WASHINGTON – Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, New York Democrat and most prominent progressive in the House, apologized to her constituents on Friday for a blunt move to withdraw her vote against the billion dollar award new funding to Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, suggesting it did so after being subjected to “hate targeting” for opposing it.
Ms Ocasio-Cortez, a member of the liberal group known as the Squad, was one of two members who voted ‘present’ as the measure to help Israel replace missile interceptors passed overwhelmingly by the House Thursday in a vote of 420 to 9. She was seen crying on the floor of the House after changing her vote from “no” to “now”.
The episode captured the bitter divide between Democrats over Israel, which pitted a small but noisy group of progressives who called for an end to unconditional aid to the country against the vast majority of the party, which maintains that the United States must not waver in its support for Israel’s right to self-defense.
In a long letter on Friday, Ms Ocasio-Cortez told her constituents she opposed the funding, citing “persistent human rights violations against the Palestinian people” and begged the main Democrats to delay the vote.
“The reckless decision by the House leadership to rush this controversial vote within hours and without real consideration created a powder keg of vitriol, spurious framing, deeply racist accusations and representations,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez wrote.
After the vote, Ms Ocasio-Cortez drew condemnation on social media both from supporters of Israel, who harassed her for not supporting the funding, and from pro-Palestinian progressives and activists, who expressed their indignation at not having finally registered his opposition. to that.
“To those whom I have disappointed, I am deeply sorry,” she wrote to residents of New York’s 14th Congressional District, which includes parts of the Bronx and Queens. “To those who think this reasoning is insufficient or cowardly, I understand.”
The problem was the House’s effort to provide additional funding for Israel’s Iron Dome system, which was used during heavy fighting between Israel and Hamas in May. Debate in the House turned bitter on Thursday as some progressive Democrats who opposed it called Israel an “apartheid state,” an accusation that at least one supporter of the bill called anti-Semitic.
In the end, only eight Democrats – along with one Republican, Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky – opposed the measure.
“Yes, I cried,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez told her constituents on Friday. “I cried over the utter lack of care for the human beings who are affected by these decisions, I cried against an institution choosing a path of maximum volatility and minimum consideration for its own political convenience.”
The dispute began this week, after progressives revolted against including Iron Dome funding in an emergency spending bill, effectively threatening to shut down the government rather than backing the money. Democratic leaders were forced to withdraw it from the bill, which passed the House on Tuesday, and held a separate vote to approve the Iron Dome money.
Some progressive lawmakers have become furious with Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, Democrat No.2, who pushed for a quick vote on Iron Dome funding. His move appeared to be aimed at calming Israeli officials, who had watched the dispute with concern.
Yair Lapid, Israel’s Foreign Minister, called on Mr Hoyer and stressed the need for the House to approve the request as soon as possible, according to a transcript of the appeal released by Mr Lapid’s office. Mr Hoyer assured him that the decision to remove him from the government’s spending measure was just a “technical delay,” according to the account. Hours later, Hoyer announced that the House would hold a separate vote to approve the funding later in the week.
Ms Ocasio-Cortez said she personally appealed to Mr Hoyer to delay the vote.
“Even the night before, as it became clear that the rhetoric around this issue was quickly shifting from substance to hate targeting, I personally had a call with the House majority leader asking for a 24 hour reprieve. for the vote, so that we can do the necessary work to bring down the temperature and volatility, explain our positions and engage our communities, ”she wrote. “This request was summarily rejected. “
A spokeswoman for Mr Hoyer said his office does not comment on members’ private conversations.