Liberal Democrats urge “no” vote on Israeli aid to put pressure on Biden on Gaz

A group of left-leaning House Democrats is urging their colleagues to oppose the $26 billion aid package for Israel expected to pass Saturday, hoping to maximize the party's number of “no” votes in an effort to send a warning to President Biden. about the depth of discontent in his political coalition over his support for Israeli tactics in Gaza.

Viewing the upcoming vote as a decisive moral choice, similar to congressional votes to authorize and fund the war in Iraq, progressive leaders in the House are working to rally a sizable bloc of Democratic opposition to the relief measure, which is all but certain. will become law in the next few days.

“In the wake of those votes, people came back much, much later and said, 'We shouldn't have allowed this to go forward,'” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Washington Democrat and chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. the debate over Iraq decades ago. “And I think this is that moment.”

Rep. Joaquin Castro, Democrat of Texas, called it a “deciding vote,” adding: “Either we will participate in the carnage, or we won't.”

There is little doubt that the bill, which would send some $13 billion in military assistance to Israel as it continues its offensive in Gaza, will pass the House, along with money for Ukraine, Taiwan and other American allies.

But progressive Democrats estimate that between 40 and 60 members of their party could oppose it on the House floor Saturday. This would be a surprising signal from Congress, where staunch bipartisan support for Israel has long been the norm. And it would highlight the sharp divisions that the war in Gaza has sown within the Democratic Party, even as more Democrats, including Biden, have begun to criticize Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's approach to the conflict and urge him to better protect the civilians.

The legislation would allocate $5 billion for Israel's defense capabilities and $9 billion for “global humanitarian aid,” including civilians in Gaza. But it would not place additional conditions on how Israel could use American military aid, nor would it block future arms transfers from the United States as a growing number of Democrats have sought to do.

Democrats who are leading the campaign against the Israel aid bill have said they strongly support the Jewish state and its right to defend itself, and would vote in favor of sending military aid that bolsters Israel's defense capabilities, to example by reconstituting the Iron Dome, David's Sling and Iron Beam defense systems. They also denounced the October 7 terrorist attack by Hamas that sparked the war, and said hostages taken by Hamas must be released.

But they argued that approving more offensive weapons without conditions was an untenable moral and political position that would amount to support for Netanyahu's continuation of the war, including his intention to invade Rafah over the Biden administration's objections. According to the local Ministry of Health, more than 33,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the beginning of the conflict, and the population is facing a food crisis.

“I understand the need for defensive weapons for Israel, particularly in light of Iran's attack,” said Rep. Ro Khanna, Democrat of California, who ran his first campaign on an anti-war platform and helped lead efforts to end U.S. participation in the war. in Yemen. “But there is no justification for providing bombs and weapons to Netanyahu to continue the war in Gaza that is killing thousands of innocent Palestinian women and children.”

Saturday's vote will be reminiscent of a similar situation in 2007, when the speaker at the time, Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, split a piece of spending legislation to allow Democrats to voice their opposition to funding the Iraq War by supporting the same time a bill on internal financing. Speaker Mike Johnson, Republican of Louisiana, similarly divided the foreign aid package for consideration Saturday to get each element across the finish line in the face of distinct coalitions of resistance to different parts of the bill.

In a critical test vote Friday, the House agreed, 316 to 94, to advance the package, with 39 Democrats — mostly progressives — joining 55 Republicans in opposition.

“This is the moment for members of Congress who support a safe and secure Israel to send a message that giving Netanyahu more offensive weapons is not a path to peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians,” said Congresswoman Becca Balint , Democrat from Vermont and the first Jewish member of Congress calls for ceasefire, she said in an interview. “I believe that giving Netanyahu more offensive weapons at this stage is condoning the destruction of Gaza that we have witnessed over the past six months. And it is also the green light for the invasion of Rafah.”

Rep. Lloyd Doggett, a Texas Democrat who led opposition to Iraq War funding in 2007, said conversations among congressional Democrats who opposed continued U.S. support for the war in Gaza were “no different ” from those that occurred 17 years ago.

“We could decide whether a much larger war takes place and whether American weapons end up causing the deaths of thousands of innocent people,” Doggett said.

Democrats who oppose the aid package for Israel represent a minority of their caucus. But they see a “no” vote as part of a strategy to pressure Biden to condition aid and halt future transfers of offensive weapons. Through numerous meetings, text chains and conversations with the administration, they worked to change the president's approach toward Israel while underscoring the electoral risks Biden faces among the voters who helped him get into the House Bianca in 2020 and who are now furious with her gesture. war management.

“The only way to get a course correction is for a sizable number within the Democratic caucus to say that change is needed,” Balint said.

Rep. Dan Kildee, a Michigan Democrat who has been pressuring Biden to withdraw offensive weapons from Israel, said a big “no” vote would strengthen the president's position to do so.

“It helps the administration to have a number of Democrats expressing themselves this way,” he said.

Rep. Greg Casar, Democrat of Texas, said he hoped a sizable number of Democrats opposed to the bill would give the Biden administration greater leverage to influence the Israeli government's approach to the war.

“I hope this vote demonstrates to the world that there is a really significant segment of the United States that doesn't want to see extended, expanded wars,” he said.

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