Scoop: Democratic senators urge Blinken to pressure Israel to rebuild Gaza

Seventeen Democratic senators have written to Secretary of State Tony Blinken urging him to pressure Israel to allow the entry into the Gaza Strip of materials needed for reconstruction and humanitarian aid. The effort is led by Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

Why is this important: The United States, Egypt, Qatar and others have pledged to rebuild Gaza – where many homes, health care facilities and schools have been destroyed in the fighting and critical water infrastructure has been damaged – as well. than to provide humanitarian aid. But Israel threatens to delay this process.

  • Israel has told the United States and Egypt that it will not allow reconstruction to begin unless progress is made in securing the release of Israeli citizens held by Hamas and the bodies of Israeli soldiers.
  • Israel and Egypt control border crossings with the Gaza Strip and restrict the movement of people and goods. Israel has imposed a sea blockade on Gaza for more than a decade.

What they say: In a letter shared with Axios, senators wrote that the Biden administration should insist on reopening two border crossings “so that essential humanitarian personnel can enter and fuel and construction materials can be brought to meet needs. increasing numbers of the civilian population. “

  • Senators called on Blinken to call on Israel to lift restrictions on the movement of Palestinians for medical treatment or to visit relatives. Very few Palestinians have received such permits in recent years.
  • They also called for US funding for humanitarian efforts in Gaza to be restored to pre-Trump levels and urged the administration to appoint an ambassador to Israel, a consul general in Jerusalem to coordinate with the Palestinians, and a head of mission. from USAID.
  • “For this ceasefire to be lasting and prevent a resumption of the cycle of violence, it is essential that we improve the dire conditions in Gaza which only contribute to desperation and further fuel extremism,” the senators stressed. .

Between the lines: Van Hollen and his fellow signatories did not attempt to have the letter signed by Republicans in light of negative statements several Senate Republicans had made about US aid to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, according to a senator. familiar with the process.

  • Republican Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Cruz R-TX) and Bill Hagerty (R-TN) visited Israel this week but did not visit the Palestinian Authority or meet with Palestinians. Graham used his trip to ask for more military aid from Israel.

And after: Blinken told me in an interview last week that the reconstruction process must move forward and not be conditioned on the return of Israeli soldiers and citizens detained by Hamas.

  • Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel visited Israel this week and delivered the same message.

Full letter below:

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