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House Democrats send letter to Biden criticizing Netanyahu's military strategy

Israel facing pressure over Gaza approach
Israel facing increased pressure over Gaza approach 02:29

A group of House Democrats with national security backgrounds on Monday sent a letter to President Biden arguing that the military strategy of the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not in the best interests of the U.S. nor Israel's own security. 

"We are deeply concerned by PM Netanyahu's current military strategy in Gaza. The mounting civilian death toll and humanitarian crisis are unacceptable and not in line with American interests; nor do they advance the cause of security for our ally Israel," the letter says. "We also believe it jeopardizes efforts to destroy the terrorist organization Hamas and secure the release of all hostages."

The letter is signed by six lawmakers, including Reps. Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA case officer, Jason Crow, a former Army Ranger who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Mikie Sherrill, who served as a Navy helicopter pilot. The other signatories are Reps. Elissa Slotkin, a former CIA analyst, Seth Moulton, a former Marine, and Chrissy Houlahan, a former Air Force officer.

"From our positions on the Intelligence, Armed Services, and Foreign Affairs Committees, we have consistently pushed for Israel to shift its military strategy —there has been no significant change," the letter says. "We have dedicated our lives to national security and believe our nation's values are a source of credibility and power. Some of us also spent years fighting America's war on terror. We know from personal and often painful experience that you can't destroy a terror ideology with military force alone. And it can, in fact, make it worse."

The letter concludes: "We urge you to continue to use all our leverage to achieve an immediate and significant shift of military strategy and tactics in Gaza."

The letter followed a meeting between Israel's ambassador to the United States and Congressional Democrats, during which the ambassador, Michael Herzog, was perceived as dismissive of lawmakers' concerns, according to a source familiar with the meeting. A spokesperson for Israel's embassy refused to comment on the closed-door meeting but said the ambassador "has repeatedly underscored that, while Israel is facing the significant challenge of dismantling the biggest global terror complex, which is deeply embedded among civilians, Israel is making meaningful efforts to minimize civilian casualties and ramp up humanitarian assistance."

The letter also comes as a growing number of Democratic senators are also voicing concern and seeking to add more restrictions on countries who receive U.S. aid. On Dec. 10, Sen. Bernie Sanders said on "Face the Nation" that it would be "irresponsible" to give the Netanyahu government additional U.S. support without significant oversight.

On Sunday, Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, who is on the Senate Foreign Relations committee, said on "Face the Nation" that U.S. assistance to Israel already comes with requirements, but added that Netanyahu has been an "exceptionally difficult partner."

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