Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on Sunday defended his decision to oppose a permanent cease-fire in Gaza, breaking with progressive Democrats in the House.
Progressive ‘Squad’ members, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., who was censured last month over her antisemitic chants ‘from the river to the sea,’ which is a slogan that calls for the elimination of the state of Israel, have voiced explicit support for a cease-fire in Gaza.
Appearing on CBS’ ‘Face The Nation’ on Sunday, Sanders made a distinction, saying he supports a temporary humanitarian pause in Gaza, referencing the United Nations’ resolution that the United States government stood alone in rejecting before the U.N. Security Council on Friday, but argues Hamas militants want a ‘permanent war.’
‘First of all, I strongly support and wish and hope that the United States will support the United Nations resolution that was vetoed, that we vetoed the other day,’ Sanders said. ‘That was a humanitarian pause, a humanitarian cease-fire that would, by the way, call for the release of all of the hostages held by Hamas and would have allowed the U.N. and other agencies to begin to supply the enormous amount of humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people. In terms of a permanent cease-fire, I don’t know how you could have a permanent cease-fire when Hamas has said before Oct. 7 and after Oct. 7 that they want to destroy Israel. They want a permanent war. I don’t know how you have a permanent cease-fire with an attitude like that.’
‘Squad’ Democrats gathered on Capitol Hill last week and doubled down on accusations that the Israel Defense Forces are targeting civilians and committing a ‘genocide.’
Sanders said Israel ‘has a right to defend itself’ against Hamas but condemned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s approach.
The Hamas-controlled Gaza Ministry of Health has reported that more than 17,000 people have been killed in Gaza, though it does not make the distinction between civilians and combatants. CBS host Margaret Brennan cited how Israel has reported killing about 7,000 combatants in Gaza but has not said how many civilians are believed to have died.
Sanders has argued the United States would be complicit in an ‘all-out war against innocent men, women and children who have nothing to do with Hamas’ if his colleagues in Congress approve more no-strings-attached funding for Israel amid the conflict. While Congress failed to clear an aid package for Israel amid debate about funding for border security, Secretary of State Antony Blinken sidestepped the House and Senate, ushering through an emergency deal for more tank ammunition for Netanyahu’s government.
The United States stood alone at the U.N. Security Council on Friday to block a United Nations resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza. The vote in the 15-member council was 13-1, with the United Kingdom abstaining. Blinken said Sunday that while Israel must continue its campaign, ‘it’s imperative that civilians be protected.’
Brennan asked Sanders what he believes ‘Netanyahu’s government’s intent’ is at this stage of the conflict.
‘It really is hard to say. It may be that they’re responding in rage against the horrific and terrible Hamas attack that killed 1,200 innocent Israelis,’ Sanders said. ‘Or maybe in some of the right-wing extremist minds, there was the goal to drive the Palestinian people off of Gaza completely. But they have now destroyed about half of the housing units in Gaza. So, it’s hard to predict. But I think when Gen. [Defense Secretary Lloyd] Austin said you can win the battle but lose the war, Israel is losing the war in terms of how the world is looking at this situation. And I think that it would be irresponsible for the United States to give Netanyahu another $10 billion to continue to wage this awful war.’
Sanders also responded to concern the Israel-Hamas war could further divide the Democratic Party ahead of a presidential election year.
‘The American people were outraged by Hamas’ attacks against Israel, rightfully so. But they are equally outraged now by what Israel is doing,’ Sanders said Sunday. ‘So, you’re seeing all over this country, people say, ‘Why are we giving money to an Israeli government that is doing such awful things?’ Will it hurt politically? It might. At the end of the day, I think [President] Biden is going to win this election. But what’s going on now is not helpful.’