Vermont’s Balint becomes first Jewish House member to back cease-fire

Rep. Becca Balint (D-Vt.) became the first Jewish member of the House of Representatives to call for a cease-fire in Israel’s war against Hamas.

In an op-ed published Thursday with VTDigger, Balint said she has been in a state of anguish since Hamas entered Israel in its Oct. 7 surprise attack. She said her anguish “has only grown” as thousands of civilians in Gaza have been killed in Israel’s “ensuing siege.”

She is grieving deeply for the Israelis killed in the initial attack and the hostages taken by Hamas, as well as the “Palestinians killed and suffering in the chaos of violence,” she said.

“What is needed right now is an immediate break in violence to allow for a true negotiated cease-fire,” Balint wrote. “One in which both sides stop the bloodshed, allow critical access to humanitarian aid and move towards negotiating a sustainable and lasting peace.”

“One that stops the deaths of innocent Gazans and leads to a near future where Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank have true self-governance and economic security,” the congresswoman continued. “One that returns all hostages safely and protects Israelis from continued terror from Hamas.”

By publishing her opinions, Balint became the first Jewish member of the House to call for a cease-fire, contrasting with her fellow Jewish representatives who have stood with Israel in its continued bombardment of Gaza.

Twenty-four House members wrote to President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday to demand U.S. support for a cease-fire. They fear the “war will lead to a further loss of civilian life” and risks “dragging the United States into dangerous and unwise conflict.”

Balint said a cease-fire would be the “first step” in the work ahead of “building Israel’s post-war government, determining who will govern the Gaza Strip, and negotiating long-term peace and security for both Palestinians and Israelis.”

She said a “lasting bilateral cease-fire” can only happen if Hamas does not continue to control Gaza.

Israel is accountable to international law, argued Balint, a “longstanding critic” of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing. She said she wants her constituents to know she is using the power of her elected position to bring an end to the violence and suffering.

The conflict began early last month after Hamas militants killed more than 1,200 Israelis in a brutal surprise attack on border settlements. More than 11,100 Palestinians, including more than 4,600 children, have been killed in Israeli airstrikes and a ground invasion since.

“I’m one generation removed from the horrific trauma of the Holocaust, which impacted my family and reshaped the world. Like me, there are thousands of American Jews that share a deep emotional connection to Israel because of what it meant for the survival of the Jewish people in the face of extermination,” Balint wrote. “This same history also drives so many of us to fight for the protection of Palestinian lives.”

“I do not claim to know how to solve every aspect of this decades-long conflict,” her op-ed said. “But what I do know is that killing civilians, and killing children, is an abomination and categorically unacceptable — no matter who the civilians are, and no matter who the children are.”

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