More than half of House Democrats endorse Biden’s backing of Israel in Hamas war
Rep. Jerry Nadler, seated, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Jamie Raskin at a hearing on Capitol Hill, May 8, 2019 Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

By Ron Kampeas
Oct. 22, 2023

WASHINGTON (JTA) — More than half of Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to President Joe Biden endorsing his policy of backing Israel in its war against Hamas, mounting a firewall against calls from the party’s left to pressure Israel into a ceasefire.

The signatories include several outspoken critics of Israel, as well as all 24 Jews in the House Democratic caucus.

The letter, dated Friday, was spearheaded by three Jewish members, Jerry Nadler and Dan Goldman of New York and Jamie Raskin of Maryland, and was signed by 131 lawmakers.

“We stand with you in supporting Israel and are ready to provide whatever assistance the state and people of Israel need to defend themselves and to ensure that hostages return home and those who perpetrated these crimes against humanity are held accountable,” the letter says.

On Friday, Biden asked Congress for $10.4 billion in defense assistance for Israel as it counterattacks Hamas, which invaded Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,400 people, mostly civilians, wounding thousands and taking more than 200 hostages.

Biden has said he backs Israel’s goal of destroying Hamas. A number of progressives on the party’s left oppose additional defense assistance for Israel and have led calls for a ceasefire, coming out to back protesters at the U.S. Capitol last week. The letter does not mention a ceasefire.

In a sign of how much the atrocities of Oct. 7 have shifted the political landscape, some of the party’s most insistent critics of Israel have signed onto this letter. Those include Betty McCollum of Minnesota, who has long proposed cutting some assistance to Israel as long as it keeps Palestinian minors in detention; Raul Grijalva of Arizona, who in 2021 was one of just a handful of lawmakers to vote against $1 billion in anti-missile defense funding for Israel after its last war with Hamas; and Greg Casar of Texas, who just last week was reported to be among 18 Democrats backing a ceasefire.

After declaring its willingness to support Israel, the letter also goes to great lengths to express support for Biden’s efforts to get humanitarian assistance to Gaza. Biden, who made a lightning visit to Israel last week, has made clear to Israel that it must not block humanitarian assistance coming in from the Egypt-Gaza border and that it must abide by the laws of war.

“We are grateful as well for your clear statements regarding the fundamental importance of ensuring that the humanitarian needs of the civilian population of Gaza are met, and that all possible steps are being taken to ensure the safety of civilians and noncombatants in the Strip,” the letter says. “Reportedly, more than 3,000 people have been killed and more than 9,700 wounded in Gaza, making it imperative that we act to prevent further loss of innocent lives. We agree with you that Israel’s response must be in accordance with international law and our shared democratic values.”

The letter concludes by saying that any long-term solution must be diplomatic and not military. Biden has also said that he does not want Israel to reoccupy the Gaza Strip, and in recent days Israeli officials have indicated that they have no appetite for reoccupation. Israel captured the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Six-Day War and withdrew in 2005; Hamas took power there after a brief civil war in 2007.

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