NY’s Ocasio-Cortez, others push to end US sale of weapons to Israel amid conflict

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U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on Aug. 24, 2020

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on Aug. 24, 2020. (Tom Williams/Pool Photo via AP, File)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he is “determined to continue this operation until its aim is met,” despite U.S. President Joe Biden’s call for a de-escalation of hostilities in Gaza, and the American left’s pressure for the White House to take a stronger position and end its support of Israel.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who represents parts of Queens and the Bronx, is pushing for the U.S. to end its sale of weapons to Israel amid the violent conflict.

Biden called for “significant de-escalation” by day’s end from Netanyahu Wednesday.

Biden’s appeal on Wednesday comes after 10 days of heavy fighting between Israelis and Palestinians.

It was Biden’s toughest public pressure so far on the U.S. ally, with the president asking Netanyahu in a telephone call to move toward “the path to a cease-fire,” according to a White House statement on their conversation.

Pressure has been mounting on Biden, too, to do more as the death toll in the conflict has topped 200.

Ocasio-Cortez has called Israel an “apartheid state,” and Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota has labeled Israeli airstrikes “terrorism.” Biden, during a visit to a Michigan on Tuesday, had an animated conversation about the ongoing fighting with Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who has family in the West Bank. Tlaib had pressed Biden to call for a cease-fire.

Biden’s relationship with Netanyahu could be further complicated for the president by the shifting tide on Israel among some congressional Democrats. 

Soon after Netanyahu announced he planned to continue operations, Reps. Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib, and Mark Pocan of Wisconsin introduced a resolution opposing the sale of $735 million in military weaponry to Israel that’s already been approved by the Biden administration.

The fighting, the worst Israeli-Palestinian violence since 2014, has killed at least 219 Palestinians and 12 people in Israel.

Top Biden administration officials have stressed to the Israelis in recent days that time is not on their side as international objections mount to their operations and domestic pressure builds on Biden, according to a person familiar with the ongoing discussions,

Republicans trying to drive a wedge between Democrats and chip away at Biden’s support have also been zeroing in on the violence in the Middle East. GOP lawmakers are laying blame on Biden’s administration and aiming to make his liberal critics the face of the party heading into the midterm elections.

GOP Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Tom Cotton of Arkansas have focused in particular on New York congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez and other progressives for criticizing Israel.

The approach represents a new strategy for Republicans who have struggled to land consistent and effective criticism of Biden and fellow Democrats during his presidency so far.

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