Pro-Israel Democrat slams Israel’s Gaza operation in potential sign of more to come

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., addresses the Gwinnett County Democratic Party fundraiser in Norcross, Georgia, on May 21, 2022. (Akili-Casundria Ramsess/AP)
Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., addresses the Gwinnett County Democratic Party fundraiser in Norcross, Georgia, on May 21, 2022. (Akili-Casundria Ramsess/AP)

Sen. Jon Ossoff, who has been a consensus-seeking voice on Israel within the Democratic party and who has carefully avoided overly criticizing the Jewish state since entering Congress in 2021, issued a blistering critique of the IDF’s ongoing military operation against Hamas in Gaza.

“The extent of civilian death and suffering in Gaza is unnecessary. It is a moral failure, and it should be unacceptable to the United States,” Ossoff says in a speech from the Senate floor on Wednesday.

While Ossoff to date has been critical of certain Israeli policies in the West Bank, he has tapered that criticism and relied heavily on talking points regarding the importance of a two-state solution while working to build relationships with several key Israeli lawmakers. He has led efforts in Congress to back largely consensus initiatives such as boosting funding for the US Security Coordinator in Jerusalem and encouraging an independent investigation into the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.

But the criticism voiced by Ossoff goes further than he has in the past and raises the question of whether it may amount to the start of a trend within the Democratic party led by a president who has backed Israel’s military operation in Gaza while urging the IDF to protect civilians as much as possible.

Ossoff is careful not to go as far as to call for a ceasefire as over two dozen of his far-left colleagues in the House have done. However, he appeared to come rather close.

“An unmitigated humanitarian disaster in Gaza… undermines American national security; it heightens the risk that the war might spread and draw American forces further into combat; it sews the seeds of hate and dims the prospects for a long-term sustainable peace between Israelis and Palestinians; it gives fodder to terrorists who would strike Americans and our allies abroad and at home; it damages the credibility of the United States and our allies as champions of a future defined by humanitarian values,” Ossoff says.

“If in six months Gaza is rubble and tens of thousands of civilians dead and millions of desperate refugees with no viable plan to govern its ruins, that would be a disaster not just for all those killed and wounded and immiserated, but also for Israel, for the region and for the United States,” he says.

The United States has stood with Israel since October 7, and still does,” Ossoff continues, pointing to US President Joe Biden’s wartime visit, the rushing of military aid to Israel and US military assets to the region and efforts to release the hostages.

“Nevertheless, requests by the United States that the Israeli leadership conduct a more targeted campaign, that they permit and provide a safe passage for aid essential to the sustenance of life, that they clearly define objectives, that they prevent extrajudicial killings by extremists in the West Bank, that they present a credible plan for Gaza’s future governance have mostly been ignored,” he laments.

“Where the United States is committing arms, funds and support to those efforts, we must guard our principles and our interests,” Ossoff says in a speech in which he also categorically condemns Hamas, asserts that there is no justification for the October 7 massacre and acknowledges that a degree civilian collateral is understood given Hamas’s use of human shields.

“I urge Israel’s political leaders to act with wisdom, to listen to Israel’s greatest friend and ally, the United States,” he says.

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