Progressive United States legislators have introduced a measure to block the sale of $375m in weapons to Israel, saying the Biden administration should not be “rubber-stamping” arms transfers to the Israeli government as it bombs the besieged Gaza Strip.
On Wednesday, a group of Democratic Party lawmakers led by Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez introduced a resolution to block the recently announced sale of precision-guided munitions to Israel.
The Washington Post first reported the Biden administration on May 5 had notified Congress of the deal, which includes Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) used to turn bombs into precision-guided missiles.
“The United States should not be rubber-stamping weapons sales to the Israeli government as they deploy our resources to target international media outlets, schools, hospitals, humanitarian missions and civilian sites for bombing,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted on Wednesday.
“We have a responsibility to protect human rights.”
The United States should not be rubber-stamping weapons sales to the Israeli government as they deploy our resources to target international media outlets, schools, hospitals, humanitarian missions and civilian sites for bombing.
We have a responsibility to protect human rights. https://t.co/OctBNYFpwp
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) May 19, 2021
The proposed sale drew widespread condemnation from rights advocates and progressive legislators, who are demanding that US President Joe Biden pressure Israel to end its ongoing military offensive on Gaza.
Hamas, the Palestinian faction that governs the coastal territory, had launched missiles towards Israel in what it said was a response to an Israeli crackdown on Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem and attacks on worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque.
By Wednesday afternoon, Israeli air attacks on Gaza had killed at least 227 Palestinians, including dozens of children, displaced tens of thousands of families, and destroyed critical infrastructure. At least 12 people, including two children, have also died in Israel.
Biden and his top administration officials have insisted that they are working behind the scenes to put an end to the ongoing violence, but the US has blocked several attempts by the United Nations Security Council to call for a ceasefire.
Critics have pointed to decades of unwavering US support for Israel – including $3.8bn in annual military assistance that Washington provides to the Israeli government annually – to call on Biden to demand an end to the bombing campaign.
The US president spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier on Wednesday and “conveyed … that he expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire”, the White House said in a readout on the call.
Al Jazeera’s Kimberly Halkett, reporting from Washington, DC, said the statement did not explain “how this could happen … or what the benchmarks could be”, however.
Netanyahu also said shortly after the call that he was “determined” to continue bombarding Gaza until Israel’s “aim is met”.
Meanwhile, Biden continues to be under pressure from members of his own Democratic Party to do more, and Halkett said the resolution put forward by Ocasio-Cortez aims to send the president a message.
“There’s no way that this resolution could block that sale. It’s largely symbolic. But what these [members of Congress] are doing … is essentially using their leverage to try and delay that sale and to really force Israel’s hand to stop the violence.”
Also on Wednesday, independent US Senator Bernie Sanders introduced a resolution in that chamber calling for “an immediate ceasefire to prevent any further loss of life and further escalation of conflict in Israel and the Palestinian territories”.
“I want everybody to think for a moment what it means to be living in a very small territory with dozens and dozens of planes attacking and bombing. What does it mean in particular to the children of Gaza?” Sanders said on the Senate floor.
I'm on the Senate floor NOW calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza. https://t.co/LkHMQKU1zg
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) May 19, 2021