Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez move to suspend weapon sales to Israel

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On Thursday morning, Netanyahu announced that he would convene a meeting of the security cabinet at 7 PM Jerusalem time (12 PM EST) to discuss next steps in the Gaza operation. This announcement holds the promise of the idea that Netanyahu may be about to announce a cease-fire, or at least steps toward reaching a cease-fire. But it’s unlikely that there will be any admission that this action comes as a response either to Biden’s call, or to the move to block the sale of additional arms.

Hamas’ actions deserve condemnation. The rockets it has been firing from Gaza are primitive, but there have been 4,070 in just the past 10 days. The 12 Israelis killed by those rockets—including two children—are just as dead as the 250 Palestinians dead as a result of Israeli airstrikes.

But Hamas is not all Palestinians. It doesn’t represent all Palestinians in Gaza, or act with anything like universal approval. At the same time, Netanyahu, whose minority government has scrambled to find a workable coalition after failing to secure a majority in an ongoing series of elections, certainly doesn’t represent all Israelis. It’s unclear whether Hamas or Netanyahu are acting out of any motivation except the preservation of their own power. It’s also unclear if the violence over the past 10 days will give Netanyahu the political boost that many expect.

The moral dimensions of the situation are complicated by the fact that Israel has far more power, both defensively and offensively, than Palestinians do in Gaza. Israeli defense forces could respond to the rocket attacks in ways that do not generate a large death toll. It’s a choice, not a requirement.

Considering how thoroughly Donald Trump burned down any trace that may have remained of the United States’ authority to act as an “honest broker” between Israel and Palestine, and how the U.S.’s reputation for upholding human rights is now thoroughly wrecked, the ability of the United States to exert a moral or political hold on either side of this conflict is severely constrained. 

In fact, there appears to be only one lever that the United States can control, and that’s the $3.8 billion in military aid that goes to Israel each year, an amount that accounts for 20% of that nation’s military budget. One aspect of that support is a pending sale of $735 million in precision-guided weapons. And that’s what Sanders and AOC are moving to halt.

“At a moment when U.S.-made bombs are devastating Gaza, and killing women and children,” said Sanders in comments to The Washington Post, “we cannot simply let another huge arms sale go through without even a congressional debate.”

Ocasio-Cortez was equally forthright in a written statement. “For decades, the U.S. has sold billions of dollars in weaponry to Israel without ever requiring them to respect basic Palestinian rights. In so doing, we have directly contributed to the death, displacement and disenfranchisement of millions.”

The move to suspend the arms sale follows a Wednesday letter from over 130 Democratic members of the House, saying: “Too many people have already died. More will unnecessarily perish if America does not act with the immediacy this violence demands.” The emphasis of that letter is on securing a cease-fire, but the leverage that the U.S. can exert to encourage ceasefire may—for now, at least—begin, and end, with the military assistance given to Israel.

“I believe that the United States must help lead the way to a peaceful and prosperous future for both Israelis and Palestinians,” said Sanders. “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.”

Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron joined Egyptian President Abdel Fattah a-Sisi and Jordanian King Abdullah on Thursday morning to call for an immediate cease-fire. France has raised the issue at the United Nations Security Council four times over the past 10 days, and helped to author a statement calling for a cease-fire. That statement condemns violence against innocent civilians, but does not mention Hamas or its role in the current crisis. The United States has used its Security Council veto authority to block the statement each time it has been introduced.

Credit: www.dailykos.com

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