Bernie Sanders may force vote to block Israel weapons sale, as Democrats split over Gaza conflict

Progressives pressure Biden to get tougher on Israel amid conflict with Hamas

‘All Israel News’ editor-in-chief Joel Rosenberg and former State Department official David Tafuri debate the issue on ‘Fox News @ Night’

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., introduced a resolution Thursday to force a vote on whether to block weapons sales to Israel as the deadly conflict between the terrorist organization Hamas in Gaza and its neighboring state Israel rages. 

The Democratic socialist seeks to stop the recent sale of $735 million in weapons from the U.S. to the Israel Ministry of Defense, including Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) and Small Diameter Bombs, according to the resolution. 

“At a moment when U.S.-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 said in a statement. 

WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 28: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) arrives before President Joe Biden addresses a joint session of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol April 28, 2021 in Washington, DC. On the eve of his 100th day in office, Biden spoke about his plan to revive America’s economy and health as it continues to recover from a devastating pandemic.  (Photo by Melina Mara-Pool/Getty Images)

“I believe that the United States must help lead the way to a peaceful and prosperous future for both Israelis and Palestinians,” Sanders continued. “We need to take a hard look at whether the sale of these weapons is actually helping do that, or whether it is simply fueling conflict.”

Liberal Democrats in the House, led by Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Mark Pocan, D-Wis., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., filed a similar resolution in the House on Wednesday seeking to block the White House-approved sale of arms to Israel.

“The United States should not be rubber-stamping weapons sales to the Israeli government as they deploy our resources to target international media outlets, schools, hospitals, humanitarian missions and civilian sites for bombing,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Wednesday.

The joint resolution reflects the frustration liberal Democrats have expressed with the Biden administration over not doing enough to force a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas – the worst fighting since the 2014 war. Tlaib, the only Palestinian-American in Congress, confronted Biden personally on the tarmac in Detroit on Tuesday and engaged the president in a heated discussion about doing more to protect Palestinians and taking a stronger stance on Israel. 

U.S. President Joe Biden is greeted by U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib  at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, Detroit, Michigan,U.S., May 18, 2021. REUTERS/Leah Millis

The ongoing airstrikes have left at least 230 Palestinians dead, including 65 children and 39 women. Meanwhile, 12 people in Israel have died, including a 5-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl.

President Biden told Israel on Wednesday that he expected “a significant de-escalation today on the path to a cease-fire” — but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushed back, saying he was “determined to continue this operation until its aim is met.” It marked the first public rift between the two close allies since the fighting began.

A residential tower in Gaza was obliterated by an airstrike on May 16. 
(Mohamed el Saife via Storyful)

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sanders’ resolution. And a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., did not immediately offer insight into timing for a potential vote. Schumer, who has been a strong supporter of Israel, said Monday he backs bipartisan calls for a cease-fire led by Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Todd Young, R-Ind.

“I want to see a cease-fire reached quickly and mourn the loss of life,” Schumer told reporters Monday while declining to answer a question on whether the $735 million arms sale with Israel should go through. 

The Sanders resolution expressing disapproval for the sales of weapons to Israel is privileged, which means he will have the option to bring it up for a vote. The Washington Post first reported on the senator’s plans and noted the resolution would only need a simple majority to pass the Senate and the House. But if Biden were to veto the resolution, it would need a two-thirds majority in both chambers to survive. 


Congress has never successfully blocked an arms sales through a joint resolution of disapproval, the paper noted. Congress tried to block former President Trump’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, but Trump vetoed those three resolutions in 2019 and the sales worth more than $8 billion went through. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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