Schumer, Graham, Cardin to Obama: Don't Force Israel Into Cease-Fire that Doesn't 'Remove' Rocket Threat
Two Democratic senators joined Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) today in insisting that President Obama not force any cease-fire in the Middle East that leaves Israel in danger of rocket attacks.
Graham, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) wrote to Obama that "the threats posed by Hamas rockets and tunnels whose only purpose is to kill and kidnap Israelis are intolerable, and Israel must be allowed to take any actions necessary to remove those threats."
Obama dispatched Secretary of State John Kerry, who met today with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to forge a cease-fire agreement.
The senators wanted to impress upon Obama their "strong belief that any viable cease fire in Gaza must remove the threat to Israel posed by Hamas rockets and tunnels."
"Any cease fire should create a situation in which Israeli citizens no longer face the threat of brazen terrorist attacks," they wrote. "Israeli citizens have faced over 1800 rocket launches from Hamas since June. While Iron Dome has saved countless lives, over five million Israelis live in fear of incoming rockets fired indiscriminately from Gaza. Twenty-eight tunnels have been discovered by the IDF since the ground operation in Gaza began. Israel has an absolute right to defend its citizens and ensure the survival of the State of Israel."
"...Any effort to broker a ceasefire agreement that does not eliminate those threats cannot be sustained in the long run and will leave Israel vulnerable to future attacks."
Schumer, Graham and Cardin stressed to Obama that Israel "has taken great pains to avoid unnecessary civilian casualties."
"The IDF has used text messages, leaflet drops, phone calls, and other methods to clear out areas before attacks. The same cannot be said about Hamas. Their rockets have only one purpose: to kill as many innocent Israelis as possible. At the same time, they use their own civilians as human shields by placing missile launchers next to schools, hospitals, mosques, and private homes. The Hamas interior ministry has called on Gaza residents to ignore IDF warnings to get out of harm’s way," they continued.
"The human toll in this crisis is tragic. Both Palestinian and Israeli civilians are dying because of the distorted priorities of the leaders of a terrorist organization whose primary goal is to destroy Israel. We must do everything possible to ensure they do not succeed."
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said today that "obviously our top priority is getting a ceasefire and achieving a ceasefire."
"What the contours of that ceasefire will look like, I'm obviously not going to outline. But longer term, the issue of rocket fire does need to be addressed. We're very serious about that. Again, how that looks like, what that looks like, I'm not going to get into the details of that either," Harf said.