[pjw] INFO: Merkley warns of excessive Israeli firepower (The Hill 5/14)

Peace and Justice Works pjw at pjw.info
Tue May 18 15:47:12 EDT 2021


This article came out on Friday listing various congresspeople's 
response to the violence in Israel/Palestine. Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, 
who you may remember responded to PJW's concerns about his support for 
moving the US embassy to Jerusalem by saying he'd look more into it, is 
quoted expressing concerns about how Israel has "disproportionate" 
military capabilities. He also talks about their expansion of settlements 
onto Palestinian land. However, he doesn't seem to have connected the dots 
between the US embassy move, Israel's push to take over parts of East 
Jerusalem, and what's going on now.

Making matters worse, the US has repeatedly stopped the UN Security 
Council from calling for a ceasefire over the last several days, likely to 
give Israel time to flatten more buildings, take out the media, and whip 
up support from the public.


But Biden said yesterday he supports a ceasefire.


Anyway, it may be worth doubling back to Sen. Merkley to see whether he 
can take an even stronger stance against US policy that blindly supports 
Israeli policy, right or wrong.

--dan handelman
peace and justice works iraq affinity group

Tensions mount among Democrats over US-Israel policy
    By Alexander Bolton - 05/14/21 06:00 AM EDT

    Key Democrats are pushing back against progressives who are criticizing
    the treatment of Palestinians by the Israeli government in the face of
    what some lawmakers worry could become President Biden's first foreign
    policy crisis.

    At the furthest end of the spectrum of critics is Rep. Ilhan Omar
    (D-Minn.), who on Monday called Israeli air strikes that
    killed civilians in Gaza "an act of terrorism."

    Other progressives, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sen.
    Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), have
    condemned Israel's plans to evict Palestinian families from the Sheikh
    Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem, plans that are under review by
    Israel's Supreme Court.

    Warren called the proposed evictions "abhorrent" and said the Biden
    administration "should make clear to the Israeli government that these
    evictions are illegal and must stop immediately."

    Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), a member of the Senate
    Foreign Relations Committee, said "the evictions of families in East
    Jerusalem would violate international law" and challenged the Biden
    administration to respond.

    "If the Biden Administration puts the rule of law and human rights at
    the heart of its foreign policy, this is not a moment for tepid
    statements," he tweeted.

    Israel's strongest allies in the Senate Democratic Caucus are pushing
    back against the criticism, arguing that Israel has its own process for
    determining the legality of the proposed evictions and is absolutely
    justified in responding with force against rocket attacks from Hamas.

    "Israel is a country of law. I have confidence in their judicial
    system, so let's let their judicial system play this out," said Sen.
    Ben Cardin (Md.), the
    second-ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

    Cardin has called for both Israel and the Palestinian Authority and
    Hamas not to "take unilateral action" but argued "Israel has to defend

    "It's an extremely serious situation with Hamas rockets coming into
    population centers," he said, adding that he is pleased with the Biden
    administration's handling of the situation.

    Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez
    (D-N.J.) questioned the ability of U.S.
    senators to make sweeping judgments about whether evictions from East
    Jerusalem are lawful or not.

    When asked about Van Hollen's characterization of the evictions as a
    violation of international law, Menendez replied with a hint of irony:
    "I'm glad he's come to the conclusion."

    But speaking for himself, the senior Democrat said, "I don't know. I'm
    not an expert in international law to come to that conclusion."

    "I'm not about to preempt whatever they decide under Israeli laws," he

    Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), a recently elected
    centrist, has been following the rising violence closely.

    "It's unacceptable," he said of Hamas's rocket attacks. "Israel being
    our biggest partner in the Middle East and the only true democracy,
    we've got to make sure Israel has what it needs to defend itself."

    Van Hollen said in an interview that he fully supports Israel's right
    to defend itself from rocket attacks.

    "The Biden administration should weigh in -- first of all, as they have
    -- to demand that Hamas stop firing rockets, but the Biden
    administration also needs to stand up for international law when it
    comes to issues like evictions, which are a violation of international
    law," he said. "Israel has a right to defend itself, but at the same
    time the administration needs to make sure we stand up for
    international law."

    Biden says he has spoken with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
    and believes peace can be restored soon. The president has also reached
    out to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

    A senior Democratic aide said that "it's a difficult dynamic."

    "Democratic senators, all senators, want to support Israel. But I think
    there are a lot of Democratic senators -- more so on the Democratic
    side than the Republican side -- who believe that Trump shifted the
    balance too far to the Israeli side at the expense of Palestinians and
    turned the back on things that the United States has backed
    Palestinians on," the aide said.

    The Democratic aide said there's also "some amount of angst" that Biden
    hasn't yet nominated his choice to serve as the next U.S. ambassador to

    "It was bound to bite him sooner or later," the source added.

    Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.),   another prominent progressive and a
    member of the Foreign Relations panel, has raised concerns about
    Israel's ability to deploy "disproportionate power," thanks in part
    to strong U.S. support.

    Raytheon and Israel's Rafael Advanced Defense Systems have a joint
    venture to manufacture air defense missiles in Arizona, for example.

    Merkley has criticized Hamas as a "terrorist entity" and called the
    indiscriminate firing of rockets into civilian centers "unforgiveable."

    He says Israel has a right to defend its citizens but also "must
    reexamine how it deploys its disproportionate power, including its
    ongoing de facto annexation of Palestinian territory."

    He highlighted "expanding settlements, expropriating land, and locking
    Palestinians into second-class existence with few rights or

    Merkley and other progressives say the Biden administration needs to
    pressure Israel to adhere more closely to international agreements if
    there's to be hope of reviving negotiations toward a two-state
    solution, a goal they believe slid further away during former President
    Trump's four years in office.

    Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), a longtime staunch
    ally of Israel, earlier this week declined to take a side in the
    growing debate within his caucus.

    "I hope both sides can come together and bring peace," he said when
    asked about claims that evicting Palestinians from East Jerusalem would
    violate international law.

    One Democratic senator who requested anonymity said the violence in
    Israel threatens to spin out of control and become Biden's first
    foreign policy crisis.

    "Right now, we're paying for four lost years of American leadership. It
    used to be that we would try to bridge gaps between the Palestinians
    and the Israelis. For the last four years we exacerbated the
    differences. I think we're perilously close to a Palestinian state
    being unachievable," the senator said.

    "Part of the work that the Biden administration has to do is draw a
    harder line with the Israelis on settlements and evictions," the
    lawmaker added. "It's now become a higher priority.

    "It might have been a lower priority before missiles were flying back
    and forth. I don't think there's any choice for the administration now"
    but to focus on the problem, the senator said.

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