18:42 GMT17 June 2021
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    Commenting on the issue, Sanders said that “an even handed approach” was needed to bring the Israelis and Palestinians together.

    Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders' resolution to block the $735 million weapons sale to Israel is looking uncertain due to a lack of support.

    The Vermont Senator introduced the resolution on Thursday seeking to halt the planned sale of joint direct attack munitions and bombs. Sanders also backed a similar resolution introduced on Wednesday in the House by Democratic Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mark Pocan, and Rashida Tlaib.

    However, the former presidential runner does not appear to have sufficient votes, the Hill reported. Lawmakers can force a vote, requiring a simple majority in the Senate by using the Arms Export Control Act to bypass the 60-vote filibuster, but Congress has never prevented an arms sale through a joint resolution.

    In case of a forced vote, Sanders would need 51 votes, or 50 votes and VP Kamala Harris' opposition to the arms sale to win. 

    However, even Democratic senators are speaking out against the resolution to block backing for Israel, which has for a long time enjoyed bipartisan support.

    Democratic senator and Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee Bob Menendez said he “wouldn't be supporting it,” so too second-ranking Democrat on the panel Senator Ben Cardin, who said he was confident “that the Biden administration is handling it properly.” Other Democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee told the Hill they were undecided.

    On the Republican side, Sanders is also struggling for support, with libertarian-minded Republican senator Rand Paul refusing to back the resolution.

    "I have been opposed in the past to arms sales to people who I think are acting in a way that's sort of an undemocratic way, a tyrannical way," Paul said. "I think what I see Israel doing is acting in self-defense."

    Another problem for Sanders’ resolution is that it might fail to qualify for the fast-track procedures that would allow him to bring it to the Senate floor.

    The Biden administration notified Congress that it approved selling Israel $735 million in weapons on 5 May, and the congressional review period when lawmakers can attempt to block the deal lasts 15 days in this case instead of the usual 30.

    There is, however, a disagreement over when the review window expires and whether Sanders has the ability to force a vote.

    “I think there’s different interpretations about the review period and, depending on which way the parliamentarian rules, it could expire today or it could expire sometime next week,” Democratic Senator Chris Murphy said.

    Sanders still, however, would need to let the resolution sit in the Foreign Relations Committee for 10 calendar days before he can try to bring it to the Senate floor, and the House is out until mid-June, which is past the review period.

    The arms sale by the Biden administration has coincided with hostilities on the Gaza-Israeli border, with the sides agreeing to a ceasefire on Thursday evening, 11 days after the beginning of clashes in East Jerusalem, which were triggered by court rulings to evict Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of the city and a ban on Palestinians visiting certain holy sites during Ramadan.

    Clashes between Palestinians and Israel's police in East Jerusalem in early May resulted in rockets being fired back and forth by both Hamas and Israel. An Egypt-brokered ceasefire was confirmed on Thursday night. The hostilities killed 243 people in the Gaza Strip and 12 people in Israel.

    arms sales, Bernie Sanders, Palestine, Israel, Gaza Strip
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