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Dem Rep. Balint becomes first Jewish House member to support Israel-Gaza ceasefire

The conflict erupted in the wake of an Oct. 7 Hamas raid on Israeli territory that saw its forces seize roughly 200 hostages and kill about 1,200 civilians.

Published: November 16, 2023 7:06pm

Vermont Democratic Rep. Becca Balint on Thursday became the first Jewish member of the House of Representatives to call for a ceasefire in the ongoing Israel-Gaza war, citing the civilian deaths on both sides.

The conflict erupted in the wake of an Oct. 7 Hamas raid on Israeli territory that saw its forces seize roughly 200 hostages and kill about 1,200 civilians. The Israel Defense Forces have since invaded the Gaza Strip in a bid to oust Hamas from power. Israeli tactics in the densely populated area, however, have drawn international scrutiny for their propensity to inflict civilian casualties.

"Like so many Vermonters, I have been in a state of anguish since the devastating Hamas terrorist attack on Israel," she wrote Thursday in the Vermont Digger. "That anguish has only grown as the ensuing siege has killed thousands of civilians in Gaza who were already struggling under Hamas rule and Israeli blockade."

"What is needed right now is an immediate break in violence to allow for a true negotiated cease-fire. One in which both sides stop the bloodshed, allow critical access to humanitarian aid and move towards negotiating a sustainable and lasting peace," she continued. "One that stops the deaths of innocent Gazans and leads to a near future where Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank have true self-governance and economic security. One that returns all hostages safely and protects Israelis from continued terror from Hamas."

Complicating matters, she acknowledges, is Hamas's control of the Gaza Strip, one of the two non-contiguous Palestinian-controlled territories in the former British Mandate. 

"For the good of Palestinians and Israelis, a lasting bilateral cease-fire can only work if Hamas does not continue to rule in Gaza. Hamas is a terrorist organization, and its stated goal is to annihilate the state of Israel," she continued. "It can’t remain in power in Gaza. It has violated international law by taking hostages and massacring civilians."

The Vermont Democrat did not outline a post-ceasefire means of toppling Hamas, however. She went on to highlight the terrorist group's habit of operating within civilian infrastructure to deter military strikes, but asserted that the U.S. must not permit Israel to bomb civilian targets to get to Hamas.

"Even with Hamas operations intentionally embedded among civilians, Israel cannot bomb targets in densely populated areas. The United States must demand it," she said. "As a country, Israel is accountable to international law. As a longstanding critic of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s extremist government, I know that his strategy does not make Israel safer. Israel’s continued bombing in Gaza is killing innocent people and fuels recruitment for terrorist groups like Hamas."

"This pattern further undermines the security of both Palestinians and Israelis. The aerial bombing must end. Israel must take every measure to protect Palestinian civilians," she further stated.

The Netanyahu government last week agreed to daily four-hour humanitarian pauses in the fighting but not a full ceasefire. The Biden administration has largely backed the Israeli government in the conflict, earning scrutiny from American left, including from State Department officials, who have circulated an internal dissent cable on the matter.

Ben Whedon is an editor and reporter for Just the News. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter.