Senate Democrats ask Biden for more clarity on Israel's strategy in Gaza

Letter signed by 24 Democrats and two independents shows growing fractures in President's party over war

In the letter, some Democrat senators ask President Joe Biden to ensure Israel does not make the same mistakes as the US has in the past. Reuters
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A group of US Senate Democrats on Wednesday wrote to President Joe Biden asking for more clarity on Israel's strategy in Gaza and how US aid is being used to help Israel and protect civilians.

They also mentioned America's failed military interventions as cautionary tales.

“The attacks of October 7 brought back chilling memories of the United States’ own confrontation with terror 22 years ago,” the letter reads.

The senators were referring to Hamas's attacks on Israel, in which militants killed 1,400 people and took more than 240 hostages, and the terrorist attacks on the US on September 11, 2001.

“In light of our own experience, we want to underscore how critical it is that Israel: (1) learn from the mistakes the United States made in our fight against terrorism by focusing on realistic and achievable military goals; and (2) abide by the laws of war, including the protection of civilians.”

The Biden administration has asked Congress for $105 billion to be used in funding for Israel, Taiwan and Ukraine, and humanitarian aid.

Last week, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives approved a $14.3 billion funding bill for Israel.

“We believe the United States should immediately provide Israel with the funding it needs to replenish its defensive systems, including Iron Dome and other air defence capabilities,” the letter continues.

“But to better understand the efficacy of US funding that supports Israel’s operations inside Gaza, we respectfully ask your team to provide us with information relative to these two clear US priorities: supporting an Israeli strategy that will effectively degrade and defeat the threat from Hamas; and taking all possible measures to protect civilians in Gaza.”

Israel began a near-constant bombardment of the Gaza Strip after the October 7 attacks, with the stated goal of wiping out Hamas.

More than 10,500 Palestinians have been killed so far, mostly women and children, according to Gaza authorities.

In the letter, the signatories ask the President to ensure Israel does not make the same mistakes as the US has in the past.

They urge him to “share with us your assessment of the viability of Israel’s military strategy in Gaza, and whether it prioritises the release of hostages”.

Antony Blinken softens tone towards Palestinians in Gaza – video

Antony Blinken softens tone towards Palestinians in Gaza

Antony Blinken softens tone towards Palestinians in Gaza

It also asks Mr Biden for information on what the US is doing to guarantee the Israeli military is acting within the bounds of international law, and “how our assistance will advance our efforts to engage with Israel, Egypt and the broader international community” to address the plight of civilians in Gaza.

“As we consider additional military assistance to Israel, we must not only do our part to provide urgently needed humanitarian relief to Gaza, but also insist that Israel take all necessary measures to help us facilitate such relief to the two million civilians living there, half of them children,” the letter reads.

“That includes fully restoring water, electricity and communication services, expediting fuel deliveries through already well-established systems for avoiding diversion to Hamas, and opening the Kerem Shalom crossing in southern Israel to increase urgently needed humanitarian relief to Gaza.”

Mr Biden has, since the start of the conflict, been outspoken in his support for Israel, travelling to the country in the days after the Hamas attacks and promising continued military aid to the country.

He has, however, also been increasing pressure on Israel to allow for “humanitarian pauses” in the fighting that would allow the entry of aid into Gaza and the exit of hostages and foreign citizens.

The letter, signed by 24 Democrats and two independents, is a sign of growing fractures within Mr Biden's Democratic Party over the war.

Dick Durbin, the second highest-ranking Democrat in the Senate, has supported calls for a ceasefire.

And Palestinian-American Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, who was censured on Tuesday over her comments on the war, has been vocal in her criticism of the administration's approach to the conflict.

Chris Murphy, member of the Senate foreign relations committee, has avoided calling for a ceasefire, but issued a statement saying Israel's military operation in Gaza has been “unacceptable”.

Updated: November 08, 2023, 9:24 PM