A number of congressional Democrats are ramping up pressure on the Biden administration to more forcefully engage on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as violence in the region intensifies, revealing a delicate shift in the way Democrats have talked about Israel for decades and a small crack in the party on foreign policy.
The change in tone — subtle but noteworthy — comes as there is still disagreement within the party about how far to push. Those on the progressive fringes are trying to block a $735 million arms deal made with Israel, but there’s little chance of that happening in Congress given the timeline on Capitol Hill. “It would be appalling for the Biden Administration to go through with $735 million in precision-guided weaponry to Netanyahu without any strings attached in the wake of escalating violence and attacks on civilians,” Rep. Ilhan Omar, a progressive Democrat from Minnesota, said in a statement Monday. “If this goes through this will be seen as a green light for continued escalation and will undercut any attempts at brokering a ceasefire.”
Sen. Brian Schatz, a Democrat from Hawaii, said of the deal and whether Congress should block it, “I am not ruling anything in or out, but I think given the events of the last three or four days that has to be part of the conversation too.” Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez said he hadn’t seen the details of the arms deal but that he was likely to support the deal moving forward: “I think it preexisted the present conflict. We have a long history of supporting Israel as a security ally and in its own defense. So I would say yes.” Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee met Monday to discuss the situation in Israel and the proposed weapons sale. Sources familiar with the meeting told CNN that there was a spirited discussion of the situation. Members expressed a range of views. One cohort of lawmakers aggressively homed in on the arms sale issue, while another insisted that Israel deserves the right to defend itself, one source said.