An Israeli army soldier

An Israeli army soldier sits on an armored personnel carrier as it moves out of Gaza on February 26, 2024.

(Photo: Menahem Kahana/AFP via Getty Images)

'Enough Is Enough': Former Top Sanders Aide Urges Israel Arms Embargo

"It is time for President Biden and U.S. partners to finally use their leverage to end this catastrophe."

As the death toll from Israel's war on the Gaza Strip topped 30,000 on Thursday, President Joe Biden faced renewed pressure to immediately cut off U.S. diplomatic and weapons support for the nearly five-month Israeli assault.

"President Biden must say 'enough is enough' and finally end U.S. support for and complicity in the ongoing carnage in Gaza," said Matt Duss, a former top aide to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) who is now executive vice president at the Center for International Policy.

"Importantly, he should suspend transfers to Israel of the arms it is using in Gaza," Duss argued, "as he is already obligated to do under U.S. law given the obvious reality—including an open admission by Israeli Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu—that the Israeli government is limiting the amount of humanitarian aid delivered to the territory."

"U.S. security assistance has enabled catastrophic civilian harm in Gaza in a way that appears to violate existing U.S. law and policy."

Since Israeli forces began bombarding Gaza in response to the Hamas-led attack on October 7, the Biden administration has repeatedly vetoed United Nations cease-fire resolutions, bypassed Congress to send weapons, and sought over $14 billion atop the $3.8 billion in annual military aid that Israel already gets from the United States.

Duss stressed that Biden should continue efforts to secure a cease-fire, the release of all hostages, and a surge in humanitarian aid. He said that "diplomacy must be prioritized not only as a means of reaching peace, but in order to uphold our own principles. The ongoing provision of arms to Israel despite its open hindrance of humanitarian efforts is a clear departure from those principles."

"A full cease-fire and massive humanitarian relief effort is not just a moral necessity but a security one," he added, warning of the growing risk of a regional conflict. "Nearly five months of slaughter and starvation of civilians in Gaza, and the continued holding and abuse of Israeli hostages, must not continue. It is time for President Biden and U.S. partners to finally use their leverage to end this catastrophe."

After Israeli forces reportedly opened fire on starving Palestinians in Gaza on Thursday, Trita Parsi, executive vice president at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, said on social media that "Biden's deference to Israel brought this about. Biden has put zero material pressure on Netanyahu."

Rather than using his leverage to "force Israel to let in the aid, Biden instead caves to Netanyahu and considers airdropping aid," Parsi continued. "What a humiliation! Imagine if Biden from the outset had decided NOT to give Israel a blank check?"

The Washington, D.C.-based Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) similarly released a Thursday statement calling on the United States to "urgently leverage security assistance to push for civilian protection, de-escalation, and an immediate cease-fire."

"The U.S. is Israel's closest ally and provider of billions of dollars of security assistance annually," the group said. "U.S. security assistance has enabled catastrophic civilian harm in Gaza in a way that appears to violate existing U.S. law and policy. The U.S. has publicly pressed Israel on civilian protection; however, without using its leverage by conditioning aid, these messages will continue to be ignored."

CIVIC and over a dozen other groups—including Amnesty International, Oxfam, and Save the Children—last month jointly called on all U.N. member states to "immediately halt the transfer of weapons, parts, and ammunition to Israel and Palestinian armed groups while there is risk they are used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian or human rights law."

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday also called for ending the flow of weapons, responding to a recent report from the U.N. high commissioner for human rights about the occupied Palestinian territories.

"The heinous crimes carried out by Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups since October 7 are the abhorrent legacy of decadeslong impunity for unlawful attacks by all parties and Israel's crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution against Palestinians," the group said. "The international community's long-standing unwillingness to act to hold perpetrators to account has fueled grave abuses."

"As Israeli authorities contemplate forcing the over 1 million Palestinians in Rafah to again flee when there's nowhere safe in Gaza—a move that would be unlawful and have catastrophic consequences—states should act to prevent further atrocities," HRW asserted.

Both HRW and Amnesty have said this week that Israel is defying the International Court of Justice, which last month issued binding provisional measures in the ongoing South Africa-led genocide case against the country. Meanwhile, a U.S. case about Biden and other top officials' complicity in genocide is moving through the federal appeals process.

"States should use all forms of leverage, including targeted sanctions and an arms embargo, to press the Israeli government to comply with the binding order and to press the Israeli government and Palestinian armed groups to end unlawful attacks and other grave abuses," HRW said Thursday. "The lives of millions of civilians hang in the balance."

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