A resolution that would have required the State Department to report to Congress on any evidence of human rights violations by Israel in Gaza was tabled, or killed, by the Senate on Tuesday evening, 72-11.
“While there is no question in my mind that Israel has the right to defend itself and go to war against Hamas, who started this terrible situation, Israel does not have the right to go to war against the entire Palestinian people and innocent men, women and children in Gaza,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the lead sponsor of the resolution, ahead of the vote. “And tragically, that is what we are seeing right now.”
While the vote itself was largely symbolic, it still shows significant concern among the Senate Democratic Caucus with Israel’s handling of the war.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu has to understand that he does not get a blank check from the United States Congress,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts told reporters. “The Senate has had a role in overseeing our military involvement overseas running back to the drafting of the Constitution. We have a responsibility to stand up now and say that, given how much Netanyahu and his right wing war Cabinet have prosecuted this war, we have serious questions that are obligated to ask before we go further.”
Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, who was among the first to call for a ceasefire, also supported the resolution. “I’m here tonight still supporting strongly Israel’s right to go after Hamas, but also saying that we have a responsibility to ask hard questions about how a war is conducted,” he said in a speech on the Senate floor, just before the vote.
The administration did not back the resolution, with the National Security Council’s John Kirby saying it was not “the right vehicle to address these issues,” and several senior Democratic senators agreed.
Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Ben Cardin of Maryland warned his colleagues that they should not support the resolution. “Its passage would be a gift to Hamas, a gift to Iran. It would show a division between Israel and the United States. It’s an indictment against Israel, make no mistake about it,” he said.
Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, a close ally of President Joe Biden, added in a statement, “I will continue raising these issues directly with Israeli officials and the Biden administration. I do not, however, believe that risking the suspension of all US assistance or publicly rebuking Israel in a way that could embolden its enemies will address these concerns, nor will it improve the humanitarian situation.”