3rd Thursday Alert: Urge Congress to Halt Arms to Israel & Push for Immediate Ceasefire

3rd Thursday Alert: Urge Congress to Halt Arms to Israel & Push for Immediate Ceasefire

After the failure of the Israeli government and Hamas to come to an agreement during negotiations, Israeli military action continues in Gaza, where the Palestinian death toll since October 7th is now said to have reached over 31,000.

Over 1.1 million people in Gaza, overwhelmingly civilians, are projected to face catastrophic levels of food insecurity between March and July 2024, according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification analysis released on 18 March. Humanitarian aid, including food and basic supplies, have failed to enter Gaza at a rate that is capable of stymieing mass starvation. With few operating hospitals, the Palestinian health system has collapsed and experts warn that disease outbreak will soon follow along with mass famine.

Amid growing pressure from the American public to negotiate an end to bombardments on Palestinian citizens and infrastructure in Gaza, the Biden administration has begun airdrops of humanitarian aid, in coordination with the governments of Jordan, Germany and Cyprus. In his State of the Union address, President Biden announced the U.S. would work with both governments to build a temporary pier into Gaza for shipments of humanitarian aid to reach Gazans. Experts acknowledge that neither the airdrops nor shipments are likely able to meet the demand for food and other supplies needed to ward off famine or disease. Some international humanitarian agencies have criticized the plan, saying a pier would not be needed to provide urgently needed supplies if Israel would facilitate, rather than block, the flow of supplies by land. Israel must open land access for humanitarian aid immediately and allow unfettered access for sufficient aid to avert further humanitarian disaster.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and eight other senators have written a letter to President Biden calling on his administration to discontinue military aid to Israel because of Israel’s violation of Section 620I of the Foreign Assistance Act by limiting humanitarian aid access into Gaza. 

President Biden has bypassed Congress more than once to fast-track arms and matériel to Israel. Despite the president’s executive order in early February that conditions this aid on human rights standards, the White House has said that suspension of aid is unlikely. Congress is currently considering $14 billion in new assistance to Israel, adding to its arsenal. Granting this aid would sanction the massive loss of life and destruction of communities in Gaza and would disregard the humanitarian and international rights obligations of Israel, the United States and the international community, which have been affirmed by the International Court of Justice.

President Biden has requested a review of impending military arms transfer to Israel, but no action – beyond this review – has yet been taken to halt the sales and armament deliveries amid Israeli action in Gaza.

Nonetheless, many Middle East policy watchers were all stunned last week to hear the sharp condemnation of the Netanyahu government by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), a renown champion of Israel in his four-decades in Washington and the highest ranking Jewish-American official in the U.S. government. The Majority Leader stated that Israel’s prime minister had “lost his way” and was a key “obstacle to peace.” Schumer called for the demilitarization of Palestinian territories and for new Israeli elections to be held.

This comes amid rising criticism of the Netanyahu government by Biden administration officials and a recent meeting in DC between senior administration officials and Israeli politician Benny Gantz, an outspoken opponent to Netanyahu. Other senior former Israeli officials – including former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and former Shin Bet Director Ami Ayalon – have also come out publicly against Netanyahu’s far-right approach to Gaza and the West Bank since October 7th. Despite this, Netanyahu retained funding support for his war among Israeli politicians in the Knesset this month.

Amid this political upheaval, hundreds of thousands of Palestinian lives are at stake, at-risk of death from disease, bombings, and famine. Americans must continue to call on their congressional representative and U.S. senators to uphold the U.S. obligation to prevent genocide in Gaza by rejecting more military aid and assistance to Israel, urge them to push for an immediate and permanent ceasefire, and to support continued humanitarian support to Gazans – both directly and through U.S. financial contributions to the leading humanitarian organization serving Palestinians, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.  

Only marginal improvements to the crisis may be achieved in the absence of a permanent ceasefire and experts warn that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza do not have much time.