As we've been covering in previous weeks, Senate Democrats have now blocked aid to Israel multiple times. This is despite such a bill giving needed support to our ally in the Middle East passing the House with bipartisan support. President Joe Biden has threatened to veto the legislation, as he and other Democrats insist it be tied to aid for Ukraine, another foreign policy disaster that took place under Biden's presidency. Just when it seemed that Democrats couldn't get worse on this bipartisan issue, they've now come up with a new idea as to how Israel can get that aid, if Congress ever even approves it in the first place.
On Saturday, POLITICO published a report noting that "Democrats in Senate, House discuss conditioning military aid to Israel." While the subheadline offers that "Conversations in Congress are preliminary and it’s unclear if lawmakers will actually pressure the White House to change course," that's still not a comforting thought.
As the piece mentions:
Democrats in the House and Senate are discussing how to create conditions for future military aid to Israel, according to two party members, one in each chamber.
The debate among mainstream Democrats is preliminary, and it’s unclear if the conversations will evolve into congressional action. But White House officials are aware of the discussions, the Senate Democrat said, and have been warned that administration allies could openly push for conditions in the near future.
The senator added that Capitol Hill discussions about restricting humanitarian aid going into Gaza have prompted Democrats to hold similar debates on conditioning military aid to Israel. “That’s a conversation I never heard significantly before — until now,” said the lawmaker. The House member, who like others was granted anonymity to detail sensitive discussions, said Democrats are “moving toward” pushing for those conditions on future support.
The Pentagon declined to comment. The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Earlier this month, Vice President Kamala Harris said “we are not going to create any conditions on the support that we are giving Israel to defend itself.”
Democrats have not settled on how, or even if, to push for conditions on military aid to Israel. But both lawmakers said current conversations revolve around using existing authorities such as invoking the Leahy Law, which prohibits sending funds to countries where there’s credible information about human rights violations.
One former senior defense official, also granted anonymity to detail sensitive discussions, said it is “unlikely” the administration will put conditions on its aid to Israel.
“It’s very difficult to condition military aid because how would you guarantee it and how would you construct it? Especially in this instance, we’re not in a position to really instruct a friend and an ally,” the former official said. “Suggest to them, yes. Urge them, yes, but not necessarily condition our aid. I think that would be a bridge too far.”
Although the House and Senate Democrat are not named in the piece, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is mentioned by name. He even gets a separate piece of his own from POLITICO.
As that POLITICO piece noted, Sanders' criticisms are on the military response as well as the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:
Sen. Bernie Sanders on Saturday called for U.S. aid to Israel to be conditioned on a change in the “military and political positions” of its government.
“While Israel has the right to go after Hamas, Netanyahu’s right-wing extremist government does not have the right to wage almost total warfare against the Palestinian people,” the Vermont senator said in a statement.
Sanders also said continued aid should be contingent on a commitment to peace talks for a two-state solution and the end of the Israeli blockade or occupation of Gaza.
Under Sanders’ proposal, the U.S. would withhold further aid “unless there is a fundamental change in their military and political positions.”
Sanders, who is Jewish, has been critical of Israel but has also faced calls from fellow progressives for not being critical enough when it comes to calls for a ceasefire. Back in May, Sanders was responsible for allowing Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) to hold an event regarding Israel's founding as a "Nakba," or "catastrophe," around the time of its 75th anniversary.
The event was held in the committee room for the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), which Sanders chairs. He did so without consulting or even informing Ranking Member Bill Cassidy (R-LA), who expressed outrage. Sanders made his move after then Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) had blocked the event from being held at the Capitol.
"Bernie Sanders faces blowback as progressives urge cease-fire in Gaza," read a recent headline from The Washington Post. Cornel West, who is running for president as an Independent, also emphasized that Sanders' views and calls for a pause were "getting pretty pathetic."
A November 16 statement from Sanders' office noted, in part, "I wish there was a simple solution to this conflict. There isn’t. Non-binding resolutions that Congress won’t pass can’t do that."
