Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib seek to block U.S. arms sale to Israel

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Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Marc Porcan have introduced a resolution to block the sale of $735 million of precision-guided weapons to Israel amid continued fighting against the Islamist militant group Hamas.

“For decades, the U.S. has sold billions of dollars in weaponry to Israel without ever requiring them to respect basic Palestinian rights,” said Ms. Ocasio-Cortez of New York in a statement. “In so doing, we have directly contributed to the death, displacement and disenfranchisement of millions. At a time when so many, including President Biden, support a ceasefire, we should not be sending ‘direct attack’ weaponry to [Israeli] Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu to prolong this violence.”

The latest fighting between Hamas and Israel erupted earlier this month, with Palestinian officials in the Gaza Strip saying 227 Palestinians have been killed so far. Israel says rockets fired by Hamas have killed at least 12 Israelis.

Ms. Tlaib, a Michigan lawmaker who is of Palestinian descent and has family in the region, said approving the arms sale to Israel “while failing to even try to use it as leverage for a ceasefire, sends a clear message to the world — the U.S. is not interested in peace, and does not care about the human rights and lives of Palestinians.” 

Ms. Tlaib spoke with Mr. Biden during his visit to Michigan on Tuesday. Her office said she told the president, “Palestinian human rights are not a bargaining chip and must be protected, not negotiated.”

The president later praised her in a speech as a “fighter” and said he admires her passion.

Mr. Porcan, Wisconsin Democrat, is former co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

The measure has six co-sponsors, all Democrats, and is unlikely to receive a vote in the House, where Democratic leadership supports the arms sale. The U.S. provides Israel with more than $3.5 billion in military aid annually.

But the proposed resolution drew criticism from Republicans who said Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and Ms. Tlaib, members of the so-called “Squad” of liberal House Democrats, are anti-Israel.

“The Squad is gunning for a promotion from press secretaries for Hamas to defense secretaries for Hamas,” Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, tweeted in response to the resolution. 

The Biden administration approved the potential weapons sale and sent it to Congress for formal review on May 5, giving lawmakers 15 days to object.

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