Unprecedented Statements by Top Democrats Against Israel Signal Party Shift

Unprecedented Statements by Top Democrats Against Israel Signal Party Shift
Tlaib, Sanders

US President Joe Biden last week called for an ‘immediate ceasefire’ and threatened to pull back support for Israel.

By Jack Elbaum, The Algemeiner

A growing number of prominent, mainstream US Democrats have made recent statements calling to condition Washington’s military aid to Israel and even suggesting the Jewish state is committing genocide, indicating a potentially larger shift within the party against one of America’s closest allies.

Prior to the Hamas terrorist group’s massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7 and the ensuing war in Gaza, members of a small group of vocal, young, far-left progressives were the only members of Congress consistently calling for conditions on aid to Israel and accusing it of egregious crimes.

Over the past few weeks, however, many more mainstream figures have joined the choir as Israel’s war on Hamas reached its six-month mark.

Last week, while speaking at the Islamic Center of Boston, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was asked if she believed Israel was committing genocide against the Palestinians in Gaza, the neighboring enclave ruled by Hamas.

She responded, “If you want to do it as an application of law, I believe that they’ll [the International Court of Justice will] find that it is genocide, and they have ample evidence to do so.”

The senator added, “For me, it is far more important to say what Israel is doing is wrong.”

Warren appeared to somewhat walk back her response after it went viral. Her office said in a statement that she was commenting “on the ongoing legal process at the International Court of Justice, not sharing her views on whether genocide is occurring in Gaza.”

The statement referred to ongoing efforts to argue before the International Court of Justice at The Hague that Israel’s defensive war against Hamas in Gaza constituted a “genocide.” South Africa failed in its bid earlier this year to make such a case.

Israel launched its military campaign following Hamas’ Oct. 7 invasion, saying its objectives were to free the hostages seized by the terrorists and to incapacitate Hamas, which murdered over 1,200 people and committed mass atrocities during the onslaught, to the point that it could no longer pose a serious threat to the Israeli people.

Nonetheless, US President Joe Biden last week called for an “immediate ceasefire” and threatened to pull back support for Israel due to the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

Biden’s warning came after his administration abstained from a UN Security Council resolution that de-linked a ceasefire from the release of hostages — Israel has said any truce must include the freeing of those still held captive.

This week, Biden suggested in an interview that he supports a unilateral Israeli 6-8-week ceasefire, seemingly implying it should be done even if it would leave all the hostages in Gaza.

The White House had to clarify that was not what he actually meant, and that he was reiterating support for both the hostages and ceasefire negotiations.

Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) said in an interview with The Algemeiner that he felt “the president has been fundamentally supportive of Israel,” but also noted he worried that “a number of the statements that have been made have gone too far and undermine Israel” in its war.

Biden expressed strong support for Israel in the weeks following the Oct. 7 massacre and his administration has sent significant amounts of munitions to the Israeli military since the start of the war.

According to Torres, however, the messaging from Biden and many other Democrats in recent weeks could benefit Hamas.

“Hamas knows that it cannot defeat Israel militarily. It can only defeat Israel diplomatically and geopolitically,” he explained. “And when you have members of Congress falsely accuse Israel of genocide, or targeting civilians, or assassinating aid workers, or using starvation as a weapon of war, or indiscriminate bombing … you are playing into the hands of Hamas.”

Last week, more than 30 House Democrats, including former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), sent a letter to Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken reading, “We strongly urge you to reconsider your recent decision to authorize the transfer of a new arms package to Israel, and to withhold this and any future offensive arms transfers until a full investigation into the airstrike [which accidentally killed World Central Kitchen aid workers] is completed.”

The letter continued: “We also urge you to withhold these transfers if Israel fails to sufficiently mitigate harm to innocent civilians in Gaza, including aid workers, and if it fails to facilitate — or arbitrarily denies or restricts — the transport and delivery of humanitarian aid into Gaza.”

Since Biden’s warning last week, Israel increased what were already significant amounts of aid entering Gaza.

Following the letter, Pelosi tried to clarify her stance in an interview on MSNBC, saying she was “not a fan of having conditions on aid to Israel.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Gregory Meeks of New York, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said on Tuesday that he would not approve a large arms transfer to Israel until he has more information about how the Jewish state would use the weapons.

“I’m waiting for assurances,” Meeks told CNN. “I want to make sure that I know the types of weapons and what the weapons would be utilized for.”

In a separate interview on CNN, Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) — a top Biden ally and longtime supporter of Israel — said “I think we’re at that point” when asked about conditioning aid to Israel.

“If Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister, were to order the [Israel Defense Force] into Rafah at scale, if they were to drop 1,000-pound bombs and send in a battalion to go after Hamas and make no provision for civilians or for humanitarian aid, then I would vote to condition aid to Israel,” he said.

Rafah is Hamas’s last stronghold in Gaza. The United States has been pressuring Israel not to move forward with a full-scale military operation in the southern Gazan city, where Israel says the Palestinian terrorist group still has four battalions.

Israeli officials have said they must operate in Rafah but are discussing with US counterparts how best to target Hamas there.

The recent flurry of criticisms of Israel came after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who is Jewish, told the Senate last month that Netanyahu’s government “no longer fits the needs of Israel” — a striking comment against a democratic ally at a time of war.

Amid heightened criticism from key Democrats and rising tensions between Washington and Jerusalem, some observers are warning that support for the Jewish state must remain bipartisan.

“Keeping support for Israel bipartisan is critical,” the group Democratic Majority for Israel told The Algemeiner. “History tells us there will be times when both of the two parties are in charge, and we need two pro-Israel parties. Right now, most Democratic leaders are pro-Israel, and we need to work very hard to ensure it remains that way.”

Torres concurred, noting that “there is no US-Israel relationship without bipartisanship.”

When asked about what appears to be an increasingly mainstream shift among Democrats against Israel, Torres argued that conditioning aid among Democrats is still a “minority position.”

However, he added that the increasingly frequent statements pressuring Israel to implement a ceasefire — when it has previously agreed to parameters for one and Hamas has rejected every deal over the past few months — could have the effect of helping the terrorist group in its war effort.

“International pressure is the only hope that Hamas has for achieving victory in the war,” Torres said.

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