Senator Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon, has become the second member of the Senate to call for a cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
In a statement, Merkley expressed his concern about the escalating violence in the region and criticized Israel for not doing enough to protect Palestinian civilians or limit the damage caused by its military operations. He highlighted the high number of Palestinian casualties, including many children, and the displacement of over a million Gazans.
Merkley argued that while Israel maintains it only targets Hamas militants and their infrastructure, the scale of destruction suggests otherwise.
He also raised concerns about Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and its increasing right-wing politics, which he believes are alienating international support for the country.
He warned that the current invasion of Gaza could have serious consequences, including the deterioration of Israel’s relations with Arab nations, regional conflict, and a less secure Israel.
Merkley’s support for a cease-fire is significant, given its rarity among Senate members. In contrast, a nonbinding resolution calling for a cease-fire in the House has garnered the support of 17 House Democrats. Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have called for temporary “pauses” in fighting to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza.
It is notable that Sanders, known for his outspoken defense of Palestinian rights, has not explicitly supported a long-term cease-fire. This decision has disappointed leftists and pro-Palestinian activists who expected more from him.
President Joe Biden has also refused to call for a cease-fire and instead suggested short-term pauses in fighting to allow evacuation and hostage release. Israel has agreed to four-hour daily pauses so far.