(CNN)A number of congressional Democrats are ramping up pressure on the Biden administration to more forcefully engage on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as violence in the region intensifies, revealing a delicate shift in the way Democrats have talked about Israel for decades and a small crack in the party on foreign policy.
The change in tone — subtle but noteworthy — comes as there is still disagreement within the party about how far to push. Those on the progressive fringes are trying to block a $735 million arms deal made with Israel, but there’s little chance of that happening in Congress given the timeline on Capitol Hill.
“It would be appalling for the Biden Administration to go through with $735 million in precision-guided weaponry to Netanyahu without any strings attached in the wake of escalating violence and attacks on civilians,” Rep. Ilhan Omar, a progressive Democrat from Minnesota, said in a statement Monday. “If this goes through this will be seen as a green light for continued escalation and will undercut any attempts at brokering a ceasefire.”
Sen. Brian Schatz, a Democrat from Hawaii, said of the deal and whether Congress should block it, “I am not ruling anything in or out, but I think given the events of the last three or four days that has to be part of the conversation too.”
Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez said he hadn’t seen the details of the arms deal but that he was likely to support the deal moving forward: “I think it preexisted the present conflict. We have a long history of supporting Israel as a security ally and in its own defense. So I would say yes.”
Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee met Monday to discuss the situation in Israel and the proposed weapons sale. Sources familiar with the meeting told CNN that there was a spirited discussion of the situation.
Members expressed a range of views. One cohort of lawmakers aggressively homed in on the arms sale issue, while another insisted that Israel deserves the right to defend itself, one source said.
Rep. Gregory Meeks of New York, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, along with fellow Democrats on the committee, is expected to send a letter and statement to the White House on Tuesday calling for the arms deal to be delayed, according to two sources familiar with the plan.
Meeks is unable to put a formal “hold” on the deal at this late point in the formal review process, but the letter could be used as a pressure point to work toward a ceasefire, one of the sources told CNN.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, declined to say whether he backed the deal when asked by reporters Monday.
However, he did say that he hoped for a ceasefire.
“I want to see a ceasefire reached quickly and mourn the loss of life,” Schumer told reporters.
On Monday, the White House released a readout of President Joe Biden’s call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in which Biden “expressed his support for a ceasefire and discussed US engagement with Egypt and other partners towards that end.”
But the readout stopped short of Biden calling for a ceasefire, a position held by many Democrats on the Hill.
“It appears to be a moment of change even if it is just a recalibration,” one person familiar with Democratic talks said, also calling that recalibration “significant.”
Sunday marked the deadliest day of the weeklong conflict so far, according to data from the Hamas-run Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza. Israeli airstrikes killed at least 52 Palestinians in Gaza on Sunday, according to the health ministry.
Some Democrats pushed back on the idea that the party had shifted at all on Israel.
“Maybe you see Democrats being a little bit more willing to criticize Israel. That’s because the Israeli p
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