In remarks from the Senate floor condemning what he called Israel’s “immoral” attacks in Gaza, US Senator Bernie Sanders objected to unconditional military aid to Israel requested by President Joe Biden’s administration as part of a spending bill up for a vote this week.
“It is in violation of international law, and the United States should not be complicit in those actions,” he added.
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer intends to put funding requests – which include more than $14bn in aid for Israel as well as $60bn for Ukraine – up for a vote on the Senate floor this week.
Mr Sanders said it would be “irresponsible” for the US “to provide an additional $10.1bn in unconditional military aid that will allow the Netanyahu government to continue its current offensive military approach,” as more than 15,000 people in Gaza have been killed amid Israel’s ongoing siege and retaliatory military campaign in the wake of Hamas attacks in Israel on 7 October.
Roughly 2 million Palestinians in Gaza, or more than 85 percent of the population, have been displaced, according to the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees.
The senator said Israel’s “indiscriminate approach” is “offensive to most Americans” and urged Israel to dramatically change course.
Mr Sanders laid out his proposed conditions to support a package tied to military aid for Israel, including a “political process” for peace, allowing Gaza residents to return to their homes, a freeze on settlement expansions, and an end to Israel’s 16-year-long blockade and the killing of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.
President Biden has said that conditions for Israeli aid are a “worthwhile thought” but the administration has largely refused to press the issue.
Mr Sanders is not among senators who have explicitly called for a ceasefire. Sixty House members and three US senators have publicly supported calls for a ceasefire in the war, while polls have shown that roughly two-thirds of American voters support a ceasefire.
In a letter to House and Senate leaders on Monday, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget warned that the US will soon run out of assistance to Ukraine by the end of the year, a loss that would “kneecap” Ukraine amid its war with Russia if Congress fails to pass new funding.
The president’s $106bn funding package, bundling aid to Ukraine and Israel, will face fierce opposition from Republican lawmakers who have refused ongoing assistance for Ukraine.
The administration’s package also would include billions of dollars to bolster the US-Mexico border, though it’s unclear whether that’s enough to draw more GOP support. Meanwhile, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a standalone assistance package for Israel.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky is expected to address senators by video on Tuesday about “what’s at stake” for his beleaguered country, should that funding fail to advance.
Mr Schumer told the chamber that the US cannot afford to “put a price on defending democracy in its hour of need, because if Ukraine falls, Putin will keep on going, autocrats around the world will be emboldened, democracy – this grand and noble experiment – will enter an era of decline.”
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