[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.
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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
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
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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