A group of Senate Democrats is seeking to impose humanitarian and war crimes compliance standards as a condition for foreign military aid Congress is currently considering for Israel.
The senators are proposing this legislation as an amendment to a $111 billion spending supplemental to provide new security assistance to Ukraine and Israel, additional spending for allies and partner nations in the Indo-Pacific region, and some funding for new border and immigration personnel.
While the $111 billion spending supplemental covers a range of foreign military aid objectives, several of the Democrat senators raised particular concern about funding for Israel amid its ongoing military operations in the Gaza Strip against the Hamas terrorist group.
“It is imperative that all assistance to Israel abide by U.S. and international law, prioritize the protection of civilians, assure the provision of desperately needed humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza, and align with a long-term vision for peace, security, and two-state diplomatic solution,” Mr. Markey said on Thursday.
Ms. Hirono similarly stressed that while supporting Israel’s military operations, the U.S. must “continue working to create the conditions for a two-state solution,” which would result in a Palestinian state.
Growing Humanitarian ConcernsThe new amendment comes as some Democrats have expressed growing concerns about the humanitarian costs of the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict.
It’s difficult to independently confirm the exact number of civilian casualties and determine the responsible parties for such casualties during an active conflict like the Gaza Strip. The Gaza Health Ministry has estimated more than 17,000 Palestinians killed and more than 46,000 wounded in the two months of fighting, but the organization does not clearly distinguish Hamas fighters from civilian noncombatants.
The U.S. and Israeli governments have also called into question the reliability of the Gaza Health Ministry’s numbers, as the organization operates under the auspices of Hamas’ political control of the Gaza Strip. The current conflict began after Hamas gunmen breached the Israel-Gaza barrier on Oct. 7 and proceeded to kill hundreds of people across southern Israel.
On the other hand, the Israeli military has claimed credit for other military strikes that have led to disputes over whether they had actually hit Hamas combatants or civilians.
Democrats Split on Aid ConditionsWhile several Democrats have expressed their concerns about the humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip, other Democrats have pushed back on talk of tying military aid to new humanitarian reporting requirements.
Ms. Schultz added that the U.S. side is already effectively communicating with Israeli counterparts about the need to limit civilian casualties.
Some Republicans are also likely to oppose conditional military aid to Israel.
“For anyone who needs to hear it again: the conflict unfolding today is between a sovereign democracy that takes great pains to avoid civilian casualties and terrorist butchers who go out of their way to inflict civilian casualties and put their own civilians in harm’s way,“ Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a Senate floor speech last week. ”Israel deserves the time, space, and resources to restore its security. And I will stand by our ally 100 percent.”
“If Senate Democrats want to vote to tie the hands of Israeli soldiers as they defend their country against vicious terrorists, I welcome such a debate.”