Senator Jeff Merkley Calls for Immediate Ceasefire in Israel-Hamas Conflict
Sen. Jeff Merkley, a progressive Democrat from Oregon, urged for Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas to stop their hostilities. He is only the second member of the Senate to speak in favor of a cease-fire. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) endorsed the idea earlier this month, although he seemed to condition his support on the release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas.
In a lengthy statement, Merkley expressed his dismay at Hamas’ attack on October 7 and Israel’s right to live in security. He argued that Israel has not sufficiently protected Palestinian civilians or limited humanitarian damage in Gaza. According to estimates by Gaza’s health ministry, more than 12,000 Palestinians have died in Israel’s invasion of the Gaza Strip, including 4,000 children. Additionally, over 1 million Gazans have fled the northern part of Gaza due to Israel’s ground invasion.
Merkley noted that intentions matter less when the scale of the destruction is so vast. He also described the current Israeli government’s inclusion of far-right, Jewish supremacist parties as problematic. Throughout his statement, Merkley characterized himself as a disappointed friend of Israel, hoping to steer the country toward a more enlightened view of its own self-interest.
Merkley’s support for a cease-fire is notable because of how rare it is in the Senate, and he joined other senators in calling for “pauses” in fighting to allow humanitarian aid to enter Gaza. Despite criticism from leftists and pro-Palestinian activists, President Joe Biden has refused to entertain calls for a cease-fire, citing concerns that a prolonged break in the fighting would allow Hamas to re-arm. He has encouraged Israel to pause fighting for several days and to allow the safe release of hostages.