.
Dozens of Democratic senators called for an immediate ceasefire Monday, and the two top lawmakers on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee released their own statement urging the same. Indiana Sen. Todd Young, the committee’s top Republican, seemingly walked back his support for a ceasefire Wednesday, saying that he would oppose a ceasefire “on Hamas’ terms.”
Sanders wrote an op-ed for The New York Times last week criticizing the U.S. for being an “apologist” toward Netanyahu’s government, urging the American military to not “enable human rights abuses” in the region.
“This approach must recognize that Israel has the absolute right to live in peace and security, but so do the Palestinians,” he said. “But if the United States is going to be a credible voice on human rights on the global stage, we must uphold international standards of human rights consistently, even when it’s politically difficult.”
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