Progressive Democrats in Congress have continued criticizing U.S. funding for Israel despite a Friday cease-fire agreement between the Jewish state and terror group Hamas that ended 11 days of fighting.
The rebukes of Israel by U.S. lawmakers also comes amid a recent wave of anti-Semitic attacks in major American cities, with many of the assaults allegedly involving pro-Palestinian activists as the assailants.
"A cease-fire is necessary, but will not alone achieve freedom, justice, and equality for all who live under Israel's apartheid government," tweeted Democrat Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, the first Palestinian American woman in Congress. "The U.S. must condition funding to uphold human rights, and end the funding entirely if those conditions are not met."
Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., posted a similar message on Twitter, saying that "The Palestinian people deserve rights and freedom, not the daily repression of Israel’s ongoing military occupation." The McCollum and Tlaib tweets were among social media messages compiled in a report from The Hill on Monday.
In her tweet, McCollum, who has added influence as the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee chair, included a hashtag promoting a bill she is sponsoring that would ban American funding to Israel from being used to support "military detention, interrogation, abuse or ill-treatment" of Palestinian children, property seizures and forcible evictions in the Palestinian territories, and the deployment of personnel or equipment to annex territory in the West Bank.
These efforts, however, are likely to be blocked by influential Democrat leaders who continue to back aid to Israel, according to The Hill. President Joe Biden emphasized his support in recent days for Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system, which receives American funding and which is responsible for intercepting most of the thousands of rockets Hamas fired indiscriminately at densely populated areas during the flareup, keeping Israel’s death toll relatively low.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki added that, in addition to supporting the security of Israel, Biden want to move forward on another front, which "is playing a constructive role in rebuilding Gaza, providing assistance and funding through the U.N. efforts to do exactly that, ensuring that it is not Hamas but it is the Palestinian people who benefit from that assistance."
U.S. security assistance to Israel is established in a 10-year memorandum of understanding that was signed by the Obama administration and entered into force in 2018, according to The Hill. Under the deal, the U.S. provides $3.8 billion in security assistance each year, although the funding remains subject to the congressional appropriations process.
The funding includes $3.3 billion in foreign military financing and $500 million in missile defense assistance, including for the Iron Dome.
The first test by progressives eager to reexamine military aid to Israel could be a $735 million precision-guided munitions sale, which the Biden administration notified Congress it approved of before the latest conflict started and has received increased scrutiny since.
A group of progressives led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY., introduced a resolution in the House to block the sale, with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., doing the same in the Senate.
Sanders insists he will be able to force a vote in the upper chamber, even though the congressional review period for the sale has ended.
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