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Democrat Infighting: Sanders’ Aid Proposal Turns Liberals Against Each Other

By CM Chaney · November 21, 2023

In brief…

  • Bernie Sanders called for conditioning U.S. aid to Israel based on policy changes, sparking backlash from some Democrats
  • Rep. Jared Moskowitz threatened to remove conditions on Israeli aid or impose stricter requirements for aid to Gaza
  • Israel issue has long divided progressive and moderate wings of the Democratic Party
  • Moskowitz and Sanders reactions embody larger Democratic disagreements over Israel/Palestine policy
  • Internal party disputes likely to persist as Biden admin sets future policy
Senator Bernie Sanders' call to condition aid to Israel on policy changes has exacerbated divisions between progressive and moderate Democrats regarding U.S. policy in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Shelly Prevost / Wikimedia

A recent statement by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) calling for conditioning U.S. aid to Israel has exacerbated existing divisions within the Democratic Party.

Sanders urged President Biden to force Israel into curbing its West Bank settlements and ending its blockade of Gaza before releasing further aid dollars. His comments came amid rising tensions in the Middle East following an October attack by Hamas militants that killed roughly 1,200 Israelis.

Sanders’ statement drew sharp criticism from Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-FL), who pledged to remove any conditions placed on aid to Israel or, conversely, condition aid to Gaza on the removal of Hamas.

“Let’s not play this game. Send the aid to both,” Moskowitz wrote online. Both lawmakers are Jewish.

The subject of Israel has long been a fault line between progressive and moderate Democrats. More than 20 left-leaning lawmakers recently broke ranks to vote against a resolution condemning antisemitism, while a similar number of centrist Democrats later censured Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), the only Palestinian American in Congress, for her comments about the conflict.

“The Netanyahu government, or hopefully a new Israeli government, must understand that not one penny will be coming to Israel from the U.S. unless there is a fundamental change in their military and political positions,” Sanders stated.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) agreed, arguing that “conditioning aid to Israel, as we do with virtually all other US allies, is a responsible course of action.”

Moskowitz countered by threatening to remove any conditions placed on Israeli aid or impose stricter requirements for aid allocated to Gaza.

“I am absolutely for humanitarian aid to Gaza. But if Bernie Sanders puts political requirements on the Aid to Israel, I will work in the House to remove those conditions or condition Aid to Gaza that requires the removal of Hamas,” he wrote.

The polarized reactions reflect broader disagreements within the party over U.S. policy towards Israel and Palestine. As the Biden administration charts its course, the Democratic infighting seems poised to continue.