The Senate will vote on a resolution Tuesday afternoon by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., that could potentially freeze U.S. aid to Israel unless the Biden administration reports to Congress within 30 days about whether Israel committed human rights violations during its war with Hamas.
Sanders’ resolution is based on the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 that requires the State Department to examine the human rights conduct of nations receiving U.S. aid. The law prohibits U.S. aid to any foreign government “which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.”
Upon receiving the report, Congress will have the authority to reduce or end aid to Israel if violations are found. Any subsequent votes to modify security assistance will need a simple majority for approval.
The resolution is reportedly opposed by the Biden administration, which has urged Congress to pass $60 billion more in aid to Israel, and many Democrats. But those in Congress who are part of the left’s more progressive flank have voiced support for a cease-fire and halting U.S. aid to Israel.
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“This is a humanitarian cataclysm, and it is being done with American bombs and money. We need to face up to that fact – and then we need to end our complicity in those actions,” Sanders previously said in a statement.
The resolution, which faces an uphill battle that requires a simple majority needed to pass in the upper chamber, would request the administration’s 30-day report to detail steps taken by the U.S. government to promote human rights in Israel, limit risks to civilians, discourage harmful practices, and disassociate from such practices. Part of the resolution reaffirms Israel’s right to respond and defend itself against the deadly attack carried out by Hamas.
It would also require an assessment of whether “extraordinary circumstances” exist to justify the continuation of security assistance aid for Israel, and if so, details of the circumstances that require ongoing funding.
Many humanitarian organizations and the United Nations rely heavily on death toll data published by Hamas-run ministries in Gaza, which estimate more than 20,000 people in Gaza have been killed since the war began on Oct. 7.
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Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, sparked by the terrorist group’s Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel, has prompted unprecedented destruction in the tiny coastal enclave and triggered a humanitarian catastrophe that has displaced most of Gaza’s 2.3 million population and pushed more than a quarter into starvation, according to the U.N.
Israel blames Hamas for the high death toll, saying its fighters make use of civilian buildings and launch attacks from densely populated urban areas.
After Hamas’ attack on Israel, 1,200 people were killed and around 250 people were taken hostage. As of this month, Israel believes more than 130 hostages are still in captivity in the Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, Democrats in Congress remain divided on the war. While some support more aid to Israel, others have called for a complete cease-fire to limit civilian casualties. Republicans have remained largely united in backing Israel.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.