Top GOP senators on Wednesday laid blame for the fighting in the Middle East at the feet of President Joe Biden, pointing to his administration’s dismissal of the peace accords struck between Israel and several countries under the former president and Biden’s intention to re-enter the Iran nuclear deal.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) recalled being present when the Abraham Accords were signed at the White House. The agreements were hammered out between the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain and Israel, with help from then-President Donald Trump.
“I spoke with the ambassadors and foreign ministers from the UAE and from Bahrain. Both said virtually the identical thing; both said ‘it is now clear to us that America stands unequivocally with Israel. We want to be friends with America. Therefore we will be friends with Israel.’ That clarity that strength produces peace,” Cruz told a briefing in Washington.
But Biden after entering office undermined Israel by sending hundreds of millions of dollars to the Palestinian Authority, which is closely linked to the terror group Hamas, and stated his goal of re-entering a nuclear agreement with Iran that Trump had withdrawn from.
“As a direct result of those failed decisions, we now have hundreds and hundreds of rockets raining down on innocent men, women, and children in Israel from Hamas, funded by Iran,” Cruz said.
A White House National Security Council spokesperson said that the United States restarting aid for the Palestinians in April aligns with U.S. values and interests, as well as those of the country’s allies and partners.
“There is a long history of bipartisan consensus around the value of providing U.S. assistance in the West Bank and Gaza and to Palestinians in the region. By restarting this assistance, the United States is realigning America’s actions and assistance with longstanding American values. By providing critical humanitarian relief, fostering economic development, and supporting Israeli-Palestinian security coordination, we will help millions of vulnerable Palestinians and promote a stable environment that benefits both Palestinians and Israelis,” the spokesperson said in an email.
Officials have had over 60 calls in the past week alone with senior leaders in Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and regional leaders, a White House spokesperson told reporters aboard Air Force One on Wednesday.
“And we will continue to remain deeply engaged in intensive, quiet diplomacy to hold the current violence and find the way forward,” she said.
Fighting in the Middle East broke out earlier this month after Hamas launched rockets at Israel. Nearly 250 people have been killed, mostly Palestinians, according to Israeli and Gaza authorities.
Biden has spoken twice with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. According to White House readouts, the Democrat conveyed his support for Israel’s right to defend itself. But he told Netanyahu on Wednesday that he “expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire.”
Cruz accused Biden of lecturing Netanyahu and urging him to stop defending Israel. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), a member of the Senate GOP leadership, alleged Biden “has to get a backbone; he has to stand up for American allies.”
“It’s shocking to me to see how much the administration has changed over time in regard to the support for Israel. It was a given that whether it was a Republican administration or a Democrat administration, for a long time in our country’s history, that we recognize the importance of Israel, our ally. And today, we’re here because that no longer is evident,” Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) added.
“We are sending a message to the Biden administration that it is important that they do what is morally correct and what is in the best interest of the United States, which is in support of Israel in these difficult and challenging times,” he said, adding that the group also wanted to send a similar message to Democrats.
Some members of the party have called on the Biden administration to condemn Israeli actions.
“I think the United States needs to take responsibility for the violence that we are supporting. Why is it even a question that U.S. resources should not go to the detention of children—any child, let alone Palestinian children,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) told reporters on Capitol Hill. “And so the fact that this administration is even hesitating to take such a basic humane stance is disappointing and unacceptable, and if we want to commit to being a role as an honest broker, then we need to be honest, and we can’t advance this idea that we’re some neutral party in this situation if our actions are consistently targeting Palestinians.”
But others have offered strong support for Israel.
“Hamas’ onslaught of over 3,400 indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israeli communities cannot be defined as anything less than terrorism, and I will not sympathize with a terrorist organization that holds the people of Gaza hostage with its violence. Hamas’ actions have resulted in the loss of innocent Palestinian and Israeli lives, and there should only be a cease fire once Israel fully stamps out Hamas’ military capabilities,” Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Texas) said in a statement.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) last week described the situation as “a Palestinian power struggle, and that is about Hamas.”
“Hamas is threatening the security of people in Israel. Israel has a right to defend itself. Many of our Members in our Caucus are great friends of Israel but understand, also, that we respect the self-determination, that we want a two-state solution in the region. But that doesn’t give license to Hamas to bomb Israel,” she told reporters.
A group of Democrats had planned to send a letter to the Biden administration, asking to delay a $735 million arms deal between the United States and Israel until a ceasefire was reached.
Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told reporters in Washington that the purpose of the letter was to ensure dialogue and that he and other members of Congress would be meeting with administration officials on Wednesday.
“I’m glad the administration is actually recognizing Congress has a role, and that this process has been going on for many, many years the formal notification the prior administration tried to do a little bit of an end around on that, and … I mean it’s just, it’s our Article One responsibility,” he said.