US Senate rejects Bernie Sanders’ push to tie Israeli aid to human rights

Senators overwhelmingly reject the resolution, which could have imposed conditions on billions the US sends Israel.

Palestinian Doaa Abu Lashin reacts on seeing her daughter Zeinab Abu Lashin, who was killed in an Israeli attack
Palestinian Doaa Abu Lashin reacts on seeing her daughter Zeinab Abu Lashin, who was killed in an Israeli attack [File: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters]

The United States Senate has rejected a resolution seeking to impose conditions on security assistance to Israel.

Senators overwhelmingly voted against the motion late on Tuesday. It would have demanded that security aid to Israel be frozen unless the Department of State produces a report within 30 days examining whether Israel has committed human rights violations in its campaign in Gaza.

Seventy-two senators voted to set the resolution aside, versus 11 who backed it, easily clearing the simple majority needed to kill the resolution in the 100-member chamber.

The vote was forced by Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats. While the resolution was handily defeated, it reflected growing concern among some of President Joe Biden’s fellow Democrats, especially on the left, over the continued supply of US weapons to Israel despite the Gaza conflict’s heavy toll on Palestinian civilians.

“We must ensure that US aid is being used in accordance with human rights and our own laws,” Sanders said in a speech urging support for the resolution. He lamented that the Senate has failed to consider any measure looking at the war’s effect on civilians.

The White House had said it opposed the resolution, which could have paved the way towards the imposition of conditions on security assistance to Israel.

Senators who opposed the measure said it sent the wrong message at a time when Israel has said it was shifting to a more targeted campaign.

“This resolution is not only off-base, it’s dangerous. It sends absolutely the wrong signal at the wrong time,” said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.

The US has handed Israel $3.8bn in military assistance annually in recent years, ranging from fighter jets to powerful bombs. Amid the war in Gaza, President Joe Biden has asked Congress to approve an additional $14bn.

‘Cannot turn away’

Sanders’s resolution was filed under the Foreign Assistance Act, which allows Congress to direct the state to provide a human rights report and other information on any country receiving US security assistance.

“Hundreds of thousands of children in Gaza, innocent children, are starving right before our eyes. We cannot turn away. We must act,” Sanders said.

“Tragically, despite the efforts of the UN and others, despite the growing humanitarian crisis we are seeing, the situation has actually gotten worse in terms of getting aid to the people in need, to these children.”

If the resolution had passed, it would have required the State Department to provide a report to Congress within 30 days. After receiving the report, Congress could have considered another resolution proposing changes to security assistance to Israel.

The White House has rejected the approach from Sanders as “unworkable” as the Biden administration seeks a transition from Israel and works to ensure support at home and abroad against a stirring backlash to the scenes of destruction from Gaza.

Biden’s administration says it has pushed Israel to reduce civilian casualties, but Israel says it will not rest until Hamas, the ruling entity in Gaza, is eradicated from the coastal enclave.

The war began when Hamas carried out a surprise offensive across the border fence on October 7, which led to the deaths of 1,139 people.

In Gaza, health authorities in the latest tally said at least 24,285 people have been killed in the besieged enclave amid attacks by Israeli forces. Thousands more bodies are feared lost in the rubble.

Israel’s bombardment has driven most of Gaza’s 2.3 million people from their homes, some of them several times, and caused a humanitarian crisis, with food, fuel and medical supplies running low amid Israel’s siege of Gaza.

Source: News Agencies