Bernie Sanders introduces resolution blocking $735m weapons sale to Israel

Senator Bernie Sanders introduced a resolution blocking a $735m US weapons sale to Israel on Thursday, mirroring a symbolic action by the House of Representatives in response to conflict between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas leaders.

“I believe that the United States must help lead the way to a peaceful and prosperous future for both Israelis and Palestinians,” the progressive senator said on Twitter.

He added: “We need to take a hard look at whether the sale of these weapons is actually helping do that, or whether it is simply fueling conflict.”

Sanders’ language mirrored that of a separate resolution he introduced on Wednesday, which emphasized the importance of Israeli and Palestinian lives. “Whereas every Palestinian life matters; and whereas every Israeli life matters:now, therefore, be it resolved, that the Senate … urges an immediate ceasefire,” Sanders’ resolution said.

The resolution was in response to a separate measure from the Republican senator Rick Scott affirming US support for Israel.

The current conflict in the Middle East has opened splits in the Democratic party between its progressive wing and its centrists, including the White House. Joe Biden’s administration has approved the potential sale of $735m in weapons to Israel this year, and sent it to Congress on 5 May for formal review.

The Democratic and Republican leaders of the Senate foreign relations and House foreign affairs committees all backed the sale during an informal review before 5 May. And lawmakers predicted efforts to stop the sale would fail, given traditionally strong bipartisan support in both the House and Senate for arms sales to Israel.

Senator Bob Menendez, the Democratic chairman of Senate foreign relations, said he would oppose the Sanders resolution. He also said he was not certain that Sanders had filed it within a required 15-day period.

“I can’t imagine that passing,” Senator Jim Risch, the committee’s top Republican, told reporters.

The clashes have prompted calls from some lawmakers for a more concerted US effort to stop the violence, including Israeli airstrikes that have killed dozens of civilians, most of them Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip.

Sanders’ resolution follows a measure introduced by the US Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mark Pocan and Rashida Tlaib, which has at least six other co-sponsors, including some of the most left-leaning Democrats in the House.

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