While much of the rest of the world watches the Gaza war in horror and scrambles for a ceasefire, US lawmakers are pressing the Obama administration to take no action that puts pressure on Israel to halt its military operations.
Many have even criticised the administration’s effort to stop violence that has killed more than 1,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and more than 40 Israeli soldiers and three civilians this month.
“At times like this, people try to isolate Israel,” House Speaker John Boehner said. “We are here to stand with Israel, not just as a broker or observer but as a strong partner and a trusted ally.
“What does that mean? Well, it doesn’t mean issuing vague, on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand statements. No, it means backing up our words and showing solidarity with our friend.”
This week, legislators will discuss a $225m request from the Defence Department to urgently bolster Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system.
In a weekend call with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, President Barack Obama stressed the need for an “immediate, unconditional, humanitarian ceasefire”. Obama, a White House statement said, suggested larger questions would then come later.
Such talk has alarmed lawmakers of both parties. In a letter last week to Obama, Senators Chuck Schumer of New York, Ben Cardin of Maryland and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said a ceasefire must eliminate Hamas’ ability to fire rockets and place no restrictions on the Jewish state.
“Israel must be allowed to take any actions necessary to remove those threats,” the senators wrote — a position that presaged by two days the Israeli government’s unanimous rejection of Secretary of State John Kerry’s ceasefire proposal.
Kerry has tried to secure commitments from both sides that would lead to peace. Congress, by contrast, has focused its energies on Palestinian actions and said no one should question Israel’s actions in a time of war.