Bernie Sanders questions whether permanent ceasefire in Gaza possible if Hamas remains

The Vermont Senator has faced criticism from fellow progressives over not joining calls for ceasefire

John Bowden
Washington DC
Sunday 10 December 2023 21:13 GMT
Gaza is 'on its knees and collapsing' says World Health Organisation chief

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders expanded on his continued resistance to calls for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza on Sunday, explaining that he questioned whether such a prospect was possible while Hamas militants remained in power in the territory.

Mr Sanders and other progressive legislators have faced growing calls on the left for their endorsement of the issue; many of his supporters from his two presidential runs are now the loudest voices calling on the Biden administration to use the US’s influence with Israel to force a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

The senator explained that Hamas continues to call for the mass murder of Jews and other Israeli civilians, and cannot be allowed to carry out attacks like the 7 October massacre if peace is to be reached between Israel’s government and the Palestinian territory.

"I don't know how you can have a permanent cease-fire with Hamas, who has said before 7 Oct and after 7 Oct that they want to destroy Israel, they want a permanent war,” the senator said on CBS’s Face the Nation. “I don’t know how you have a permanent ceasefire with an attitude like that.”

But he also blasted the Biden administration for using the US’s veto at the United Nations to block a call for a “humanitarian ceasefire” in Gaza to allow for aid deliveries to trapped civilians and the rescue of hostages still imprisoned following the 7 Oct attack.

Several dozen members of the House of Representatives, all Democrats, have come out in favour of the US demanding a permanent ceasefire be reached. In the Senate, that same view has not caught on as quickly; just two senators, Dick Durbin and Jeff Merkley, have come out in support of that view.

Mr Sanders and fellow progressive favourite John Fetterman have faced the brunt of the criticism for not joining those calls, though others including Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey are facing similar pressure.

In the upper chamber, the independent senator has instead led calls for the Biden administration to condition aid to Israel on serious efforts to reduce civilian casualties in Gaza; in recent days he has appeared to wholly reject any further aid to Israel at all without a serious change in strategy by the Israeli military.

“What the Netanyahu government is doing is immoral,” he said on Monday during a floor speech.

“It is in violation of international law, and the United States should not be complicit in those actions,” he added.

Casualties in the Gaza Strip are thought to be around 18,000 people, mostly civilians, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Thousands of young children in particular are reported dead and more severely injured and traumatised; Gaza’s population trends abnormally young.

In the House, the Republican majority has dealt with the issue with its usual split personality. Lawmakers in the GOP caucus are adamant across the board that Israel has the right to take whatever military actions it deem necessary to destroy Hamas entirely, while also authoring a resolution to paint progressive supporters of Palestinians as broadly antisemitic.

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