Calls for Ceasefire Grow From Liberal Democrats in Congress, as Biden Hints at Looming Hostage Deal

Arguably the most prominent Jewish person in American politics, Senator Sanders, says he is ‘not quite sure how you negotiate a ceasefire with a terrorist organization that is dedicated to perpetual war.’

AP/Carolyn Kaster
Representative Jamie Raskin on Capitol Hill, February 9, 2023. AP/Carolyn Kaster

The number of congressional Democrats calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war is increasing by the day, with the first Jewish members joining the pressure campaign for a cessation of fighting in recent days. Some of the nation’s most prominent liberals, though, are defending Israel’s right to root out Hamas, no matter how long it takes. 

These calls for a ceasefire came before President Biden announced a deal was near to release the hostages from Hamas capture. When asked if a hostage agreement was imminent, Mr. Biden said, “I believe so.” The National Security Council spokesman, John Kirby, echoed those sentiments Monday, telling reporters, “We’re closer now to a hostage deal than we’ve been before.”

Just in recent days, two Jewish House Democrats — Congressman Jamie Raskin and Congresswoman Sara Jacobs — joined their colleagues in calling for a ceasefire. In total, there are now 37 members of the Democratic caucus side of the aisle calling for an end to the fighting. 

“Now is the time for American strategic, diplomatic and political leadership to press for a breakthrough change in the relentless and dangerous dynamics of war and violence,” Mr. Raskin said in a statement. He said Hamas and Israel must agree to a number of conditions, including the terrorist group relinquishing control of the Gaza Strip, handing over all remaining civilian hostages, and Western governments creating a “Marshall Plan-style global reconstruction effort” in the region. 

Ms. Jacobs said that the Israeli military’s recent hint that it may extend operations into southern Gaza was the catalyst for her to call for a ceasefire more than a month after the October 7 terrorist attack. “It is time for a bilateral ceasefire — to immediately release the hostages; to establish humanitarian access and allow fuel, food, water, and medical care into Gaza; and to end the bombardment of millions of Palestinian civilians,” Ms. Jacobs said in a statement

Only two members of the upper chamber have so far called for a ceasefire — Senators Durbin and Merkeley. 

The first Jewish member of Congress to call for a ceasefire was Congresswoman Becca Balint. In an opinion article for her hometown publication, VTDigger, at Vermont on Thursday, Ms. Balint said, “Even with Hamas operations intentionally embedded among civilians, Israel cannot bomb targets in densely populated areas.” 

A ceasefire “will be the first step in the difficult and critical work needed ahead — building Israel’s post-war government, determining who will govern the Gaza Strip, and negotiating long-term peace and security for both Palestinians and Israelis,” Ms. Balint wrote. 

A number of high-profile liberals in Congress have so far resisted calls for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Senator Warren has rebuffed all pressure for her to call for a ceasefire, though she does agree with the Biden administration’s stance that there must be more lengthy humanitarian pauses that allow innocent Gazans to flee the fighting and receive access to food, water, and medical care. 

On Sunday, Ms. Warren’s home at Cambridge, Massachusetts, was surrounded by constituents who demanded that the Harvard professor turned liberal icon call for an end to hostilities. Her street was shut down by those protesters carrying large banners that read, “Warren: Is 5,000 Dead Kids Enough?” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

Even Senator Sanders, who is arguably the most prominent Jewish member of Congress, has said a ceasefire is not appropriate at this time and Israel must dismantle Hamas. He told reporters on Friday that he is “not quite sure how you negotiate a ceasefire with a terrorist organization that is dedicated to perpetual war.”

Mr. Sanders has called for significant changes to American support for Israel, though. In a statement released Thursday, the Vermonter said that Israel’s “right-wing extremist government does not have the right to wage almost total warfare against the Palestinian people.”

He demanded that Israel bring an “end to the indiscriminate bombing” against Palestinians while ensuring the “right of displaced Gazans to return to their homes.” He is also calling for an end to the blockade of Gaza and for the Israeli government to try to engage with some unnamed Palestinian entity in order to begin “broad peace talks for a two-state solution.”

The New York Sun

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