Updated Apr 6, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Pelosi joins call to halt U.S. weapons transfers to Israel

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, wearing an organge blazer and tan blouse and taking off a headset, sits in front of a microphone flanked by U.S. and Israeli flags.

Then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at a meeting of the Israeli Knesset on February 16, 2022. Photo: Photo by ABIR SULTAN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) signed onto a call by progressive members of Congress for the U.S. to stop transferring weapons to Israel over a strike that killed seven aid workers in Gaza.

Why it matters: It's a significant break with Israel by a long-standing supporter that underscores growing fissures between Democrats and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government.

Driving the news: The letter, led by Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), was released on Friday with 37 signatures from 37 other Democrats, including Pelosi.

  • "In light of the recent strike against aid workers and the ever-worsening humanitarian crisis, we believe it is unjustifiable to approve these weapons transfers," the lawmakers wrote to President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Zoom in: The letter, which was released after the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) announced the initial findings of its investigation into the attack, includes a call for an independent probe.

  • It's a demand that a growing number of Democrats have gotten behind as they question the veracity of the IDF's internal investigation.
  • "If this strike is found to have violated U.S. or international law, we urge you to continue withholding these transfers until those responsible are held accountable," the lawmakers wrote.

Context: Pelosi's office pointed to a statement she released in the aftermath of the World Central Kitchen attack calling for Israel to allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza. She also signaled that her main focus is accountability for the incident.

  • "Speaker Pelosi is sympathetic to some of the thoughts in the letter, and she feels very strongly that there must be a comprehensive, independent investigation into the horrific killing of the World Central Kitchen heroes," her spokesperson told Axios.
  • "Speaker Pelosi knows President Biden's support for Israel and empathy with the innocent civilians in Gaza, and she respects his judgment in how to proceed."

Zoom out: The strike could impact Congress' efforts to pass aid to Israel, as well as Ukraine and Taiwan, with a growing number of Democrats expressing discomfort with supporting unconditional military aid.

  • "There's no question Benjamin Netanyahu is giving more people hesitation ... and [World Central Kitchen leader] Chef Andrés is someone who is seen as a bit of a folk hero," Pocan told Axios.
  • "The fact that he's being so vociferous about his concerns ... is certainly leading to more pause."

Go deeper: Democrats want external probe of Israeli strike on aid workers

Editor's note: This story has been updated with a statement from Pelosi's spokesperson.

Go deeper