Senate Democrats push new amendment to condition US military aid to Israel

Washington Examiner

More than a dozen Senate Democrats are backing an amendment to President Joe Biden’s nearly $111 billion national security supplemental request that would place conditions on U.S. aid to Israel and other allies.

Progressive Democrats in the Senate are pushing the amendment to address the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip as a result of Israel’s war with Hamas since the Oct. 7 attack that killed about 1,200 on the Israeli side. The death toll in Gaza has surpassed 17,400 in the days since, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)Dick Durbin (D-IL)Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Brian Schatz (D-HI) are leading the effort, joined by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)Jeff Merkley (D-OR)Peter Welch (D-VT)Martin Heinrich (D-NM)Tom Carper (D-DE), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM)Bernie Sanders (I-VT)Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Ed Markey (D-MA).

The amendment, which would apply to all countries receiving weapons as part of the supplemental bill, would require the president to report to Congress within 30 days whether countries receiving military aid through the package are “fully cooperating with U.S. efforts and U.S.-supported international efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to civilians.”

The proposal also takes aim at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s initial resistance to allowing humanitarian aid to enter the Gaza Strip in the early days of the conflict. The legislation highlights existing U.S. law that already bans aid to any country that “prohibits or otherwise restricts, directly or indirectly, the transport or delivery of United States humanitarian assistance.”

It also calls for the president to report to Congress that any country using U.S.-funded military equipment is using it “with their intended purposes and U.S. end-use monitoring programs; international humanitarian law, the law of armed conflict, and U.S. law; the President’s 2023 Conventional Arms Transfer (CAT) Policy and the Defense Department’s Civilian Harm Mitigation and Response Action Plan.”

The push for the amendment comes after some Democrats had lobbied for similar conditions to be included in the original text of the Senate’s supplemental bill, which failed to pass amid a standoff over a border deal that is critical for the bill’s passage.

“It is imperative that all assistance to Israel abide by U.S. and international law, prioritize the protection of civilians, assure the provision of desperately needed humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza, and align with a long-term vision for peace, security, and two-state diplomatic solution,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) said in a statement.

Some Senate Democrats have previously raised concerns to Biden over Israel’s military operations in Gaza that have resulted in a growing death toll for Palestinian civilians. A group, led by Democratic members of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committee, sent a letter requesting that the administration brief them on how Israel was carrying out military operations in an effort to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza. A significant number of those Democrats have not signed on to the amendment.

A majority of Democrats, including President Joe Biden, are against the idea of conditioning aid for Israel. If the amendment made it to the floor, it would almost certainly fail. Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), a vocal supporter of Israel, slammed any effort to place conditions on military aid for Israel during a speech on the Senate floor this week.

“Congress has never used conditions on security assistance in order to strong-arm Israel, and now is not the time to start,” Rosen said in her speech. “Conditions would undermine Israel’s ability to defend itself, and would send a signal to the world that America’s support for our ally is weakening, which is exactly what Iran and its terrorist proxies, it’s what they all want.”

The president’s national security supplemental request includes more than $10 billion in defense spending for Israel.

The new effort to condition aid to Israel from progressive Senate Democrats comes as Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced a resolution of their own condemning Hamas and the rise of antisemitic protests.

“Since the terrible events of October 7th, we have witnessed a dramatic rise in violence and antisemitism in support of Hamas’ ideology,” Manchin said in a statement. “I’m proud to introduce this resolution with Senator Collins, and I will continue supporting the state of Israel in every way possible against Hamas’ terrorist agenda.”