Open Zion

11.15.12

The Senate On Gaza

In response to the ongoing Gaza-Israel war, Senators Gillibrand (D-NY) and Kirk (R-IL) this afternoon circulated a resolution that they reportedly hope to have the Senate pass by unanimous consent, possibly as early as this evening. The resolution subject:

expressing vigorous support and unwavering commitment to the welfare, security, and survival of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state with secure borders, and recognizing and strongly supporting its right to act in self-defense to protect its citizens against acts of terrorism.

The fact that the Senate wants to weigh in to express support for Israel during a conflict is, in itself, neither inappropriate nor especially notable. What is notable is the ways in which the current resolution (at least the draft that is circulating this afternoon) differs from the resolution passed by the Senate in the context of the last Gaza war. That resolution, S. Res. 10, was adopted January 8, 2009, by unanimous consent. Two major differences between the current resolution and S. Res. 10 bear mentioning.

First, the Gillibrand-Kirk resolution contains no mention of any aspiration to see hostilities end and includes no exhortation for the President to in any way to engage to try to calm the violence or bring about a ceasefire.  

This is in contrast to S. Res. 10, which included a resolved clause encouraging the President “to work actively to support a durable, enforceable, and sustainable cease-fire in Gaza, as soon as possible, that prevents Hamas from retaining or rebuilding the capability to launch rockets and mortars against Israel and allows for the long term improvement of daily living conditions for the ordinary people of Gaza.”

Second, the Gillibrand-Kirk resolution doesn't even pay lip service to, or offer even canned language feigning concern for, civilian life on both sides—or even on either side. This is bizarre, given that innocent civilians, including children, have already been killed and injured on both sides, and these numbers are almost certain to grow.

In contrast, S. Res. 10 included a resolved clause stating that the Senate: “believes strongly that the lives of innocent civilians must be protected and all appropriate measures should be taken to diminish civilian casualties and that all involved should continue to work to address humanitarian needs in Gaza.”

Some might suggest that these omissions weren’t deliberate. This suggestion hits a wall, however, given that much of the Gillibrand-Kirk text appears to be drawn directly from S. Res. 10. Indeed, Gillibrand and Kirk include in their resolution a “resolved” clause clearly drawn from the clause in S. Res. 10 dealing with a ceasefire, but with the language about a ceasefire (and about improving the daily lives of Palestinians in Gaza) cut out. 

In short, this pared-down version of S. Res. 10, as presently drafted, sends the message that the Senate isn’t concerned about harm (already done or potential) to civilians, and that the Senate is in no hurry to see a ceasefire—consistent, perhaps, with recent remarks by Israel officials to the effect that “We're in no hurry to receive messages about a cease fire from Egypt or other states” and “We'll continue the pressure and the attacks on Gaza until Hamas begs for a cease-fire.” Such a message seems both politically shortsighted and morally dubious.