Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.
A group of progressive House Democrats are breaking with Joe Biden on selling U.S. weapons to Israel, introducing a resolution Wednesday to block the Biden administration’s $735 million arms sale to Israel after a week of airstrikes on Gaza.
The resolution from Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Mark Pocan would prohibit the “proposed transfer” of different types of bombs and technical data to Israel that would create precision-guided weapons for the Ministry of Defense, according to a draft of the resolution.
These explosives being sold in the deal are manufactured by Boeing, according to Jewish Currents, which first reported news of the resolution. Israel has purchased the weapons from the U.S. before, and it’s believed that the Israeli military is currently using them in its bombardment of Gaza, CNN reported.
“At a time when so many, including our President, support a ceasefire, we should not be sending ‘direct attack’ weaponry to Prime Minister Netanyahu to prolong this violence,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a statement Wednesday. “It is long past time to end the US policy of unconditional military arms sales, particularly to governments that have violated human rights.”
The arms sale was formally submitted to Congress on May 5. Congress has a 15-day window to oppose the deal. Other members who intend to co-sponsor the resolution include Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar, Cori Bush, Ayanna Pressley, Betty McCollum, Pramila Jayapal, and Andre Carson, according to a press release from Ocasio-Cortez’s office.
There’s overwhelming Congressional support for aid to Israel, which makes the resolution’s passage unlikely. But the effort represents an organized break from some House progressives with the Biden administration on the issue, even if the effort is virtually guaranteed to fail.
“The harsh truth is that these weapons are being sold by the United States to Israel with the clear understanding that the vast majority of them will be used to bomb Gaza,” Tlaib said in the statement. “Approving this sale now, while failing to even try to use it as leverage for a ceasefire, sends a clear message to the world – the U.S. is not interested in peace, and does not care about the human rights and lives of Palestinians. You cannot claim to support human rights and peace on Earth and continue to back the extremist Netanyahu regime, it’s that simple.”
The resolution comes after a week in which hundreds of Palestinians, including dozens of children, have been killed by Israeli airstrikes. Israel has said the airstrikes are in retaliation for rocket attacks from Gaza, which have reportedly killed 10 Israelis. The sharp spike in rocket attacks came after Israeli police injured hundreds of Palestinians in a raid on the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.
Over the weekend, the IDF also destroyed a Gaza office building which housed the offices of international media outlets including the Associated Press and Al Jazeera, claiming the Palestinian militant group Hamas was operating in it. Both the AP and Hamas have denied that they shared office space,Israel has not provided proof, and Secretary of State Tony Blinken said he hadn’t seen any evidence.
House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Gregory Meeks reportedly told committee members on Monday that he would send a letter to the Biden administration requesting a pause in the sale. But he backed down the next day in favor of a meeting with administration officials, according to Roll Call.
Biden is already well aware of progressive opposition to his policy on Israel. On Tuesday, Tlaib—whose grandmother lives in the West Bank—confronted Biden about the administration’s support for Israel on an airport tarmac while he visited Michigan, according to the New York Times.
Later, during a speech at a Ford factory in Dearborn, Biden praised Tlaib, though he referred to her as “Rasheed.”
“I admire your intellect, I admire your passion and I admire your concern for so many other people,” he said. “From my heart, I pray that your grandmom and family are well. I promise you, I’m going to do everything to see that they are in the West Bank.”
But after the speech, as Biden sat behind the wheel of a Ford truck preparing to test drive it, a reporter asked if she could ask “a quick question on Israel before you drive away,” Biden responded: “No, you can’t—not unless you get in front of the car as I step on it.”