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McConnell hits Democratic critics of Israel

McConnell hits Democratic critics of Israel
© getty: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellWhy the Democrats need Joe Manchin Out-of-touch Democrats running scared of progressives The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Bipartisan group reaches infrastructure deal; many questions remain MORE (R-Ky.) on Wednesday took a shot at Democratic critics who have called on the Biden administration to put more pressure on Israel to halt planned evictions of Palestinian families from East Jerusalem, which has contributed to a recent flareup in violence.

The GOP leader voiced strong support for Israel and criticized rocket attacks launched by Hamas into Israel as “barbaric terrorism” and “not a legitimate protest.”

“Whatever complaints Palestinians have with Israel’s government, wanton violence against civilians is completely and totally inexcusable,” he said on the Senate floor.

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“Nor is it legitimate for Israel’s obsessive critics to suggest any equivalency whatsoever between these inexcusable attacks and Israel’s measured and quite targeted response against terrorists,” he said.

He criticized pro-Palestinian protesters in Washington and other cities.

“Here in Washington, street protesters screamed — listen to this — 'Israel is a terrorist state,'” he said. “Some members of Congress echoed that rhetoric almost exactly. Look, the state of Israel has every right of self-defense.”

McConnell was referencing a comment from Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarSimmering Democratic tensions show signs of boiling over Pelosi signals no further action against Omar The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Bipartisan group reaches infrastructure deal; many questions remain MORE (D-Minn.), a member of the progressive “squad” of House Democrats, who on Monday said “Israeli air strikes killing civilians in Gaza is an act of terrorism.”

“Palestinians deserve protection,” she tweeted. “Unlike Israel, missile defense programs, such as Iron Dome, don’t exist to protect Palestinian civilians. It’s unconscionable not to condemn these attacks on the week of Eid,” referring to the Muslim holiday.

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Other progressives, such as Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenMark Cuban: ProPublica 'not being honest' about taxes on wealthy On The Money: Bipartisan Senate group rules out tax hikes on infrastructure | New report reignites push for wealth tax New report reignites push for wealth tax MORE (D-Mass.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Energy: Biden seeks to reassert US climate leadership | President to 'repeal or replace' Trump decision removing protections for Tongass | Administration proposes its first offshore wind lease sale On The Money: Democrats wary of emerging bipartisan infrastructure deal, warn of time crunch Out-of-touch Democrats running scared of progressives MORE (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-N.Y.), have spoken out against a plan to evict Palestinian families from East Jerusalem, which is now under review before the Israel Supreme Court.

Warren tweeted Saturday that the Biden administration should “make clear to the Israeli government that these evictions are illegal and must stop immediately.”

Sanders said the “evictions must not go forward,” while Ocasio-Cortez said “we stand in solidarity” with Palestinians residents in East Jerusalem and criticized Israeli forces for “forcing families from their homes during Ramadan and inflicting violence.”

McConnell on Wednesday instead sought to put the focus on Hamas’s recent attacks, instead of the proposed evictions.

“Yet again air raid sirens have been sounding in Israel. Israeli civilians have been huddling in basements, shelters and hospital stairwells. Hamas rocket attacks are lighting up the skies, hitting buildings and terrorizing, injuring and killing innocent people,” he said. “Of course, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic jihad receive significant support from Iran.”

Clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian protesters escalated a month ago when Israel restricted Palestinian gatherings at the start of Ramadan. The proposed evictions in East Jerusalem have also fueled tensions. 

Updated 12:15 p.m.