Backing Biden, Pelosi calls for cease-fire in Israel
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday called for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas militants, joining President Biden in urging the sides to end the escalating hostilities that have killed hundreds of people in recent days, including scores of Palestinian children.
In a brief statement, Pelosi emphasized Israel’s right to its own self-defense and placed the blame for the bloodshed squarely on Hamas — an echo of Biden’s statement, which also stopped short of calling on Israel to stop its missile strikes immediately, as a growing number of liberal Democrats have done.
But Pelosi also argued the importance of fostering stability in the region, encouraging leaders of both sides to put down their arms and get busy negotiating a long-term peace agreement.
“It is in the U.S. national security interest to support security in Israel. Hamas exploited a volatile situation to initiate hostilities against Israel, launching more than 3,000 rockets, and as always, Israel has a right to defend herself,” Pelosi said.
“Now, after more than a week of hostilities, it has become even more apparent that a ceasefire is necessary,” she added. “There must be a serious effort on the part of both parties to end the violence and respect the rights of both the Israeli and Palestinian people.”
Pelosi’s call came a day after Biden had spoken with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the escalating bloodshed. Afterward, the White House issued a brief statement indicating that Biden had “expressed his support for a ceasefire and discussed U.S. engagement with Egypt and other partners towards that end.”
There was no mention of a timeline, however, and Netanyahu has vowed to continue the missile strikes on Gaza, where more than 200 Palestinians have been killed, including more than 60 children, since the hostilities began.
Hamas militants, for their part, have launched thousands of rockets over the past week, killing roughly a dozen Israelis, including at least two children and a solider.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Tuesday also sided squarely with Biden’s approach, defending Israel’s right to respond to rocket attacks from a terrorist group, Hamas, that opposes Israel’s right to exist as a strictly Jewish state.
“The problem, obviously, is that Hamas situates itself among hospitals, schools, civilian populations,” Hoyer said. “So it’s very difficult to respond to their rocket batteries which are located among those items.”
The conflict has confronted Democratic leaders with a tricky balancing act.
On one hand, they want to demonstrate their clear support for Israel, the only true democracy in the Middle East and America’s closest ally in the region. On the other, they’re facing a growing wave of anger from liberal Democrats, on and off Capitol Hill, who are accusing the conservative Netanyahu of doing far too little to limit the civilian casualties in Gaza.
“Instead of condemning blatant crimes against humanity and human rights abuses, many members of Congress have instead fallen back on blanket statements defending Israel’s air strikes against civilians under the guise of ‘self-defense’ without even a mention of the children killed,” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) said last week on the House floor.
Biden agitated the debate this month when he greenlighted roughly $735 million in arms sales to Israel — a move revealed on Monday. The news sparked outcry from liberals, some of whom are accusing the United States of complicity in war crimes.
The approval prompted Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, to consider asking Biden to delay the sale to allow Congress more time to consider it.
On Tuesday, however, Meeks revealed a new plan stalling the request for a delay: Instead, he said, members of the Foreign Affairs panel will huddle Wednesday with administration officials to discuss the pending transfer of weapons.
“We’re gonna do what our responsibility is and that’s why dialogue with any administration on any on sale … is important,” he said. “Congress has a role.”