Sens. Chris Murphy, Bernie Sanders Come Out In Support of Conditions On U.S. Aid to Israel

Senator Chris Murphy came out Sunday in support of conditioning U.S. aid to Israel, calling the death toll in Gaza at the hands of the Israeli Defence Forces “unacceptable” and “unsustainable.”

The Connecticut Democrat, who sits on the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, confirmed that attaching strings to the House-approved $14.3 billion aid package to Israel is in the mix when Congress returns from Thanksgiving recess on Monday.

“I guess I’m not sure what would be controversial about simply saying that aid we give any country has to be used in compliance with international law,” Sullivan said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “And, yes, of course, I do think that Israel needs to be more careful in the way that it is conducting these operations.”

Murphy added that he thinks there is “both a moral cost to this many civilians, innocent civilians, children often, losing their life, but I think there’s a strategic cost” to Israel’s operations in Gaza, “Ultimately, Hamas will get stronger, not weaker, in the long run, if all of this civilian death allows them to recruit more effectively and ably inside Gaza,” Murphy argued.

The wartime death toll in Gaza has risen to over 14,000 Palestinians—including roughly 10,000 women and children—according to data from the Gaza health ministry. The pace of killing, The New York Times reported on Saturday, has few precedents in any conflict this century.

Murphy’s interview underscores a growing division over the war in Gaza within the Democratic Party. Citing an unnamed House and Senate Democrat, Politico reported earlier this month that Democrats in both chambers are discussing whether and how to condition aid to Israel. According to the report, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders hosted a lunch on November 13 for Senate Democrats about the unfolding Israel-Hamas war, where the possibility of conditioning aid was raised. In response to the report, several pro-Israel Democrats in the House came out explicitly against placing any restrictions on aid.

Just over a week after the reported meeting, Sanders penned an op-ed in The New York Times last Thursday calling for an end to what he described as the United States’ “blank check approach” to Israel. “The United States must make clear that while we are friends of Israel, there are conditions to that friendship and that we cannot be complicit in actions that violate international law and our own sense of decency,” Sanders wrote. 

Sanders called for an end to the indiscriminate bombing of Gaza, an end to settler violence and settlement expansion in the West Bank, and an Israeli commitment to “broad peace talks for a two-state solution in the wake of the war.”

Murphy was asked Sunday whether he agreed with Sanders. “Well, I stand by what I said,” he replied. “I do believe that the level of civilian harm inside Gaza has been unacceptable and is unsustainable.”

President Joe Biden acknowledged growing calls for conditioning aid on Friday, telling reporters that the proposal was “a worthwhile thought” but that “if I started off with that, we’d never have gotten to where we are today. We have to take this a piece at a time.” In a Sunday interview with NBC, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan didn’t rule out the question of conditioning aid, but said Biden was “going to continue to focus on what is going to generate results.”


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