February 29, 2024

On Senate Floor, Warren Denounces Netanyahu, Calls to Resume the Cease-Fire and Advance a Two-State Solution

Warren: “The bottom line is clear: Netanyahu’s leadership in this war has been a moral and strategic failure that is in direct opposition to American policy and American values.”

Floor Remarks (YouTube)

Washington, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) delivered a speech on the Senate floor calling out Prime Minister Netanyahu’s failed leadership in Israel’s war against Hamas.

In her remarks, Senator Warren denounced Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his opposition to a two-state solution and for his prosecution of the war in Gaza, which has killed more than 30,000 Palestinians and led to a horrific scale of violence and human suffering. Senator Warren called for the conditioning of U.S. aid to ensure U.S. weapons aren’t used to target women and children, a return of all hostages, the resumption of a cease-fire, and a lasting peace through a two-state solution. 

The full text of her remarks are available below.

Senator Warren’s Floor Remarks on Israel-Hamas War
February 29, 2024
As Prepared for Delivery

I rise today in pursuit of peace in the Middle East. After nearly five months of war in Gaza, the human suffering must end. Just today, Americans woke up to the news that Israeli troops had opened fire on Palestinians desperate for humanitarian aid – killing dozens and adding to the more than 30,000 people in Gaza who have been killed in this conflict.

Hamas’s October 7 terrorist attack on Israel took more than a thousand lives. Israel, like every nation, has the right to defend itself and the right to prevent another terrorist attack like this from occurring again.

Other rights are important as well.  The people who live in the Middle East deserve a lasting peace and to live their lives with dignity and self-determination.  For decades, the United States government has supported a two-state solution to guarantee those rights for both Israelis and Palestinians. Two states for two peoples. 

For years, I have spoken out against the diminishing prospects for a two-state solution. For years, Palestinians have been poorly served by their leaders, both in the West Bank and in Gaza. For years, even before October 7th, Hamas’s governance of Gaza was a major impediment to peace.  

And also for years, I have also believed that Israel’s long-term strategic interests were endangered by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s leadership. Since October 7, It has only gotten worse. Prime Minister Netanyahu and his right-wing war cabinet have created a massive humanitarian disaster, pushing the region even further away from a two-state solution. Indiscriminate bombings in Gaza have killed tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians, wiping out entire families and leaving thousands of children orphaned. Nearly 2 million people have been displaced. Forty-five percent of the residential buildings in Gaza have been destroyed. The Israeli government’s refusal to allow adequate humanitarian aid into Gaza has left hundreds of thousands of innocent people on the brink of starvation. 

And still, more than 100 hostages are still held by Hamas. The Israeli government’s top priority should have been to bring the hostages home, but instead, Prime Minister Netanyahu focused on revenge. He publicly invokes the plight of the hostages to justify the indiscriminate bombing that thwarts the negotiations that would bring them home. This is a betrayal of the families whose loved ones are still held hostage by Hamas.

Netanyahu’s opposition to a two-state solution is fierce and long-standing. For decades, he has undercut Palestinian independence, deliberately propping up Hamas to try to keep the Palestinian people divided. He approved Qatar’s payments to Hamas—payments that may have been used for Hamas’s military operations. He expanded settlements in the West Bank, turning the region into a patchwork of disconnected parts that undermine Palestinian hopes for a united homeland. The result has been a vicious cycle of violence. That’s why for years, I have advocated that U.S. military aid should help Israel and Palestine move toward peace–not subsidize policies that make that move peace further out of reach.

Today, Netanyahu is doubling down on his opposition to peace. The Prime Minister has openly and directly rejected U.S. policy.  He has promised he will not compromise and will hold fast to his rejection of a Palestinian state. Under his leadership, the Knesset has backed him to the hilt.  The Prime Minister has also tried to pressure Egypt and other countries in the region to accept Gazan war refugees, raising the specter that his government is working toward permanently expelling Palestinians from their homes. He has insisted that Israel-- and Israel alone-- must control the entire area west of the Jordan River—leaving no room for a Palestinian state. And the fallout from his bombing campaigns is not limited to Gaza; he has given cover for Hezbollah, the Houthis, and other terrorist groups to expand the conflict. 

The bottom line is clear: Netanyahu’s leadership in this war has been a moral and strategic failure that is in direct opposition to American policy and American values. 

Netanyahu cannot bomb his way to the return of the hostages. Netanyahu cannot bomb his way to security in the region.  Netanyahu cannot bomb his way to peace.  

The only path to protect Israel’s long-term security and to ensure that Palestinians have equal rights, freedom, and the self-determination they deserve is a two-state solution. Two states for two peoples. This has been the stated policy of the U.S. government dating back decades. And if this far-right Israeli government does not share that goal, then it is our responsibility to make clear that the Netanyahu government does not get a blank check for U.S. aid.  

That is why I have been fighting to condition aid to Israel and protect civilians in Gaza. Over the last few months, I have called for Israel to prevent harm to civilians and for accountability when U.S. weapons are used to target refugee camps and safe zones. I have challenged the administration’s decision to bypass Congress in approving arms transfers to Israel. I have worked with my colleagues, led by Senator Van Hollen, on an amendment to condition aid to Israel. 

Earlier this month, President Biden delivered a critical step, issuing a national security memorandum that makes clear that any country that receives aid from the United States must follow international law, including Israel.

This is a good policy, but enforcement is crucial. Oversight of its implementation is necessary to ensure it is a meaningful step, not just lip service. Netanyahu has made clear he plans to launch a military offensive in Rafah, where more than a million Palestinians with nowhere safe to go are taking refuge. The administration has warned that expanding operations to Rafah would be a [quote] “disaster” that the U.S. government does not support. Meanwhile, humanitarian aid remains strangled, and hunger and disease are sweeping Gaza.  Netanyahu is on dangerous ground.  Every day that he continues, more innocent civilians in Gaza suffer and are killed, and thousands more Americans say “enough” and call on our government to end U.S. aid for such actions.  

President Biden has indicated that we are on the verge of a ceasefire agreement that would free the hostages and allow desperately needed humanitarian aid in. I hope that’s true, and that it’s a meaningful step toward an enduring peace.

But until then the United States has a responsibility to ensure that our weapons aren't used to target innocent children and families in Gaza. We also have a responsibility to ensure that our support is used to advance long-term peace and stability in the region. We recognize that it takes two parties to negotiate a meaningful peace, and we should also urge the allies of the Palestinians to do the same.  All nations should push in the same direction: condition aid, return the hostages, resume the cease-fire, and advance peace through a two-state solution.