Sen. Bernie Sanders Introducing Legislation to Block $735M Arms Sale to Israel

Sen. Bernie Sanders Introducing Legislation to Block $735M Arms Sale to Israel bernie sanders speaks to press Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks to reporters in the Senate Subway during a roll call vote on April 13, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images)

By Charlie McCarthy | Thursday, 20 May 2021 10:20 AM

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on Thursday will introduce a resolution to block the $735 million sale of precision-guided weapons to Israel amid that country's ongoing conflict with Palestinian terror group Hamas.

Sanders' resolution aims to stop the planned sale by the Biden administration of Joint Direct Attack Munitions and Small Diameter Bombs to Israel, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

The resolution requires only a simple majority to pass the Senate. However, if vetoed by President Joe Biden, it would need a two-thirds majority in both chambers of Congress to take effect.

"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 to The Post.

"I believe that the United States must help lead the way to a peaceful and prosperous future for both Israelis and Palestinians. 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."

Saying, "Whereas every Palestinian life matters; and Whereas every Israeli life matters," the official resolution urges an immediate cease-fire to prevent any further loss of life and further escalation of conflict in Israel and the Palestinian territories; supports diplomatic efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by upholding international law, and protecting the human rights of Israelis and Palestinians.

Floor debate on the resolution was scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. ET Thursday.

On Wednesday, Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.; Mark Pocan, D-Wis.; and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., introduced a similar resolution opposing the sale of weapons to the Israeli government.

"For decades, the U.S. has sold billions of dollars in weaponry to Israel without ever requiring them to respect basic Palestinian rights," Ocasio-Cortez said in a statement. "In so doing, we have directly contributed to the death, displacement, and disenfranchisement of millions."

The Israel-Hamas fighting has become the first major issue on which Biden has split with the party's left wing, according to Axios.

Biden demanded a de-escalation of hostilities between Israel and Hamas on Wednesday, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was "determined to continue" the Gaza operation "until its objective is achieved."

Progressive Democrats have condemned U.S. support for Israel and what they claim is America's willingness to turn a blind eye to human-rights abuses of Palestinians.

Lawmakers have passed a joint resolution disapproving of an arms sale in recent years, but never have successfully blocked such a proposed sale, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Former President Donald Trump vetoed three resolutions passed by Congress in 2019 to stop $8 million in arms sales benefiting Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Sanders' resolution appears to be guaranteed a vote in the Senate, according to procedures outlined in the International Security and Arms Export Control Act of 1976, though it has long odds at being successful.

"In some way or another, this starts the ball rolling with the Senate voting in one way or another on this sale to Israel," said a source familiar with Sanders' thinking, the Post reported.

The resolution would need 51 Senate votes and passage in the House to head to Biden's desk. Vice President Kamala Harris would be needed to vote for the resolution – which, if she did, would pit her against Biden's approach to the conflict.

More and more Democrats are supporting calls for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Todd Young, R-Ind., released a bipartisan statement last weekend calling for a cease-fire.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., a staunch defender of Israel, signed on to the statement and told reporters Monday he wanted to see a cease-fire "reached quickly."

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