The Senate rejected a resolution on Tuesday put forward by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., that would have potentially frozen U.S. aid to Israel.
Sanders forced a vote on the measure, which would have required the State Department to complete a report within 30 days on whether Israel has used weapons provided by the U.S. to commit human rights violations in Gaza. Failure to do so would have halted further aid to Israel amid the war against Hamas.
However, the Senate voted down Sanders’ legislation, which was opposed by the Biden administration, in an overwhelming 72-11 vote. A majority of Democrats sided with Republicans against the effort, but a handful of progressives who have been increasingly critical of President Biden’s policy towards Israel supported Sanders.
“While there is no question in my mind that Israel has the right to defend itself and go to war against Hamas, who started this terrible situation, Israel does not have the right to go to war against the entire Palestinian people and innocent men, women, and children in Gaza,” Sanders said in remarks delivered on the Senate floor. “Tragically, that is what we’re seeing.”
BERNIE SANDERS TO FORCE SENATE VOTE ON RESOLUTION THAT COULD FREEZE AID TO ISRAEL
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., introduced a resolution that would have required the State Department to complete a report on whether Israel has committed human rights violations with U.S. military aid. The resolution was voted down 72 to 11. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, sparked by the terrorist group’s Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel, has prompted unprecedented destruction in the tiny coastal enclave and triggered a humanitarian catastrophe that has displaced most of Gaza’s 2.3 million population and pushed more than a quarter into starvation, according to the U.N.
Sanders cited death toll figures published by the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza, which estimates that more than 24,000 Palestinians have been killed and over 60,000 wounded by Israeli airstrikes. That data cannot be independently verified, and Hamas does not distinguish between civilian and military casualties.
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President Biden, left, has asked Congress for an additional $60 billion in aid to Israel. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / Contributor)
Israel blames Hamas for the high death toll, saying its fighters make use of civilian buildings and launch attacks from densely populated urban areas.
After Hamas’ attack on Israel, 1,200 people were killed and around 250 people were taken hostage. As of this month, Israel believes more than 130 hostages are still in captivity in the Gaza Strip.
Though President Biden has stood firmly behind Israel’s right to self-defense, the worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza has led to calls from the international community for a ceasefire. Biden has publicly called for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and earlier this month said he is “quietly working” to pressure Israel into reducing its troop presence in Gaza.
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In the meantime, Biden has asked Congress to pass an additional $60 billion in aid to Israel, on top of the $3.8 billion in annual aid for military defense approved under the Obama administration.
While the president’s position has been harshly criticized by the far-left, several Democratic senators expressed opposition to threatening U.S. aid to Israel.
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“While I do believe the United States Congress should be fully informed of the nature of Israel’s war in Gaza while we continue to support our ally, I am concerned that the resolution could potentially cut off all aid to Israel and send a message that invites other adversaries in the region to expand the current conflict,” said Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., in a statement.
Republicans have remained united behind Israel. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., ripped the Sanders resolution as an attempt at “tying the hands of a close ally locked in a necessary battle against savage terrorists,” in remarks delivered on the Senate floor.
Fox News’ Jamie Joseph contributed to this report.