WASHINGTON – President Biden’s carefully worded statement Monday in support of a ceasefire between Israelis and Palestinians came under mounting pressure from his own party to make the United States more skeptical of one of its closest allies.
Mr Biden’s urging to end the fighting – at the end of a round-up of a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – followed a drumbeat of calls from democratic lawmakers from across the ideological spectrum for his government to speak out strongly against the escalation of violence. It reflected a tone different from that expressed by members of Congress in previous clashes in the region, when most Democrats repeated their strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself and called for peace without its actions openly to critisize.
The strongest pressure is from the energetic progressive wing of the party, whose representatives in the House of Representatives such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York have drawn attention in recent days for accusing Israel of gross human rights violations against Palestinians and for practicing “apartheid” State. “But its intensity has masked a calmer, more concerted shift between more mainstream Democrats that could ultimately be more consistent.
While not intending to end the United States’ close alliance with Israel, a growing number of Washington Democrats are saying they are no longer willing to pass the country for its harsh treatment of the Palestinians and the spasms of violence they define to give up the conflict for years.
Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Gregory W. Meeks of New York underscored how skepticism about the Gaza election campaign had spread to some of Israel’s strongest defenders in Congress, and told Democrats on Monday in the panel that he would Biden administration is due to move to Israel a $ 735 million tranche of precision-guided weapons that was approved before tensions in the Middle East broke out.
Mr. Meeks, a fixture at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, the most powerful pro-Israel lobby group, convened an emergency meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee Democrats Monday evening to discuss the delay in the arms package to someone familiar with the meeting Person who insisted on anonymity to discuss internal discussions. It came after a number of Democrats raised concerns about sending American-made weapons to Israel at a time when civilians were being bombed, as well as a building that housed press offices, including The Associated Press, an American news agency.
A day earlier, 28 Democratic senators – more than half of the party conference – published a letter publicly calling for a ceasefire. The effort was led by Senator Jon Ossoff, Democrat of Georgia and, at 34, the face of a younger generation of American Jews in Congress. When Republicans pumped out statements accusing Hamas militants, the Democratic plea was a duty on both sides to lay down their arms – and Mr Biden to complain in order to demand it.
Another sign of development came over the weekend from Senator Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. Mr. Menendez is known as one of Israel’s most staunch allies in the Democratic Party. He has refused to reject President Barack Obama’s 2015 nuclear deal with Iran on the basis of the Israeli opposition.
However, on Saturday, as the death toll rose in Gaza and southern Israel, Mr. Menendez made a stern statement saying he was “deeply concerned” about Israeli strikes that killed Palestinian civilians and about the tower, housing news media. He urged both sides to “comply with the rules and laws of war” and find a peaceful end to the fighting, in which more than 200 Palestinians and 10 Israelis were killed.
“In response to thousands of Hamas rocket attacks against civilians, Israel has every right to defend itself against terrorists who want to cross them off the map,” Menendez said. “But no matter how dangerous and real this threat may be, I have always believed that the strength of US-Israel relations thrives when they are based on shared values of democracy, freedom, pluralism and respect for human rights and US rule is right. “
The Democrats, who had been the loudest critic of the Israeli government, said they wanted to send the president a message while he pondered how to deal with escalating tensions: Finding the old playbook Mr Biden used as a senator and vice president no longer the same support in his party.
“It didn’t work,” Representative Mark Pocan, a progressive Democrat from Wisconsin, told a top advisor to Mr Biden late last week, he said in an interview on Monday. “We’re going to work for peace in ways that you may not traditionally have heard.”
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Republicans and AIPAC have been quick to warn of a perceived weakening of United States commitment to Israel. When the New York representative Jerrold Nadler, who represents the country’s most Jewish district, led a group of 12 Jewish House Democrats a letter On Friday they stood by Israel but also said that the Palestinians “should know that the American people value their lives as much as we value Israeli life.” AIPAC worked quietly behind the scenes to keep lawmakers from signing.
Republicans have also seen a political advantage in using the most extreme statements of progressive Democrats to try to pull Jewish voters away from the party.
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader and supporter of Israel, condemned Ms. Ocasio-Cortez on Monday for describing Israel as “Apartheid state“And urged the president to” leave no doubt as to where America stands. “
“The United States must stand square behind our ally,” said McConnell, “and President Biden must stand strong against the growing voices within his own party that create a false equivalence between terrorists and a responsible state that defends itself.”
Few Democrats in Congress have gone that far. But in recent years many in the party have changed their approach.
Much of the postponement can be traced back to the Iran nuclear deal debate when Mr. Netanyahu, Israel’s right-wing leader, made concerted efforts to get involved in American domestic politics and kill the pact that Mr. Obama worked out. He portrayed support for the deal as a betrayal of Israel and worked to drive a wedge between Republicans and Democrats on the matter. Mr. Netanyahu’s close alliance with Mr. Obama’s successor Donald J. Trump only widened this party-political divide.
But the difference in tone also reflects a wider shift within the Democratic Party over the past decade. As democratic voters and liberals have become more self-consciously organized around concepts such as justice and systemic discrimination, their demand for more liberal political positions on immigration, policing and domestic armed violence has changed many people’s view of the conflict in the Middle East and Middle East violence that it produced.
Reflexive support for Israel’s right to defend itself, or calls for Israel and the Palestinian authorities to return to the negotiating table, is now seen by many on the left as the “linguistic equivalent” of our thoughts and prayers to the victims of the recent mass shootings “Said Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, a liberal pro-Israel advocacy group that has been working for years to shift the debate to counterbalance AIPAC.
“That is no longer good enough,” he said in an interview. “What the United States is doing is essentially international immunity to Israel.”
The momentum was seen last week after Ms. Ocasio-Cortez pounced on Andrew Yang, the leading candidate in the New York Mayor’s Race, for making a statement last week to “stand with the people of Israel”.
“It is extremely embarrassing for Yang to try to show up at an Eid event after making a chest-beating statement of support for a 9-child strike,” said Ms. Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter. (Mr. Yang later released a new statement saying his first was “too simplistic” and “did not acknowledge the pain and suffering on either side”.)
This has left some of Israel’s most vocal traditional allies in the party in an uncomfortable position.
Senator Chuck Schumer from New York, the majority leader, has remained largely silent since the fighting broke out in view of the countercurrents in his party and his home state, where he will have to be re-elected next year. Like Mr. Menendez, Mr. Schumer voted against the Iranian nuclear deal and represents the largest Jewish population in the country, from secular progressives to politically conservative Orthodox communities.
In response to a question asked by a reporter in the Capitol on Monday, Mr. Schumer said, “I want a ceasefire to be reached quickly and to mourn the loss of life.”