Eight Dem. senators urge Biden to suspend military aid to Israel, citing US law

NEW YORK – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s interference in US humanitarian operations in Gaza violates the Humanitarian Aid Corridor Act, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and other Democratic lawmakers claim in a letter sent to President Joe Biden on Monday.

A statement on Sanders’ website said the law bars military assistance to any country when the US president knows the government of such a country is prohibiting or restricting, directly or indirectly, the transport or delivery of US humanitarian assistance.

“According to public reporting and your statements, the Netanyahu government violates this law. Given this reality, we urge you to make it clear to the Netanyahu government that failure to immediately and dramatically expand humanitarian access and facilitate safe aid deliveries throughout Gaza will lead to serious consequences, as specified under existing US law,” the senators wrote to Biden.

Rising concerns about the Netanyahu government’s actions

“Federal law is clear, and, given the urgency of the crisis in Gaza, and the repeated refusal of Prime Minister Netanyahu to address US concerns on this issue, immediate action is necessary to secure a change in policy by his government,” the letter also said.

U.S. military personnel load aid packages into a plane that will be airdropped over Gaza, in Zarqa, Jordan March 12, 2024. (credit: JEHAD SHELBAK/REUTERS)

The letter was signed by Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Peter Welch (D-VT.), Tina Smith (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Ben Ray Luján (D-NM).

Monday’s letter is the latest effort by more progressive members of the Democratic party who have urged Biden to reconsider military funding for Israel and to increase humanitarian aid for Palestinians. 

Biden administration response

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan addressed this letter during the White House press conference on Tuesday afternoon. 

Sullivan said the administration shares the goal of getting more humanitarian aid into Gaza, as demonstrated during last week’s State of the Union address with the announcement of the temporary pier which will be built off of Gaza’s coast. 

“We just had our seventh airdrop today. We’re also working with the Israelis to increase the throughput of humanitarian assistance by ground both through Kerem Shalom and through a new crossing where we had the first trucks get in last night and we need to see more where that came from,” Sullivan said. 

“We’re not going to engage in hypotheticals about what comes down the line and the reports that describe what the President’s thinking on this or uninformed speculation,” Sullivan added. 

Sullivan said the administration maintains its compliance with US law “in every act that we have taken throughout the war” and the administration will “obviously continue to do so.”

Sullivan also said Biden signed a national security memorandum, which speaks to both compliance with international humanitarian law and the conduct of military operations and the need not to unduly arbitrarily restrict humanitarian assistance from going in.

“So it’s something that’s very much a priority of his to stay focused on that, and we will make sure that everything we do complies with our law, but also complies with the policy that the President has set out in the priority places on the provision of humanitarian assistance,” Sullivan said. 

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