President Biden conceded to critics within his party Friday that calls to put specific conditions on aid to Israel are a “worthwhile thought” amid the country’s war against Hamas in Gaza.
But at a press conference marking a four-day truce in the war to free 50 hostages taken by Hamas, Biden also implied that those conditions could hamper diplomacy.
“I think that’s a worthwhile thought, but I don’t think if I started off with that we ever would have gotten to where we are today,” Biden said. “We have to take this a piece at a time.”
The president has been under immense pressure from a growing group of Democrats who have criticized the Biden administration for strongly backing Israel in the conflict, despite a growing number of civilian casualties in Gaza.
“The blank check approach must end,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wrote in a New York Times op-ed published Wednesday. “The United States must make clear that while we are friends of Israel, there are conditions to that friendship and that we cannot be complicit in actions that violate international law and our own sense of decency.”
The war in Gaza has killed more than 12,000 Palestinians, including more than 4,600 children, since it began early last month, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.
Biden said he has repeatedly pressured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to better consider the lives and well-being of Gazan civilians.
“I’ve encouraged the Prime Minister to focus on trying to reduce the number of casualties while he is attempting to eliminate Hamas, which is the legitimate objective use,” Biden said. “That’s a difficult task.”
“And I don’t know how long it will take,” he continued. “My expectation and hope is that as we move forward, the rest of the Arab world and the region is also putting pressure on all sides to slow this down to bring this to an end as quickly as possible.”
Progressive Democrats have pushed the Biden administration to call for a long-term cease-fire in the conflict, arguing that the Israeli military strategy puts too many Palestinian civilians at risk. They have been joined by hundreds of former Biden campaign staffers and have sparked division in the State Department.
In his op-ed this week, Sanders described the Israeli strategy as one of “indiscriminate bombing.”
“The Netanyahu government, or hopefully a new Israeli government, must understand that not one penny will be coming to Israel from the U.S. unless there is a fundamental change in their military and political positions,” Sanders said in the statement.
The U.S. already requires that all counties that receive military aid, by law, abide by international law. The progressives argue that the measure has entirely been ignored in the case of Israel.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said the U.S. applies conditions for “virtually all other … allies,” and doing so for Israel is “the responsible course.”
“The United States has a legal and moral responsibility to ensure that public resources do not facilitate gross violations of human rights and international law,” she wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
Source: The Hill