Top Senate Democrat joins growing chorus of lawmakers moving away from Biden on Israel

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin, Democrat of Maryland, said Friday that military aid to Israel should continue, in a departure from the White House’s position.

In a statement, Cardin said he disagreed with President Biden, who threatened to withhold offensive aid to Israel if Israel carried out a ground invasion of the southern city of Rafah from Gaza, where millions of Palestinians have sought refuge to escape the war.

“While the most recent report regarding Israel under NSM-20 raised concerns, I agree with its assessment that Israel has not violated international humanitarian law and that military assistance to support Israel’s security remains in the interests of the United States and should continue,” Cardin said. .

“In this regard, I disagree with President Biden’s recent decision,” he said.

BIDEN’S DECISION TO WITHDRAW ISRAELI WEAPONS SHIPMENT KEPT QUIET UNTIL AFTER HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL SPEECH: REPORT

Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) speaks to reporters outside the Senate Chamber on Capitol Hill April 23, 2024, in Washington, DC. Cardin said Friday that he disagreed with President Biden’s decision to suspend a bomb delivery to Israel. (Andrew Harnik/Getty Images)

Cardin’s statement follows a State Department report released Friday, which raised “serious concerns” based on credible U.N. and NGO sources regarding alleged human rights violations by Israeli forces. . The report documents credible allegations of human rights violations by Israeli security forces, “including arbitrary or unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, torture and serious abuses in the context of the conflict.”

The State Department report also said that approximately 34,700 Palestinians have been killed in the conflict with Israel since the October 7 Hamas terrorist attack, citing figures from the Gaza Health Ministry. The report considers this estimate “credible,” but notes that the Hamas-controlled ministry does not distinguish between Hamas fighters and civilians in its casualty count.

The State Department said it was “reasonable to assess” that U.S. defense items “have been used by Israeli security forces since October 7 in cases inconsistent with its [international humanitarian law] obligations or with established best practices to mitigate harm to civilians. » However, the report did not accuse Israel of specific violations of humanitarian law and noted that Hamas hides military targets behind civilian populations and infrastructure.

Continued Israeli military operations in Gaza have created a political problem for Biden, as left-wing anti-Israel agitators in the United States are increasingly unhappy with his support for Israel.

DEMOCRATS Blast at Biden for Halting Arms Shipments to Israel

Biden delivers Holocaust memorial speech

President Joe Biden speaks during the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s annual Days of Remembrance ceremony at the U.S. Capitol, Tuesday, May 7, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Biden last week approved a pause on sending bombs to Israel that could be used in a possible assault on Rafah – but the White House National Security Council kept the decision quiet until the president announced Tuesday a long-planned speech. mark Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Associated Press reported.

The shipment was supposed to include 1,800 2,000-pound bombs and 1,700 500-pound bombs, a senior U.S. administration official told the AP on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive issue.

In an interview with CNN on Wednesday, Biden said he would stop some U.S. arms shipments to Israel if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu orders a major invasion of the city of Rafah, the last major Hamas stronghold in the Gaza Strip. . It was the first time that Biden said he was ready to condition American armament on Israel’s action in the war launched seven months ago in response to the terrorist attacks of October 7.

“Civilians have been killed in Gaza because of these bombs and other ways that they attack population centers,” Biden told CNN’s Erin Burnett. “I made it clear that if they went to Rafah – they haven’t done it yet – if they went to Rafah, I would not provide them with the weapons that were used historically to deal with Rafah, to take care of cities – which deal with this problem.

BIDEN PLEDGES TO WITHHOLD ARMS FROM ISRAEL IF NETANYAHU CONTINUES RAFAH INVASION

Israel Palestinians

Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike on buildings near the separation wall between Egypt and Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday, May 7. (AP/Ramez Habboub)

His decision drew backlash from a growing chorus of pro-Israel Democratic lawmakers — including Cardin — some of whom suggested Biden’s decision was motivated by politics and the upcoming election in November.

“I suspect it panders to the far left,” said Rep. Ritchie Tores, D-N.Y., told Axios. “It appears to be election year politics that drove this decision. That’s my impression.”

The Democratic Party is divided on Israel amid a massive wave of student protests on US college campuses. Anti-Israel agitators set up illegal encampments on at least 50 campuses and more than 2,800 people were arrested by police called in to break up the illegal gatherings, according to the Associated Press.

Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., a staunch defender of Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas, told Axios he opposed Biden’s pause on arms deliveries.

BIDEN ADMINISTRATION CONFIRMS SUSPENSION OF BOMB SHIPMENT TO ISRAEL DUE TO OPPOSITION TO OPERATION IN RAFAH

Ritchie Torres, Joe Biden and John Fetterman share the image

President Biden is under attack from Republicans and even Democrats for his actions in denying arms shipments to Israel. Pictured right to left: Rep. Ritche Torres, D-N.Y., President Biden, Sen. John Fetterman, D-Penn. (Getty Images)

“I totally disagree,” Fetterman said. “We must stand by our main ally in all of this.”

Sen. Jacky Rosen, Democrat of Nevada, said security assistance to Israel should be “unconditional” as Israel faces threats from Iran and its proxy groups, such as Hamas.

“The administration should not do anything that would harm Israel’s ability to defeat Hamas and address growing threats in the region,” she told Jewish Insider.

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Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, agreed that U.S. support for Israel should continue.

“I don’t know what the president meant. I haven’t seen what the actual operation is in Rafah, but I certainly hope that we continue to provide the military and diplomatic support that Israel needs to defend itself.” , did he declare.

The White House has pushed back on the idea that Biden’s decision on Israel was politically motivated.

“The American people expect their presidents to have the courage to make difficult national security decisions and to put our security, interests, principles and alliances ahead of politics,” the spokesperson said. word from the White House, Andrew Bates, in a press release. “That’s exactly what Joe Biden is doing. He’s standing with Israel in the fight against the Hamas terrorists who carried out the horrific October 7 attacks, and he’s making it clear that how Israel defends itself matters because we don’t want to see any more civilians killed.”

“Joe Biden is the only president in our history to have ordered the U.S. military to actively defend Israel against foreign attack, and the only president to have literally stood with Israel – on Israeli soil – in time. war,” Bates added.

Jeffrey Clark and Danielle Wallace of Fox News Digital contributed to this report.

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