U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders said Monday that he opposes sending billions of dollars in additional military assistance to the Israeli government as it continues to wage a catastrophic war on the Gaza Strip, an assault that the Vermont senator described as unlawful and “immoral.”
“I do not believe we should be appropriating over $10 billion for the right-wing, extremist Netanyahu government to continue its current military approach,” Sanders, who has faced backlash from progressives and some of his former campaign staffers for refusing to support a permanent cease-fire, said in remarks on the Senate floor.
Sanders’ speech came as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) set the stage for a procedural vote on a $106 billion supplemental package that includes military assistance for Israel and Ukraine. The vote is expected to fail as Republicans push for the inclusion of asylum restrictions that progressive Democrats have condemned as draconian.
“I am deeply concerned that this legislation has no investments to address the needs of working families in the United States — 60% of whom are living paycheck to paycheck,” Sanders said, noting that the supplemental bill includes “tens of billions” in military spending that should be dedicated to “some of the enormous domestic crises we face.”
Sanders went on to slam the proposed $10.1 billion in no-strings-attached military aid that would “allow the Netanyahu government to continue its current offensive military approach” in which the U.S. is complicit, having supplied the Israeli military with around 15,000 bombs and tens of thousands of artillery shells.
The senator said he would support “defense systems” to protect Israeli citizens from rocket attacks fired by the groups involved in the deadly October 7 attack. But “Israel’s indiscriminate approach is, in my view, offensive to most Americans, it is in violation of U.S. and international law, and it undermines the prospects for lasting peace and security,” said Sanders.
“Israel must dramatically change its approach to minimize civilian harm and lay out a wider political process that can secure lasting peace,” he added.
That process, Sanders said, must include “a guarantee that displaced Palestinians will have the absolute right to return to their homes as Gaza rebuilds; it will include no long-term occupation or blockade of Gaza; an end to the killings of Palestinians in the West Bank and a freeze on new settlements there; and, perhaps most importantly, a commitment to broad peace talks to advance a new two-state solution in the wake of this war.”
Sanders delivered his speech as Israel expanded its ground offensive to southern Gaza, threatening to worsen the territory’s horrific humanitarian crisis by attacking the region to which many fled as Israel assailed the northern part of the strip. Around 80% of Gaza’s population has been displaced in less than two months.
Doctors Without Borders warned Monday that hospitals in the south are “at a breaking point” due to Israel’s bombardment and ongoing siege, which have prevented the delivery of critical supplies including fuel and anesthetics.
In an open letter on Monday, Doctors Without Borders executive director Avril Benoît implored U.S. President Joe Biden to “call for an immediate and sustained cease-fire in Gaza,” saying his group has rarely “encountered such a catastrophic combination of escalating humanitarian and medical needs, ravaged infrastructure, and intentionally limited humanitarian access.”
“Our teams throughout Gaza recount scenes of horror in the hospitals: dead bodies everywhere, people with crushed limbs rescued from collapsed buildings, and orphaned children with severe burns covering most of their tiny bodies. They describe patients screaming in pain because there’s not enough anesthesia,” Benoît wrote. “And every day, they go to work for their patients.”
“They can’t go on like this,” she added. “No one in Gaza can go on like this. We need a sustained cease-fire now.”