Bernie Sanders says he wants to ‘kill funding for Netanyahu’s war machine – period’

The independent senator from Vermont has been a long-time opponent of unconditional US aid to Israel

Katie Hawkinson
Washington, DC
,Eric Garcia
Friday 09 February 2024 23:37 GMT
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Senator Bernie Sanders condemns ‘immoral’ Israeli attacks in Gaza in December 2023

Outside the Senate chambers, moments after he finished an impassioned floor speech, Senator Bernie Sanders minced no words when he told The Independent his thoughts on US aid to Israel.

“What I want to do is kill the funding for [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s war machine — period,” Mr Sanders told The Independent.

The independent senator from Vermont opposes unconditional aid to Israel.

“What the Netanyahu government is doing is immoral,” Mr Sanders said during a Senate floor speech in December 2023. “It is in violation of international law, and the United States should not be complicit in those actions,” he added.

Mr Sanders’ latest comments come after President Joe Biden released a memorandum outlining aid conditions for foreign countries on Thursday.

Under the memo, the Secretary of State must “obtain certain credible and reliable written assurances from foreign governments receiving defense articles and, as appropriate, defense services.” In addition, the “Secretaries of State and Defense are responsible for ensuring that all transfers of defense articles and defense services” comply with international and domestic law.

Mr Sanders said the memo is an important step forward, but it won’t be effective in the case of Israel.

“It does not apply to Israel because, according to the [Biden] administration, Israel is acting consistent with US policy,” Mr Sanders told The Independent.

Meanwhile, Georgia Senator Jon Ossoff called the move “substantial.” He said that for the “first time” foreign governments receiving US security assistance will have to show in writing compliance with international law.

“The Executive branch will have to report to Congress and the public with respect to their compliance,” Mr Ossoff told The Independent. “It’s about the moral credibility of the United States.”

The Leahy Law — which refers to two statutory provisions and is named after former senator Patrick Leahy — is somewhat similar, preventing the federal government from using funds to assist foreign governments when there is credible information they have committed “gross violations of human rights.”

Mr Ossoff said the Leahy Law differs from Mr Biden’s memo because it only applies on a “unit-by-unit basis.”

In addition to his memo, Mr Biden called the Israeli government’s military action in Gaza “over the top” during a press conference on Thursday night addressing the Special Counsel report on his classified documents case.

According to the Gaza Health Ministry, Israel’s offensive has killed more than 27,000 Palestinians. The four-month-long offensive began after Hamas militants launched a surprise attack on Israel on 7 October. Hamas militants killed 1,200 people in Israel and kidnapped some 250 people and took them back to Gaza.

Prior to the memo, 19 senators had expressed their support for an amendment to the bipartisan security bill — which is currently under debate by the US Senate as of Friday afternoon — that would ensure foreign aid is contingent on recipients complying with international law.

As of Friday afternoon, the Senate is in a 30-hour debate period on the bipartisan immigration bill negotiated by Republican Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma, Independent Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut.

Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, who led the push for the amendment, said Mr Biden’s memo meets their demands.

“Because we’ve now accomplished our goal in law, we will not offer that amendment,” Mr Van Hollen told The Independent.

The bill, released on Sunday evening, was met with immediate ire from both Republicans and Democrats. The Senate will vote on Friday evening on a motion to proceed on the bill, which could then lead to an amendment process over the weekend.

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