Congressional Democrats and Republicans back aid to Israel, with minor dissent

Foreign Relations Committee chair to advance legislation on further assistance, including replenishing Iron Dome supplies; fault line emerges among Democrats

JTA— As the flow of American aid to Israel gathered pace in the wake of Hamas’s infiltration and mass killings, and US President Joe Biden pledged unstinting support, Sen. ​​Ben Cardin said he would advance legislation to provide defense assistance to Israel, including to replenish its Iron Dome missile defense system.

“In these coming days and weeks, it is incumbent upon the United States government, and the Congress, to offer the kind of assistance that has formed the bedrock of the U.S.-Israel relationship since its founding,” Cardin, the Jewish Democrat from Maryland who recently assumed the chairmanship of the powerful Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement.

The Biden administration has already deployed troops and military supplies to the region as a means of deterring major attacks by Hamas’s backers including Iran, Israel’s most significant adversary.

That includes moving an aircraft carrier to the eastern Mediterranean, a step that, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, Israel’s and the United States’ shared enemies “understand very well.”

There were signs of cross-partisan unity on the Hill regarding Israel, with the two top members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, chairman Michael McCaul of Texas and ranking member Gregory Meeks of New York, joining in soliciting support for a resolution backed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that would declare that the United States “stands ready to assist Israel with emergency resupply and other security, diplomatic, and intelligence support.”

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Two lawmakers, both Democrats, were in Israel as the attack broke out: New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, and New York Rep. Dan Goldman. Both are unharmed.

Senator Cory Booker speaks during a news conference in Hoboken, New Jersey, May 6, 2021. (Seth Wenig/AP)

“After this experience, more than ever, I am committed to working with my colleagues in the Senate to continue supporting Israel’s security and ensuring stability in the region — and I hope one day soon, a long-term and just peace in the region,” Booker said in a statement on Sunday.

File: The USS Gerald R. Ford, one of the world’s largest aircraft carriers, arrives in Halifax on October 28, 2022. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press via AP)

Handful of holdouts

The vast majority of members of the House and Senate have expressed support for Israel, with only a handful of holdouts. Those include Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Palestinian-American Michigan Democrat, and Cori Bush, a Missouri Democrat, who have expressed sympathies for victims on both sides, but laid the blame on Israeli actions and the support Israel draws from the United States.

The signals of bipartisan commitment to funding came as Israeli officials reportedly were concerned that disarray in Congress — including the absence of a speaker of the House following Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s ouster — could scupper the effort.

Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib stands outside of her office after placing a Palestinian flag there on January 25, 2023. (Rashida Tlaib/Twitter)

Still, among Democrats fault lines are emerging, with progressives like Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez of New York adding pleas for a ceasefire to their messages of sympathy for Israel, while others, including party leaders Rep. Hakeem Jeffries and Sen. Chuck Schumer, both of New York, expressed unalloyed support of Israel.

Rep. Jake Auchincloss, a moderate Massachusetts Jewish Democrat, directly contradicted Markey at a pro-Israel rally in Boston on Monday after Markey called for de-escalation.

America did not de-escalate after the Sept. 11 attacks, said Auchincloss, a military veteran. “De-escalation is not possible when they are taking hostages,” he said.

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