Nancy Pelosi Joins Calls to Halt Military Aid to Israel

CongressPalestine Nancy Pelosi
Nancy Pelosi Joins Calls to Halt Military Aid to Israel

On Friday, thirty-seven Democratic House members, including former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, signed a letter demanding the Biden Administration stop weapons transfers to Israel. The Israeli attack that killed seven aid workers for celebrity chef José Andrés’s World Central Kitchen was pretty clearly a watershed moment in the Israeli-American relationship.

It was already strained to a degree unseen in the modern history of Israel, as the Benjamin Netanyahu government has industrialized its mass-murder machine in Gaza to a truly horrifying degree. Every week since Hamas’s attack on October 7th that sparked a barbaric Israeli response against Palestinian civilians has brought more Democratic voters threatening to abandon the party come elections in November.

Biden’s response, or lack thereof, has compounded the horrors Palestinians experience every day. Last week, the criticism of his feckless policies reached something of a crescendo, as even George W. Bush administration advisors were going on TV saying his Israeli policy made him look both heartless and weak (they’re right).

All this outside pressure from elite Beltway circles sparked something in the Biden administration that 13,000+ children’s deaths did not, as he finally used the immense power at his fingertips to force Israel to open up humanitarian corridors to get aid to starving people in Gaza. Whether it actually arrives remains to be seen, but Biden pressuring Netanyahu to open up routes in the north is the first time he has used his immense power in public to help Palestinians.

Nancy Pelosi and 36 other House Democrats are increasing this pressure by demanding that Joe Biden halt weapons transfers to Israel, and condition future sales around compliance with international law. Per the letter addressed to Joe Biden and his Secretary of State Anthony Blinken:

In light of the recent strike against aid workers and the ever-worsening humanitarian crisis, we believe it is unjustifiable to approve these weapons transfers. We again strongly urge you to withhold any offensive weapons transfers until the investigation into the airstrike is concluded and, if it is found this strike violated U.S. or international law, those responsible are held accountable. And we again urge you to ensure that any future military assistance to Israel, including already authorized transfers, is subject to conditions to ensure it is used in compliance with U.S. and international law.

We have arrived at an unprecedented moment in the history of U.S. and Israeli relations. Dating back to the initial Nakba in 1948 that forced at least 750,000 people from their homes, the United States has provided cover for Israel’s longstanding policy of immiserating Palestinians. Even when past presidents like Ronald Reagan utilized the levers of American power to rein in Israel’s aggression, the overall policy towards our chief client state remained unchanged. America has supported Israel’s most unhinged ambitions and opposed Palestinian power, pretty much no matter what.

Now the ground seems to be shifting underneath our feet on this subject. Nancy Pelosi joining progressive members of Congress like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mark Pocan, and Barbara Lee in calling for a halt to weapons transfers is a big deal. No one has a better idea what direction the winds are blowing inside of the Democratic Party than the woman most skilled at counting and whipping up votes within it. If signing on to this letter would be a political misstep, she very likely would not have done it.

Pelosi has battled plenty with the left in recent years, and while her politics are not as moderate as those battles have made them seem, she still has liberal and progressive bona fides like voting against the Iraq War. It’s too cynical to say that she is joining these 36 other lawmakers just because she sees which way the wind is blowing, but she is as good of a leading indicator of which way Congress is trending that you’ll find.

If Nancy Pelosi, first female Speaker of the House in American history and perhaps the most widely-respected Democratic politician today, is coming out in favor of a fundamental alteration to the U.S.-Israel relationship, then you can be certain that there are others with less job security than her who feel similarly as well. Thirty-seven Congressional signatures is far from a presidential policy change, but the most notable signature on this letter to Joe Biden is almost certainly a harbinger of the pressure to come.

Add in the fact that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has already called for new elections in Israel in a split with his longtime “friend” Benjamin Netanyahu, and Joe Biden is as isolated as he has ever been in his entire political life. His policies are diametrically opposed to what party leaders like Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi have publicly endorsed, let alone the wishes of the voters he needs to win a second term.

Most Democrats and Independents disagree with Joe Biden’s policy of unceasing support for the Israeli war machine executing a litany of crimes against humanity, and they want a ceasefire. Polling indicates that Joe Biden has completely cratered his support with people under the age of 30, and it’s a pipe dream for Democrats to believe they’re getting the same level of historic turnout they got from young voters in 2020.

Nancy Pelosi joining these calls to halt shipments of offensive military weapons and condition future aid for Israel is one step in a saner direction, and she clearly sees the writing on the wall. Joe Biden does not, and it’s not unreasonable to look at Pelosi’s signature on this letter as an attempt to save the president from his own incompetence.

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