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

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

The United States Senate decisively rejected a resolution aimed at imposing conditions on security assistance to Israel. The vote, held late on Tuesday, saw 72 senators voting against the motion, while only 11 backed it, easily surpassing the simple majority required to dismiss the resolution in the 100-member chamber.

Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, forced the vote on the resolution, which would have called for the freezing of security aid to Israel unless a report on potential human rights violations in its Gaza campaign was produced by the Department of State within 30 days. Despite its defeat, the resolution underscored concerns among some Democrats, particularly on the left, regarding the ongoing supply of US weapons to Israel amid the heavy toll on Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

Sanders, in advocating for the resolution, emphasized the need to ensure that US aid aligns with human rights principles and domestic laws. He criticized the Senate for failing to consider measures examining the impact of the conflict on civilians. The White House had previously expressed opposition to the resolution, fearing it could lead to imposing conditions on security assistance to Israel.

Opponents of the measure argued that it conveyed the wrong message, especially at a time when Israel signaled a shift to a more targeted military campaign. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham labeled the resolution as not only misguided but also dangerous, sending an inappropriate signal.

The United States has been providing Israel with $3.8 billion in annual military assistance, covering various assets from fighter jets to powerful bombs. Amid the Gaza conflict, President Joe Biden sought an additional $14 billion from Congress.

Sanders filed the resolution under the Foreign Assistance Act, allowing Congress to direct the State Department to furnish a human rights report and related information for any country receiving US security assistance. He underscored the urgency of acting in the face of a humanitarian crisis affecting hundreds of thousands of children in Gaza, emphasizing that the situation had worsened despite international efforts.

Had the resolution passed, the State Department would have been required to submit a report to Congress within 30 days. Subsequently, Congress could have considered another resolution proposing changes to security assistance for Israel.

The White House rejected Sanders’ approach as “unworkable,” as the Biden administration aimed to navigate a transition from Israel and sought support both domestically and internationally, countering a growing backlash against the scenes of destruction in Gaza.

Biden’s administration has asserted efforts to push Israel to reduce civilian casualties. Still, Israel remains committed to its goal of eliminating Hamas, the ruling entity in Gaza. The conflict, initiated by a surprise offensive from Hamas on October 7, has resulted in the deaths of 1,139 people. In Gaza, health authorities reported a death toll of at least 24,285 people in the besieged enclave, with thousands more feared lost in the rubble. Israel’s bombardment has displaced most of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents, leading to a humanitarian crisis marked by shortages of food, fuel, and medical supplies due to Israel’s siege.