United States Senator Bernie Sanders on Thursday introduced a legislation in Congress which seeks to halt the sale of weapons worth $735 million to Israel. The comes in line with similar moves made by progressive Democrats, however, which stands little chance of success.
A clear majority of Republicans are supporting Israel in their conflict with Gaza, which authorities say has claimed the lives of more than 200 people.
However, with Democrats more divided, President Joe Biden and his administration are under pressure from their party’s liberal flank.
“At a moment when US-made bombs are devastating Gaza, and killing women and children, we cannot simply let another huge arms sale go through without even a Congressional debate,” Sanders, an independent Senator from Vermont, was quoted as saying by AFP.
Sanders can bring the resolution to a vote, even if Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer does not agree with him. But the legislation is unlikely to garner the 51 votes it needs to be passed, as a number of Democrats are not in its favour.
Congress was officially informed of the latest sale to the Israel defence ministry, totalling $735 million, on May 5. And lawmakers have until Thursday to present and approve a resolution opposing the sale, according to Conrgessional rules.
But backers of the resolution say the vote can be held even after Thursday.
Sanders’ move comes after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez introduced a similar legislation in the House of Representatives.
“At a time when so many, including President Biden, support a ceasefire, we should not be sending ‘direct attack’ weaponry to Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu to prolong this violence,” she said in a statement.
Despite the Democratic majority in the House, Ocasio-Cortez’s resolution also has very little chance of passing. Democratic leaders, who do not support the resolution, have not set a date for a vote.
A substantial majority of American Jews identify as Democrats, and the party traditionally has supported Israel, albeit with a few critical voices.
The latest Middle East bloodshed, however, has stirred up fresh criticism of the Jewish state among moderate Democrats.
Biden toughened his tone Wednesday, telling Netanyahu that he expects “significant de-escalation” in Israel’s military confrontation with the Palestinians.
The violence between Israel and armed Palestinian groups, the worst in years, has claimed at least 239 lives — mostly Palestinians — in 10 days.