- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 20, 2021

Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Marc Porcan have introduced a resolution to block the sale of $735 million of precision-guided weapons to Israel amid continued fighting against the Islamist group Hamas.

And Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont on Thursday introduced a similar resolution in the Senate.

“For decades, the U.S. has sold billions of dollars in weaponry to Israel without ever requiring them to respect basic Palestinian rights,” said Ms. Ocasio-Cortez of New York in a statement. “In so doing, we have directly contributed to the death, displacement and disenfranchisement of millions. At a time when so many, including President Biden, support a cease-fire, we should not be sending ‘direct attack’ weaponry to [Israeli] Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu to prolong this violence.”

The latest fighting between Hamas and Israel erupted earlier this month, with Palestinian officials in the Gaza Strip saying 227 Palestinians have been killed so far by Israeli fire. Israel says rockets fired by Hamas have killed at least 12 Israelis.

Ms. Tlaib, a Michigan lawmaker who is of Palestinian descent and has family in the region, said approving the arms sale to Israel “while failing to even try to use it as leverage for a cease-fire, sends a clear message to the world — the U.S. is not interested in peace, and does not care about the human rights and lives of Palestinians.”

Ms. Tlaib spoke with Mr. Biden during his visit to Michigan on Tuesday. Her office said she told the president, “Palestinian human rights are not a bargaining chip and must be protected, not negotiated.”

SEE ALSO: The U.S. must do more to help Israel, its strongest Middle Eastern ally

The president later praised her in a speech as a “fighter” and said he admires her passion.

Mr. Porcan, Wisconsin Democrat, is former co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

The measure has six co-sponsors, all Democrats, and is unlikely to receive a vote in the House, where Democratic leadership supports the arms sale. The U.S. provides Israel with more than $3.5 billion in military aid annually.

But the proposed resolution drew criticism from Republicans who said Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and Ms. Tlaib, members of the so-called “Squad” of leftist House Democrats, are anti-Israel.

“The Squad is gunning for a promotion from press secretaries for Hamas to defense secretaries for Hamas,” Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, tweeted in response to the resolution. 

Sen. Bill Hagerty, Tennessee Republican, said in an op-ed in The Washington Times on Thursday that he will soon introduce legislation for the U.S. to help Israel resupply its Iron Dome missile and rocket defense systems “that have saved the lives of countless Israeli civilians who have been the targets of Palestinian rockets.”

The proposal would authorize the administration to redirect money earmarked for Gaza to replenish the Iron Dome interceptors.

“Instead of pressing Palestinian leaders to see a path to peace, Mr. Biden is fecklessly rewarding their recalcitrance, including by resuming frozen U.S. foreign assistance that will benefit the Palestinian Authority,” Mr. Hagerty wrote. “It was in this context that Hamas and other extremists hijacked a complicated, decades-old real estate dispute in Jerusalem as their cause to incite recent violence. The emboldened terrorists then doubled down with waves of indiscriminate attacks, launching thousands of Iranian-supplied rockets against Israeli civilians.”

He said, “As Mr. Biden dawdles to avoid the wrath of the far left of his party, Hamas will see its use of civilians as human shields as an internationally acceptable practice.”

The Biden administration approved the potential weapons sale and sent it to Congress for formal review on May 5, giving lawmakers 15 days to object.

Mr. Sanders said Congress can’t allow another arms sale to Israel to proceed without a debate “at a moment when U.S.-made bombs are devastating Gaza, and killing women and children.”“I believe that the United States must help lead the way to a peaceful and prosperous future for both Israelis and Palestinians,” Mr. Sanders said. “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.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki deferred to the State Department about the proposed resolutions to block the arms sale. She did say, “We’ve had a long, abiding security and strategic relationship with Israel that has been certainly the case for decades.”

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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