Tim Kaine

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) speaks during a Senate Budget Committee hearing on May 5, 2022.

(Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images)

After Months of Progressive Outcry Over Biden Israel Policy, Establishment Dems Pile On

Sen. Tim Kaine warned that the status quo in Israel's war on Gaza "is not working."

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine on Friday became the latest centrist Democrat to display a shift in tone regarding the Biden administration's continued support for Israel—and despite months of intensifying demands from progressive lawmakers and the international community for President Joe Biden to push for a change in policy from Israel, the newly minted critics have appeared to have more success.

The Virginia Democrat, who serves on both the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees, cited the killing of seven World Central Kitchen aid workers this week in a lengthy statement in which he said Israel's "current approach is not working" and pushed back against the White House's opposition to an independent investigation into the attack.

"The United States should join in the call for an independent and international investigation into Monday's strike on World Central Kitchen volunteers, in which an American was killed," said Kaine. The senator also renewed his call for the administration to "prioritize the transfer of defensive weapons in all arms sales to Israel while withholding bombs and other offensive weapons that can kill and wound civilians and humanitarian aid workers."

Kaine's comments came a day after Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.)—said to be Biden's closest ally in the Senate—told CNN that the U.S. is approaching a point at which it must consider placing conditions on military aid to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

"If [Israeli Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu were to order the IDF into Rafah at scale... and make no provision for civilians or for humanitarian aid, I would vote to condition aid to Israel," Coons said, referring to the southern Gaza city where Israel has threatened to start a ground offensive and where 1.5 million displaced Palestinians are staying in shelters and makeshift tents. "I've never said that before, I've never been here before."

Late Thursday, Biden for the first time warned Netanyahu that the U.S. could condition military aid—of which the White House has provided billions of dollars in weapons since October in addition to nearly $4 billion annually—based on whether humanitarian aid is reaching Gazans, who have been starved by Israel's near-total blockade.

As Common Dreamsreported, Israeli officials approved the reopening of the Erez crossing between Israel and northern Gaza soon after the call.

Also this week, former George W. Bush administration official Richard Haass told MSNBC that Biden's previous warnings to Netanyahu about ensuring civilians are protected from strikes sound "empty" and demanded to know why the White House hasn't responded to Israel's push for settlement expansion in the West Bank as he questioned the level of aid the administration has provided.

"Why does Israel need 2,000-pound bombs to be used in high-density populated areas?" Haass asked, echoing progressive outrage over the administration's repeated weapons transfers even as the death toll in Gaza has surged past 33,000.

While progressives on Friday expressed some relief that Biden's shifting approach to Israel could soon result in more aid getting to Palestinians, Palestinian rights advocates mourned the fact that Israel's killing of more than 33,000 Palestinians, the orphaning of at least 17,000 children, the deaths from starvation of more than two dozen children, and the displacement of over 75% of Gaza's population did not push the president's allies to join progressives sooner.

"It may seem wrong that, after more than 30,000 Palestinians in Gaza have perished, it took the deaths of just seven international aid workers to stir Western governments into a sense of outrage, but that is the reality," read the opening lines of The Independent's leading editorial on Thursday.

"The least that can be asked is that Israel, as a member of the United Nations, complies with the resolutions of the Security Council and the instructions of the International Court of Justice," wrote the paper's editorial board. "That means no more massacres of innocent civilians or aid workers; a cease-fire now; no ground or aerial assault on Rafah; and full assistance afforded to the shipments of humanitarian aid."

Join Us: News for people demanding a better world

Common Dreams is powered by optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter makes the difference.

Your contribution supports this bold media model—free, independent, and dedicated to reporting the facts every day. Stand with us in the fight for economic equality, social justice, human rights, and a more sustainable future. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.