This commentary is by U.S. Rep. Becca Balint, D-Vt. 

Like so many Vermonters, I have been in a state of anguish since the devastating Hamas terrorist attack on Israel. That anguish has only grown as the ensuing siege has killed thousands of civilians in Gaza who were already struggling under Hamas rule and Israeli blockade. 

I am grieving deeply — for the Israelis killed in the brutal attack and all those taken hostage; for the Palestinians killed and suffering in the chaos of violence; and for the children dead, injured, and orphaned, who will carry this trauma for the rest of their lives. Thousands of Palestinian civilians, including thousands of children, have been killed. Many more are without water, food, medical supplies and fuel. Now, Gaza’s largest hospital has run out of fuel and is unable to function. This is a dire crisis. 

What is needed right now is an immediate break in violence to allow for a true negotiated cease-fire. 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. One that returns all hostages safely and protects Israelis from continued terror from Hamas.

It will be the first step in the difficult and critical work needed ahead — 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. 

For the good of Palestinians and Israelis, a lasting bilateral cease-fire can only work if Hamas does not continue to rule in Gaza. Hamas is a terrorist organization, and its stated goal is to annihilate the state of Israel. It can’t remain in power in Gaza. It has violated international law by taking hostages and massacring civilians. 

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. 

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. 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. 

I understand that many Vermonters feel as I do — deeply distraught by this conflict. We want to see an immediate end to the violence and the realization of Palestinian self-governance, including economic and physical security. That is why I have repeatedly called for the violence to stop and for increased, robust humanitarian aid to Gaza. Israel has a moral responsibility to ensure that civilians are protected at all costs, even in the midst of war.

Even with Hamas operations intentionally embedded among civilians, Israel cannot bomb targets in densely populated areas. The United States must demand it. 

As a country, Israel is accountable to international law. As a longstanding critic of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s extremist government, I know that his strategy does not make Israel safer. Israel’s continued bombing in Gaza is killing innocent people and fuels recruitment for terrorist groups like Hamas. This pattern further undermines the security of both Palestinians and Israelis. The aerial bombing must end. Israel must take every measure to protect Palestinian civilians. 

I want Vermonters to know that I am using the influence and power of my position to bring an end to this horrific violence and suffering. That is the work I’m doing every day.

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