WASHINGTON – Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat and the highest-profile progressive in the House, apologized to her constituents on Friday for an abrupt decision to withdraw her vote against providing $ 1 billion in new funding. for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense. system, suggesting that he had done so after being “targeted” for opposing it.
Ocasio-Cortez, a member of the liberal group known as Squad, was one of two members who voted “present” as a measure to help Israel replace missile interceptors, overwhelmingly approved by the House on Thursday with 420 votes to 9. She was seen crying on the floor of the House after changing her vote from “no” to “present.”
The episode captured the bitter divide among Democrats over Israel, which has pitted a small but noisy group of progressives who have called for an end to unconditional aid to the country against the vast majority of the party, which argues that the United States must not waver. in support of Israel’s right to defend itself.
In a lengthy letter on Friday, Ocasio-Cortez told her constituents that she opposed the funding, citing “persistent human rights abuses against the Palestinian people,” and had pleaded with leading Democrats to delay the vote.
“The reckless decision of House leaders to rush this controversial vote within hours and without real consideration created a tinderbox of vitriol, false framing, deeply racist accusations and portrayals,” wrote Ocasio-Cortez.
After the vote, Ocasio-Cortez generated condemnations on social media from both Israel’s supporters, who attacked her for not supporting the funding, and progressive and pro-Palestinian activists, who expressed outrage that she ultimately failed to register her opposition. it.
“For those who have been disappointed, I am deeply sorry,” he wrote to residents of New York’s 14th Congressional District, which includes parts of the Bronx and Queens. “For those who believe this reasoning is insufficient or cowardly, I understand.”
What was at stake was the House’s effort to provide additional funding for Israel’s Iron Dome system, which was used during the heavy fighting between Israel and Hamas in May. The debate in the House of Representatives turned bitter on Thursday when some opposed progressive Democrats called Israel an “apartheid state,” a charge that at least one of the bill’s proponents called anti-Semitic.
Ultimately, only eight Democrats, as well as one Republican, Representative Thomas Massie of Kentucky, opposed the measure.
“Yes, I cried,” Ocasio-Cortez told her constituents on Friday. “I cried for the total lack of attention to human beings who are impacted by these decisions, I cried for an institution that chose a path of maximum volatility and minimal consideration for its own political expediency.”
The dispute began this week, after progressives rebelled over the inclusion of Iron Dome funds in an emergency spending bill, effectively threatening to shut down the government rather than support the money. Democratic leaders were forced to remove it from that bill, which passed the House on Tuesday, and organized a separate vote to approve the Iron Dome money.
Some progressive lawmakers were enraged by Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the second Democrat, who pushed for a swift vote on funding for Iron Dome. His maneuver appeared to be intended to calm Israeli officials, who had watched the dispute with alarm.
Yair Lapid, Israel’s foreign minister, called Hoyer and stressed the need for the House to approve the request as soon as possible, according to an account of the call issued by Lapid’s office. Hoyer assured him that the decision to remove him from the government spending measure had been nothing more than a “technical delay,” the account said. Hours later, Hoyer announced that the House would hold a separate vote to approve the funding later in the week.
Ocasio-Cortez said she had personally asked Mr. Hoyer to delay the vote.
“Even the night before, when it became clear that the speech around this issue was rapidly turning from substance to hate speech, I personally had a call with the House Majority Leader to request a suspension of the 24-hour vote. hours, so that we could do the work necessary to lower the temperature and volatility, explain our positions and involve our communities, ”he wrote. “That request was summarily dismissed.”
A spokeswoman for Hoyer said her office does not comment on the private members’ conversations.