Democrats Welcome Israeli-Palestinian Cease-fire but Warn It's Not Enough

Rep. Rashida Tlaib cautioned the ceasefire 'will not alone achieve freedom, justice, and equality for all who live under Israel's apartheid government'

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Palestinian-American congresswoman Rashida Tlaib attends a pro-Palestinian protest in Dearborn, Michigan, U.S., May 16, 2021
Palestinian-American congresswoman Rashida Tlaib attends a pro-Palestinian protest in Dearborn, Michigan, U.S., May 16, 2021Credit: REBECCA COOK / REUTERS

WASHINGTON - Democrats, including those who harshly condemned Israeli actions in Gaza as well as those critical of the Biden administration's approach to the conflict, welcomed news of Thursday's Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire though cautioned against complacency.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, who earlier in the day introduced a resolution attempting to halt a pending $735 million arms sale to Israel, said he hopes the cease-fire holds, "But that's not enough. Our job now is to support desperately needed humanitarian and reconstruction aid to Gaza’s people, and find a way to finally bring peace to the region."

Sen. Chris Murphy, chairman of the Foreign Relations subcommittee on the Middle East, said he was relieved by the news and praised Biden and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken for helping facilitate the halt to the violence. "However, I am deeply concerned that without meaningful progress towards a two-state future, the conditions of despair will deepen, further fuel extremism and lead to a tragic renewal of the cycle of violence," he noted.

Sen. Jeff Merkley, who co-sponsored a resolution affirming the value of both Palestinian and Israeli lives while urging a cease-fire, called it a "vital, lifesaving step" and urged leaders to "capitalize on this moment to commit to peace and dignity for all, otherwise the vicious cycle of conflict will continue."

Rep. Joaquin Castro, who was one of the first lawmakers to vocally critique the sale on record, also called the cease-fire welcome news, but noted that "more than 200 civilians were killed, including children, thousands are displaced in Gaza, and millions of Israelis and Palestinians are trapped in conflict. Now we need to see meaningful movement toward a two-state solution."

Rep. Mark Pocan, who has been at the forefront of the various Democratic measures aimed at pushing the Biden administration, similarly described the cease-fire as a "crucial first step to end the current violence," but noted this "didn't just start 12 days ago," adding that "this is about decades of Israel's home demolitions, illegal settlement expansion, blockades in Gaza and Hamas' rocket fire. The U.S. must do more to promote peace and justice."

Rep. Ilhan Omar echoed the sentiment, saying "we should all be grateful that a cease-fire will prevent more civilians and children from being killed," though asked "now what?" She said added that "we need accountability for every war crime committed. And we need to stop underwriting crimes against humanity while doing nothing to end the occupation."

Sen. Elizabeth Warren called the cease-fire good news, but noted "it won’t bring back the hundreds of innocent civilians killed or prevent future violence. The Biden administration must press for a just, lasting two-state agreement, and that starts with taking all appropriate steps to end the occupation."

Rep. Betty McCollum, who has been the most vocal proponent of codifying actions Israel may not finance with U.S. taxpayer funding, said while the cease-fire "temporarily halts Hamas rockets and Israeli missile strikes, this isn't peace." She also directly appealed to Biden that "the Palestinian people deserve rights and freedom, not the daily repression of Israel's ongoing military occupation."

Rep. Rashida Tlaib, the Palestinian-American lawmaker who directly appealed to Biden during a visit to Michigan, called the cease-fire necessary but said it "will not alone achieve freedom, justice, and equality for all who live under Israel's apartheid government. The U.S. must condition funding to uphold human rights, and end the funding entirely if those conditions are not met."

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and Global Counterterrorism, welcomed the cease-fire and commended the Biden administration for "standing by our ally Israel under attack from a terrorist organization, for its commitment to smart diplomacy, and for standing for peace and security for all Israelis and Palestinians." 

"Even during these challenging times, we cannot give up on the prospect of peace, security and dignity for both Israelis and Palestinians. The work is hard, but President Biden was clear that his administration will continue the sustained diplomacy that will hopefully bring us closer to lasting peace between two states for two peoples," Deutch added.

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