California Senate debate

U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.; right) speaks while Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Katie Porter (D-Calif.) look on during an October 8, 2023 Senate candidates' debate in Los Angeles.

(Photo: Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Lee's Call for Unconditional Gaza Cease-Fire Stands Out in California Senate Race

"We need leaders who set the pace for change—not halfheartedly follow along when it's politically expedient," the progressive congresswoman insisted.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee—the only one of three California House Democrats vying for a U.S. Senate seat who backs an unconditional Gaza cease-fire—on Wednesday set herself apart from congressional colleagues who support a pause to the fighting, but with strings attached.

"A conditional cease-fire is not a cease-fire at all," Lee said on social media. "We need leaders who set the pace for change—not halfheartedly follow along when it's politically expedient."

"I've always shown up for the side of peace and I'll take urgent, unwavering action for peace and security in the Senate," added Lee, the only member of Congress to vote against authorizing the open-ended U.S. War on Terror after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

Lee's remarks came after rival Rep. Katie Porter said this week that she now favors a Gaza cease-fire—but only on condition of "release of all hostages, durable security for Israel, and an end to Hamas' control of Gaza."

Porter—who earlier this year said she was "extremely impressed" by far-right Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after meeting him in Israel—had resisted pressure by progressive Democrats to endorse the cease-fire resolution introduced in October by Reps. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.). Lee was an early backer of the measure.

Lee supporters expressed skepticism over Porter's new stance.

"She waited until the polling and the outcry became so large that she had to put forth a statement. It's a bunch of caveats and conditions to get her to be able to say the word cease-fire," Konstantine Anthony, a Democrat who on Monday completed his term as Burbank's mayor, told Politico.

Anthony—who last week switched his endorsement from Rep. Adam Schiff to Lee over the cease-fire issue—added that "once you have Katie Porter jump sides, now there's immense pressure for Schiff to take a stance on this."

However, Schiff remains the only candidate who has yet to back any sort of cease-fire in Gaza. He defends his position with the same rhetoric as Israel's far-right leaders and their backers in the Biden administration, arguing that a cease-fire would only benefit Hamas.

This, as the Palestinian death toll from 75 days of Israeli bombs and bullets topped 20,000 on Wednesday, with more than 50,000 others wounded and 1.9 million of Gaza's 2.3 million people forcibly displaced, with many suffering from hunger, diseases, and winter conditions.

As Lee said last week, most of the world's nations "agree with the majority of Americans: We need a permanent cease-fire in Gaza. We must end the bloodshed. Countless lives depend on it."

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