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Welch Calls for Cease-Fire in Gaza 

Nov 28, 2023

U.S. Sen. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) | James Buck

U.S. Sen. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) is calling for the fragile cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war to be extended indefinitely, citing a humanitarian crisis in Gaza and deepening divisions in the U.S.

The senator pointed not only to the mounting death toll for Palestinians but also to violence in America directed against people of Palestinian descent.

“This weekend in my home state of Vermont, three Palestinian-American students were senselessly shot by a stranger as they walked to a family gathering,” he said in a written statement. “This cycle of fear, intimidation, and violence must end.”

He joins U.S. Rep. Becca Balint (D-Vt.), who expressed support for a cease-fire earlier this month, leaving U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) as the only member of Vermont’s congressional delegation not to make such a declaration. Sanders called for a “significant, extended humanitarian pause” in an opinion piece published last week in the New York Times.

Welch has supported Israel’s right to defend itself in the wake of the October 7 attacks carried out by Hamas militants in which some 1,200 Israelis were killed and hundreds more kidnapped. And though he has expressed unease with the ferocity of Israel’s counteroffensive, signing a letter earlier this month in support of a short-term “cessation of hostilities,” he has fallen short of calling for a prolonged cease-fire — until now.

“Israel’s enemy is Hamas, not the Palestinian people,” Welch wrote.

On Tuesday, Welch described the temporary truce between Hamas and Israel that began last Friday as the “first glimmer of hope” since the October 7 attack. He said it would be a “grave mistake” for the U.S. to condone the resumption of Israel’s bombing campaign, knowing what it does about the collateral damage. An estimated 14,000 Palestinians have been killed, tens of thousands more have been injured and some 1.5 million people are without homes.

“I fully support Israel’s right to pursue those who ordered and carried out the attacks of October 7th,” Welch wrote. “But Israel must not do so in a way that leads to massive civilian casualties and the large-scale destruction of civilian infrastructure in Gaza. This will only incite more enemies against Israel and the U.S.”

The ongoing conflict has already reverberated across the globe in the form of Islamophobia and antisemitism, Welch added.

Tuesday marked the fifth day in the temporary cease-fire reached between Israel and Hamas and brought another round of prisoner-hostage exchanges. The truce is now set to expire on Wednesday, though there are hopes for another extension.

In his statement, Welch said the cease-fire should be extended long enough to “begin a process for giving practical meaning to the two-state solution.”

Netanyahu’s government has undermined this long-standing American goal despite the tens of billions of dollars in U.S. aid it has received over the years, Welch said. He added that President Joe Biden’s request of Congress to send more than $14 billion to Israel must be robustly debated.

“I will push for policies that ensure taxpayer dollars are only used in ways that comply with international humanitarian law,” he said.

Story Written by Colin Flanders, Seven Days

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