Sanders Pushes Bill to Block Massive Arms Sale to Israel

The Vermont Independent hopes to stop the $735 million sale amid the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

Smoke rises in a community in southern Israel after it was struck by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip on Thursday. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

WASHINGTON (CN) — Senator Bernie Sanders introduced a joint resolution late Thursday attempting to block an arms sale between the U.S. and Israel. He’s a prominent name on a growing list of progressive lawmakers trying to stop the deal.  

On May 5, President Joe Biden approved the deal that would provide $735 million in Joint Direct Attack Munitions and Small Diameter Bombs—both precision-guided weapons—to the country. Congress was informed of the sale in April, before violence between Israel and Hamas broke out in the region. Lawmakers have a 15-day review period to block the deal, which ends on May 20. 

Israel has been using precision-guided weapons in its conflict with Hamas, claiming that they’re used specifically to avoid civilian casualties. But since the Gaza Strip is densely packed, Palestinians have seen 20 times more casualties in Gaza compared to those in Israel.

Over 232 Palestinians and 12 Israelis have been killed in the bombing campaign between Israel and Hamas. But on Thursday afternoon, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a ceasefire in its military operations in Gaza. The crisis is considered the most severe clash since the Gaza War that spanned two months in 2014.

U.S. Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mark Pocan and Rashida Tlaib took the lead on a House resolution to block the arms sale on Wednesday.  

“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. “At a time when so many, including President Biden, support a ceasefire, we should not be sending ‘direct attack’ weaponry to Prime Minister Netanyahu to prolong this violence.” 

Sanders introduced the Senate resolution late Thursday afternoon, which he’ll have the opportunity to bring up for a vote.

“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 a congressional debate,” he said in a statement. “We need to take a hard look at whether the sale of these weapons is actually helping to do that, or whether it is simply fueling conflict.” 

Two senators have already expressed doubt about the resolution. New Jersey Democrat Senator Bob Menendez vowed to oppose the resolution, and Senator Jim Risch, an Idaho Republican, told reporters that he “can’t imagine that passing.”

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