WASHINGTON: The United States has witnessed a noticeable change in sentiment regarding Israel’s invasion of Gaza, leading the Biden administration to advise Israelis against prolonging their offensive.
A collective statement from 14 US Senators has urged a humanitarian pause in Israel’s actions against Hamas. Additionally, left-wing Democrats in Congress have cited a significant law that restricts aid to security forces involved in human rights abuses to challenge the Biden administration’s emergency military aid programme for Israel.
“We join President Joe Biden in his call for a short-term cessation of hostilities that pose a high risk to civilians, aid workers, or humanitarian aid delivery in Gaza,” the senators wrote in the letter sent to US and Israeli authorities. The senators also underlined three goals:
- Successful delivery of needed humanitarian aid to civilians under strict and necessary oversight.
- Increased focus on the release of all prisoners in Gaza.
- Opportunity for broader discussion amongst Israeli and Palestinian leadership, together with regional and global partners, about long-term strategies to reduce the decades-long conflict in the region.
In a separate move, members of the Democratic Party’s progressive wing warned the administration that the $14.3 billion package pledged to Israel breaches the Leahy Act because Israel’s retaliatory assault on Gaza has overwhelmingly harmed civilians.
The law forbids US assistance to security forces that commit human rights violations.
“I am very concerned that our taxpayer dollars may be used for violations of human rights,” said progressive Congressman Andre Carson in an email to The Guardian, in which he accused Israel of “war crimes”, citing this week’s deadly bombing of the Jabalia refugee camp and the Israeli Defence Forces’ (IDF) alleged use of white phosphorus.
“Last year, I voted to provide $3 billion dollars of strategic and security assistance to Israel. But we must absolutely make sure that none of those funds are used inappropriately, in violation of US law like the Leahy Act, or in violation of international law,” Mr Carson wrote.
CNN reported on Saturday that President Biden and his senior aides have intensified their warnings to Israel, expressing concerns about the humanitarian crisis and civilian casualties in Gaza. They’ve urged Israel to consider the strategic consequences of eroding international support for their military operations against Hamas, the report added.
President Biden and his team fear that the global outcry against the suffering in Gaza could soon reach a tipping point, giving Israel limited time to achieve its objectives before facing increased pressure for a ceasefire.
The US media noted that the Biden administration has refrained from setting explicit red lines for Israel but has urged actions to ease humanitarian suffering and reduce civilian deaths. They’ve called for temporary humanitarian pauses, distinct from a ceasefire, to aid hostage releases and allow aid into Gaza.
While Israeli airstrikes have continued, Biden and his aides are alarmed by the humanitarian situation and have been pressing Israel to take steps to alleviate the crisis.
Published in Dawn, November 5th, 2023