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Sanders Pushes Resolution Halting $735 Million in US Military Sales to Israel

The resolution faces difficult chances of passage in the Senate. Even if it passes, President Joe Biden could veto it.

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at a press conference on Capitol Hill on December 7, 2016, in Washington, D.C.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) has drafted a congressional resolution that would disallow the sale of $735 million in precision-guided missiles to Israel.

The draft document by Sanders, first reported on by The Washington Post, would block the planned sale of Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) and small diameter bombs — both of which are considered “smart” bomb technology that allows them to track their targets — from the U.S. to Israel.

“At a moment when U.S.-made bombs are devastating Gaza, and killing women and children, we cannot simply let another huge arms sale go through without even a Congressional debate,” Sanders said in a statement.

“I believe that the United States must help lead the way to a peaceful and prosperous future for both Israelis and Palestinians,” Sanders continued, adding that lawmakers “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.”

The resolution from Sanders comes as demonstrations across the U.S. have called on lawmakers to hold Israel accountable for bombing civilians in Gaza and repressing protests against the forced displacement of Palestinians in Jerusalem.

The massive weapons sale to Israel was planned before recent escalation of Israeli airstrikes in Gaza.

The resolution that Sanders is planning to submit to the Senate is similar in scope to a bill that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) and other progressive lawmakers also introduced in the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

“The United States should not be rubber-stamping weapons sales to the Israeli government as they deploy our resources to target international media outlets, schools, hospitals, humanitarian missions and civilian sites for bombing. We have a responsibility to protect human rights,” Ocasio-Cortez said on Twitter about her legislation.

The U.S. sends billions of dollars in weapons and aid to Israel each year. Since 1948, that assistance has totaled around $146 billion, and since 2006 has been almost exclusively “in the form of military assistance,” the Congressional Research Service said.

Sanders’s resolution in the Senate would require a simple majority to pass, The Post noted, but it faces steep odds of becoming law, particularly in a divided Senate where centrist Democrats hostile (or indifferent) to Palestinian rights would likely vote against it. Even if the resolution passes in both houses of Congress, President Joe Biden could veto it.

Biden has tried to encourage a ceasefire in talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, telling the Israeli leader on Wednesday that he expects “a significant deescalation today on the path to a ceasefire.” In comments after their conversation, however, Netanyahu said he was “determined to continue this operation” against Hamas, despite the high number of Palestinian civilians killed by Israeli forces.

At least 227 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed by Israel in the latest war against Gaza, including around 64 children.

On Thursday, The New York Times, quoting anonymous Israeli officials, reported that a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas may be reached within the next two days. Officially, however, Israel has denied the existence of such negotiations.

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