WASHINGTON In a speech on the Senate floor, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) applauded President Biden’s decision to withhold military assistance from Israel that could be used for a full-scale invasion of the city of Rafah.

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Durbin said, “It is not, as some have characterized, a failure to support Israel in a dangerous region after a genuinely horrific Hamas attack. And October 7th was such an attack. It is, instead, a warning from one of the most pro-Israeli U.S. Presidents to an ally, that a full-on assault on Rafah could not only add to an already catastrophic humanitarian situation in Gaza, but undermine any long-term stability in the region. Let me also remind those critics that President Biden recently helped coordinate, with the use of American forces, a dramatic defense of Israel against an Iranian assault. Anyone who doubts his commitment to Israel is misguided. But he has reached his limit with Prime Minister Netanyahu and his response in Gaza and [his] focus on his own political survival more than anything else.”

Last week, several Senators met with Jordanian King Abdullah II for a timely discussion on a long-term path forward in the region. Durbin reiterated that simply leveling Gaza and furthering the humanitarian crisis without a long-term strategy for peace is not a strategy.

Durbin continued, “President Biden has been urging Prime Minister Netanyahu to offer this broader vision, one that likely includes normalization with Saudi Arabia and eventual peace with a Palestinian state—a vision that would be undermined with a massive assault on Rafah… Shortly after the horrific Hamas attack on October 7, I warned our Israeli friends to learn from our mistakes made in the fog of rage and pain after September 11. You do not want an ill-thought occupation of Gaza to become your Fallujah. And as also learned in Iraq, one needs the trust of the local civilian population to help counter terrorist groups.”

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Durbin then referenced President Ronald Reagan’s fury after seeing photos of civilians killed and injured by Israeli shelling in Lebanon. He called then-Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to argue that the excessive assault had to end. Reagan wrote in his diary about the difficult call with Begin in which he stated, “I was angry—I told him it had to stop or our entire future relationship was endangered.”

“And over the course of this President’s [Ronald Reagan] terms he used the power of U.S. weapons sales, including delaying or withholding of certain warplanes and arms, to influence Israeli war policy, as well as to criticize Israeli actions in the region at the UN Security Council,” said Durbin. “So, I urge those who are resistant and vocal about President Biden’s actions to reflect on Ronald Reagan’s similar moves to help our Israeli allies from making tragic strategic mistakes four decades ago.”

Durbin concluded, “I have long supported a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians—in fact, out of the devastating Yom Kippur war came an unimaginable, yet lasting peace between Egypt and Israel. So, with the right leaders on both sides, it can be done, and we have a responsibility in the United States for a renewed push on all sides towards this goal, one in which Israeli and Palestinian children can once and forever live in safety, peace, and dignity.”

Video of Durbin’s remarks on the floor is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the floor is available here.

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