Harris’ Call For Cease-Fire is Not Enough

This weekend, Vice President Kamala Harris made headlines when she called for an “immediate cease-fire” between Israel and Hamas. The call is a stark change from an administration that previously labeled those who advocated for a cease-fire as “repugnant.” However, the vice president’s changed stance is still a far cry from where the administration needs to be.

Her six-week ceasefire call, while progress, is nowhere near the permanent end to the genocide that Gazans need.

Harris’ call comes a week before Ramadan, the holy month in Islam. It is being met with praise and relief as the Biden administration finally starts to echo some of the language being chanted on the streets each week. But upon closer inspection, the language seems to be the only thing our elected officials are ceding.

The vice president’s call for a cease-fire, which also came just two days before the Super Tuesday primary elections, was immediately followed by an admission that the U.S. is only seeking a pause in hostilities for “at least six weeks.”  It would be almost comical how quickly the crowd she was addressing quietened after that, if more than 30,000 people weren’t dead.

A six-week pause in Israel’s slaughter is not what protesters are asking for, nor what Gaza needs. While any break in the aggression is life-saving, especially with the opportunity to get much-needed increased humanitarian aid into the Gaza strip, the damage Israel’s done to Gaza’s vital infrastructure will need far more than six weeks of repair to prevent large-scale societal collapse. Protesters, cognisant of this fact, are demanding a permanent end to the siege, a dismantling of the apartheid system and the right for Palestinians to return to their homes. Harris’ “cease-fire” achieves none of these.

This isn’t the first time the American executive branch has pulled this move. In late 1965, in the middle of the Vietnam War, then-President Lyndon B. Johnson announced a pause in the bombing of North Vietnam, ironically at a time when his administration was also facing a rapid decline in popularity. That pause lasted 37 days — just over five weeks. 

The death toll in Gaza exceeded in three months the civilian death toll in Vietnam over two years.

A permanent ceasefire is not outside the scope of reality. Biden’s administration have rationalized their refusal to use any real leverage to force one by appealing to Israel’s sovereignty, but a cursory glance at history exposes this as just an excuse. Previous presidents, such as Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and even Biden himself in 2021 have forced cease-fires from Israel before with single phone calls. 

American presidents have this power because Israel is heavily reliant upon U.S. military aid to carry out its operations. Israel’s supply of American weapons has long enjoyed immunity from conditions the U.S. is legally obligated to impose on lethal aid. These include not giving arms to countries that plausibly commit war crimes or block humanitarian aid, both things Israel has done. The moment the U.S. decides to enforce its own laws, Israel’s slaughter would grind to a halt.

Alternatively, for an even easier solution, the Biden State Department could simply stop vetoing United Nations Security Council resolutions for a ceasefire in Gaza, and start the peace process that way. 

That Vice President Harris is only willing to call for a six-week break in Israel’s genocide signifies that this administration isn’t actually interested in the humanitarian needs of the Palestinians. Rather, this move is a cynical attempt to quell progressive dissent & co-opt the language of Palestinian advocates.

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