(CNSNews.com) – President Biden publicly expressed his admiration for Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) on Tuesday, calling her a “fighter” and saying he would do all he could to ensure the Palestinian American lawmaker’s relatives in the West Bank were “well.”
The remarks, during a visit to a Ford factory in Dearborn, Mich., follows days of criticism by Tlaib and other progressive House Democrats of the administration’s approach to the conflict in Israel and Gaza – including the blocking of a U.N. Security Council joint statement calling for an immediate ceasefire.
In one tweet on Monday directed at Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Tlaib said, “If you support a cease-fire, then get out of the way of the U.N. Security Council and join other countries in demanding it.”
In another, she said, “No more weapons to kill children and families @JoeBiden. Enough.”
As he welcomed Michigan lawmakers during opening remarks at the factory, Biden said to Tlaib, whose name he got wrong: “I want to say to you that I admire your intellect, I admire your passion, and I admire your concern for so many other people.”
“And it’s my – from my heart, I pray that your grandmom and family are well. I promise you, I’m going to do everything to see that they are on the West Bank. You’re a fighter. And God thank you for being a fighter.”
Earlier, Tlaib spoke briefly to Biden on the tarmac in Detroit, expressing her dissatisfaction with the administration’s stance.
“Palestinian human rights are not a bargaining chip and must be protected, not negotiated,” a Tlaib aide quoted the congresswoman as having told the president.
“The U.S. cannot continue to give the right-wing Netanyahu government billions each year to commit crimes against Palestinians.”
Some Tlaib allies were unimpressed with Biden’s remarks at the factory.
“It’s RASHIDA. Say her name correctly for Gods sake,” tweeted Palestinian American activist and former Women’s March co-leader, Linda Sarsour. (In the video Biden can be heard calling Tlaib “Rashid,” three times.)
“This is the most patronizing BS I’ve ever heard,” commented Imraan Siddiqi, executive director of the Washington state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). “You’re endorsing the slaughter and handing them more weapons.”
Dismay over proposed arms sale
Siddiqi was alluding to reports of a potential sale to Israel of $735 million worth of Boeing-made Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs), systems that convert unguided free-fall bombs into “smart,” precision-guided weapons.
The sale was proposed before the escalation erupted earlier this month, and would ordinarily be no different to previous such transactions. (The Obama administration approved the sale to Israel of 6,900 JDAMS kits worth $647 million in 2012, and 14,500 kits valued at $1.8 billion in 2015.)
But amid the current fighting, progressive Democrats have called on House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) to ask Biden to suspend the sale.
“It would be appalling for the Biden administration to go through with $735 million in precision-guided weaponry to [Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu without any strings attached in the wake of escalating violence and attacks on civilians,” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) said on 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.”
Meeks called a meeting on Monday to discuss the issue, and was reported to be preparing to write to Biden calling for a suspension of the deal. But on Tuesday he backed away from the letter plan, in favor of dialogue with the administration.
“The chairman’s intention behind a possible letter was to create an opportunity for members to engage in a candid conversation with the administration about the arms sale,” a committee spokesperson said.
“A letter is no longer necessary given that the White House has now agreed to engage with members at the highest level on their concerns, and the administration’s broader strategy on gaining a peaceful resolution to this conflict.
CAIR, which describes itself as the nation’s biggest Muslim civil rights and advocacy group, is leading calls for the proposed sale to be stopped.
“All Americans, including American Muslims, must demand President Biden not sell advanced weaponry to Israel,” said the group’s executive director, Nihad Awad. “Such a sale would signal our nation’s indifference to Israeli airstrikes that have killed and injured civilians and destroyed civilian infrastructure like utilities, electric lines, water supplies, roads, and other basic needs on a mass scale.”