National Security

Republican resolution supporting Israel signals growing divide with Democrats

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Almost two dozen Republican senators have introduced a resolution condemning the Islamic militant group Hamas for its attacks on Israel, reaffirming U.S. support for the Jewish state.

The resolution signals a growing divide between Republicans and Democrats over U.S. support for Israel that has been historically bipartisan.

The resolution comes as military conflict between Israel and Hamas enters its second week, with indiscriminate rocket fire from Hamas and retaliatory Israeli airstrikes terrorizing populations on both sides. 

The resolution is led by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), and signed by 19 other GOP lawmakers reinforcing U.S. support for Israel to defend itself by “whatever means necessary.” It also condemns Hamas as an Iranian-backed terrorist organization responsible for the loss of innocent lives. 

The U.S. designated Hamas a terrorist organization in 1997. 

The resolution signals the growing divide between Republicans and Democrats in Congress on the relationship between U.S. and Israel that historically garners bipartisan support, but that has fractured in recent years over Democrats’ opposition to the policies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu related to the Palestinians and Iranians.

That divide accelerated during the former Trump administration, which shifted the U.S. position firmly on the side of Netanyahu’s policies. It also alienated centrist Democrats that sought to maintain support for Palestinian self-determination in a two-state solution and preserving Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. They are also critical of Netanyahu’s backing of Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran negotiated by the Obama administration. 

President Biden has tasked his officials to execute a quiet, intensive diplomacy to end the latest round of fighting between Israel and Hamas but has largely refrained from public statements that would appear to pressure Israel into a timetable to halt its operations in the Gaza Strip. 

Biden is coming under pressure from Democrats to do more to end the fighting, with nearly 30 Democratic senators issuing a statement on Saturday calling for a cease-fire.

He is also drawing the ire of progressive lawmakers in his party, led by firebrands like the first two Muslim women of Congress — Palestinian American Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who has accused Israel of being an “apartheid” state.

Unity in Congress for the relationship between the two nations is considered paramount to ensuring Israel’s security and survival — in the Middle East and in the face of international critics over its conflict with the Palestinians.

The latest outbreak of violence between Israel and Hamas began with Hamas firing rockets into Israel on May 10 in part as a response to rising tensions in Jerusalem over the past month that began with Palestinians protesting eviction orders in favor of Jewish settlers and also followed raids by the Israeli police inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Hamas is also seeking to increase its political clout following the indefinite delay of Palestinian presidential and parliamentary elections by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, which have not taken place for 15 years. 

Israel has responded to the rocket fire with punishing air strikes in the Gaza Strip that have targeted over 820 “terror targets” and killed more than 130 Hamas terrorists, according to the Israel Defense Forces. At least 10 Israelis have been killed from Hamas rocket fire, which has largely been intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.

Supporters of a cease-fire call for an end to Hamas rockets but also point to the rising numbers of Palestinian casualties, with more than 200 killed and more than 1,400 injured, and the destruction of buildings, including one that housed international media.

Tags Benjamin Netanyahu Ilhan Omar Joe Biden Rashida Tlaib
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