Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is considered one of the strongest supporters of the United States’ relationship with Israel among congressional Democrats. On Saturday, though, he said he is “deeply troubled” by reports of Israeli airstrikes killing Palestinian civilians and targeting a building that houses international media offices (Israel said Hamas was also using the building for military purposes).
Israel, he said, “has every right to defend itself” against rocket attacks from Hamas, but “given the complexity of Gaza’s densely populated civilian areas, and Hamas’ shameful record of exploiting that reality by hiding military assets behind the innocent, Israeli authorities must continue taking the conscientious practice of giving advance warning of its attacks to reduce the risk of harm to the innocent.” He added that “there must be a full accounting of actions that have led to civilian deaths and destruction of media outlets.”
Sen. Bob Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who is seen as one of the most vocal proponents of the US-Israeli relationship in the Democratic caucus, calls for “full accounting of actions that have led to civilian deaths and destruction of media outlets” pic.twitter.com/0DOIL04BZL
— Robbie Gramer (@RobbieGramer) May 15, 2021
Menendez’s comments certainly don’t reflect a full reversal from his traditional stance, but observers noted that, so far at least, it appears to be one of the most unexpected responses to the Israel-Palestine conflict from an American politician.
Yup, it’s the newsiest statement yet from an American politician. Which is to say the first i’ve seen that’s not the usual response from the right, center and left on the topic. https://t.co/dbN4ZpeaqK
— Jonathan Martin (@jmartNYT) May 15, 2021
Meanwhile, on Saturday, President Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who reportedly told him that Israel was doing whatever it could to make sure civilians were not hit in airstrikes. The White House has mostly kept quiet about details of the phone call.