There has been intense scrutiny in the way that Israel has conducted its military campaign to fight back against Hamas following the October 7 terrorist attack that killed 1,200 Israelis, most of them civilians. It was the bloodiest day in the country's history, with the most Jews killed in a single day since the end of the Holocaust. Hamas indiscriminately targeted men, women, and children. Not even babies or Holocaust survivors were spared. Hamas also engaged in rape, torture, and kidnapping. Recent reports indicate there is a deal being worked on to release the hostages.
Last Monday, Townhall attended a screening that showed footage from October 7. At 43 minutes long, it was less than 10 percent of the total footage. In his remarks before the footage was shown, Eliav Benjamin, the Deputy Head of Mission to the Embassy of Israel, discussed "a time of determination," specifically "a time when Israel is striking against one of the worst terrorist organizations in the world and fighting a just war, not on Israel's behalf and not just on the behalf of the Jewish people, but on behalf of the free world." Benjamin also spoke to how "I don't believe Israel should be apologizing for anything it is doing now, on the contrary. It is our obligation to take care of our people."
Further, when it comes to some of the scrutiny that Israel receives, Hamas has been caught hiding behind civilians at hospitals, something that the White House has also confirmed and footage has proved.
Democrats have looked to increasingly be in disarray over supporting Israel, especially as numerous polls show that Democrats and young people are becoming less and less supportive of our ally in the Middle East. An NBC News poll released on Sunday noted that Biden is now at 40 percent–the lowest of his presidency with this poll–and focuses on how he's handled the Israel-Hamas war.
This is all while many Democratic officeholders claim to be supportive of Israel, with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who is Jewish, chief among them. Last Tuesday, he and members of both parties spoke at the "Stand with Israel" event, where hundreds of thousands of attendees showed up. It was that same day that Democrats blocked Sen. Roger Marshall's (R-KS) bill providing aid, just as they had done the week before that.
The suggestion of conditioning aid has drawn ire from other members of Congress, including from fellow Democrats. This includes Democrats who have been supportive of Israel with their social media posts, comments, and votes, including Reps. Jared Moskotwitz (FL), Jake Auchincloss (MA), and Ritchie Torres (NY).
I am absolutely for humanitarian aid to Gaza.— Jared Moskowitz 🟧 (@JaredEMoskowitz) November 18, 2023
But if Bernie Sanders puts political requirements on the Aid to Israel, I will work in the House to remove those conditions or condition Aid to Gaza that requires the removal of Hamas.
Let’s not play this game. Send the aid to both https://t.co/Cx1ma2EhB8
I didn’t agree with conditioning aid to Israel when Republicans did it and I don’t agree if Democrats are trying to do it. https://t.co/bHWax2KqUE— Rep. Jake Auchincloss 🟧 (@RepAuchincloss) November 18, 2023
The Islamic Republic of Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas would love nothing more than to see an erosion of the US-Israel relationship.— Ritchie Torres (@RitchieTorres) November 18, 2023
We play into their hands not only at Israel’s peril but also our own.
Rep. Mike Lawler (R-NY) not only came out strongly against conditioning aid, he also went after fellow New Yorker, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D), for her calls to do so. This included a reference to how the Squad member had seen the footage.
Ocasio-Cortez has been among those demanding a ceasefire, as have other Democrats, including and especially members of the Squad.
After watching the raw footage of the terrorist attacks of October 7th, how the hell can you try to morally equivocate what Hamas did to innocent women and children with Israel defending itself? The war criminals are Hamas. Why haven’t you called for their surrender? https://t.co/xXJ8DCnu7Q— Mike Lawler (@lawler4ny) November 19, 2023
Over my dead body. Conditioning aid to Israel is not only outrageous, it is signing their death warrant. There is no moral equivalency here — Hamas is a terrorist organization that barbarically killed and injured thousands of innocent civilians. Israel is defending itself. https://t.co/ZOWFUKoxT0— Mike Lawler (@lawler4ny) November 19, 2023