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Dem senators tell White House any further assistance to Israel ‘must be consistent with our interests’

More than a dozen Democratic senators visited the White House this week, where they discussed the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, the impact it has had on Palestinian civilians in Gaza, and what steps the Biden administration would take after the temporary cease-fire expires. 

U.S. Sens. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, and Jack Reed, D-R.I., were joined by over a dozen of their Democratic colleagues for a meeting with White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan on Tuesday. The named lawmakers then released a statement on Wednesday detailing what was discussed. 

According to the statement, the senators condemned the brutal terror attacks by Hamas, expressed support for funds to immediately replenish Israel’s defensive systems, and tasked the White House with detailing its plan to support Israel in a way that advances U.S. interests. 

“We continue to support additional assistance to Israel in the aftermath of the brutal Hamas attacks – but we are all in agreement that this assistance must be consistent with our interests and values and used in a manner that adheres to international humanitarian law, the law of armed conflict, and U.S. law,” the Democrats said.

They added: “We need to find a better path toward helping Israel achieve legitimate military and security objectives. U.S. assistance has never come in the form of a blank check – regardless of the recipient.” 

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The statement comes as Israel and Hamas extended a temporary cease-fire for several more days – with another potential extension being negotiated. The temporary truce included the release of Israeli hostages being held by Hamas in exchange for Palestinian prisoners being held in Israel as well as an opportunity to provide humanitarian relief to Palestinians in Gaza. 

In the letter, the Democratic lawmakers specifically condemned Hamas for initiating a terror attack on Oct. 7 that triggered the current conflict.

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“Following the brutal terror attacks that Hamas conducted against Israel, America has stood united in our support for Israel’s duty to defend itself and hold Hamas accountable,” the Democrats said. “We believe the U.S. should immediately provide Israel with funding to support this effort, including funds to replenish its defensive systems.”

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“But to better understand the efficacy of U.S. funding that supports Israel’s operations inside Gaza, we requested answers from the President on how these funds are being used in order to ensure they support an Israeli strategy that will effectively degrade and defeat the threat from Hamas while taking all possible measures to protect civilians in Gaza,” they added, referencing a letter they sent to President Biden that expressed similar sentiments.

“In our letter to President Biden, we raised several key issues, including maintaining a focus on returning hostages, reducing civilian casualties, delivering humanitarian aid, establishing a plan for post-war governance and the future of the region, and addressing extremist violence in the West Bank. During yesterday’s briefing, we had an opportunity to discuss with the Administration each of the questions raised in our letter,” they said in Wednesday’s statement.

“As we expressed in the meeting, we are grateful for their leadership in negotiating a temporary ceasefire to secure the release of many hostages and to allow some desperately needed humanitarian assistance into Gaza,” they said. “But as the end of the temporary ceasefire looms ahead, we must do more to ensure the protection of innocent civilians.”

The Democrats also said they were “gravely concerned” about a resumption in fighting between Israeli Defense Forces and Hamas, which they said “threatens to once again renew the high rate of civilian casualties and further deepen the humanitarian crisis.”

They also urged President Biden, who has received criticism for his handling of the Israel-Hamas war, to publicly address his strategy, saying “the Administration must provide transparent responses to the American people on these matters.”

The current truce is scheduled to expire on Nov. 30.

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