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Vermont Senator Peter Welch discusses global issues at the U.S. Institute of Peace

Dec 6, 2023

Vermont Senator Peter Welch (file)

Vermont Senator Peter Welch spoke about global issues this week in Washington as a featured guest of the United States Institute of Peace.

The Institute is an independent non-partisan organization founded by Congress in 1984that works to prevent and mitigate discord across the world. It holds a periodic Congressional Newsmaker Series interviewing U.S. leaders on global issues.

Institute President and CEO Lise Grande questioned Vermont Senator Peter Welch, a Democrat, on a number of areas where conflicts are occurring. She noted that he had recently visited the western Balkans.

“What motivated you now,” asked Grande, “where the U.S. has been less engaged, to go back to that region and why do you think it matters for the U.S.?”

“While we have these incredible challenges with Ukraine and incredible challenges with Israel and Gaza in the Middle East,” Welch replied, “we can’t forget to pay attention to other parts of the world where with the Russian influence there there’s a potential for escalation that would be really catastrophic for the lives of the people who live there. But also for our place in the world. So that was the point of our going there. And we went to North Macedonia. We went to Kosovo. We went to Bosnia-Herzegovina. So I hope to continue to work with colleagues to do all we can to make certain that we resist this Russian influence that’s trying to play on those ethnic tensions that are still there.”

Welch was then asked his thoughts about the war between Israel and Hamas.

“What Hamas did was so horrendous and unspeakable, said Welch. “So the response with military force was totally understandable. By the way I felt it was an obligation to watch that horrible video that the IDF put together and it was some Hamas body cams. Can you imagine that? While you’re doing this violence, you actually want to record it. And your heart breaks. So there’s a ray of self-defense and Israel is right to be able to use that. There’s another principle and that is you’ve got to spare civilian lives as much as humanly possible. The bombing campaign does not do that and that’s the humanitarian catastrophe.”

Senator Welch added that he doesn’t see a resolution with Israel’s current strategy and a two-state solution must be negotiated.

“There’s been over 15,000 people who have been killed,” reported Welch. “There’s a million-point-seven or more people who have been displaced. The bombing continues. You’re going to see more of that. So I think there’s got to be a question about the efficacy of this as a strategy. My view: the bombing should stop because it’s not going to result in any good coming out of it. But in the long run there has to be a commitment to a two-state solution. And it’s going to require an Israeli government that is genuinely committed to it. And it’s also going to require active, active, active engagement by some of the Arab states. This can be a huge role for the United States of America to be the convenor.”

On Monday, Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders spoke on the Senate floor regarding an emergency foreign aid supplemental bill. He said the U.S. should not appropriate money that would allow the “right-wing, extremist Netanyahu government to continue its current military approach.”

“We are all clear that Hamas, a corrupt terrorist organization, began this war with their barbaric attack against Israel,” Sanders said. “Israel has a right to defend itself. But it does not have, in my view, the right to wage all-out war against innocent men, women, and children, Palestinians, who had nothing to do with the Hamas attack. Israel must dramatically change its approach and lay out a wider political process that can secure lasting peace. And that must include a commitment to advance a new two-state solution.”

Story Written by Pat Bradley, WAMC

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