Letter: This crisis has spiraled out of control

Published 12:20 pm Wednesday, May 15, 2024

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Dear Editor, 

This week, a group concerned by the Israel-Hamas conflict came to my office in downtown Richmond. I was not in Richmond that day, but my staff were glad to meet the group, collect a letter from them, and promptly share it with me. I have carefully reviewed it and always appreciate hearing from Virginians. 

“I have been in constant dialogue with Virginians about the Israel-Hamas conflict. Hamas’ horrific attack on Israel on October 7, 2023, killed approximately 1,200 people — the majority of whom were civilians. Israel has a right and responsibility to defend itself from Hamas and from Iran — which launched a direct attack on Israel last month — and others that share a stated goal of destroying Israel. But Palestinians who had nothing to do with the October 7 attack should not be caught in the crossfire. They have a right to receive crucial humanitarian aid and to live in safety and dignity. 

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This crisis has spiraled out of control, putting civilians, U.S. service members, and aid workers throughout the region at serious risk. I will continue to call for a deal to release the hostages held by Hamas, establish a ceasefire, and deliver more humanitarian aid into Gaza, as I have done publicly and repeatedly for some time. These steps are the only viable means to reach a sustainable resolution to this crisis. I will also continue to urge the Biden Administration to prioritize Israel’s defensive needs — such as restocking the Iron Dome and David’s Sling air defense systems — rather than weapons that could further escalate the conflict or harm civilians. I’m encouraged that the Administration has recently paused certain offensive weapons transfers, and I expect the Administration to soon deliver to Congress a report, requested by my colleagues and me, that includes an assessment of whether Israel has used U.S.-funded weapons in compliance with international law and whether Israel has fully supported the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza. I will review that report closely. 

Lastly, I have been monitoring student protests across Virginia regarding this issue. People have the right under the First Amendment to express their beliefs on issues that matter to them, and they should do so in ways that follow university policies and local and federal laws designed to keep our communities safe. Ultimately, decisions regarding college and university leadership and policy should be made by school administrators, boards, students, and parents — not by Congress. Absent extreme circumstances, campus security departments are well suited to handle campus protests. 

I remain focused on encouraging my Senate colleagues and the Biden Administration to get the policies right so we can deescalate this crisis. We must seek a path toward what was promised to Israelis and Palestinians 75 years ago: two states living peacefully as neighbors. 

Tim Kaine 

U.S. Senate