In a shift, Katie Porter calls for “bilateral ceasefire” in Israel-Hamas war

The word “ceasefire” has become especially loaded in the conflict, with Palestinians and their supporters using the word to call for an immediate halt to Israel’s military response to the October attack.

The administration has avoided using the phrase, maintaining its support for Israel even as President Joe Biden has shown increasing frustration with the civilian death toll in Gaza.

The rift between Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu became even more pointed when Netanyahu said over the weekend he was “proud” to have blocked the formation of a Palestinian state, a rejection of the US’ support for a two-state solution.

In her statement, Porter sharply criticized Netanyahu’s remarks as undermining American priorities in the region.

“His remarks and actions necessitate tough conversations with our ally Israel about its long-term strategy and among U.S. policymakers about our approach in the Middle East,” she said.

The fallout from the Israel-Hamas war has filtered into the California Senate race, as the three top Democratic candidates navigate rifts within their own party on the issue.

A Public Policy Institute of California poll found last week that more than half of likely voters in California believed the U.S. should not be taking sides in the conflict. That view was even more prominent among Democrats, with six in 10 calling for a neutral position.

Young people and voters of color — key parts of the Democratic coalition — were less supportive of Israel than older and white voters.

Rep. Barbara Lee has shaped her campaign around being an outspoken proponent of a ceasefire, which she endorsed the day after the Hamas attack and before Israel began its bombardment.

Her stance has endeared her to the left flank of the party, which has sought an end to Israel’s military action.

Rep. Adam Schiff has maintained strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself. He backed Biden’s prior call for humanitarian pauses and supported the administration’s efforts to encourage Israel to limit civilian casualties.

Both Lee and Schiff have long-established foreign policy portfolios during their congressional tenures. Schiff served as chair of the House Intelligence Committee while Lee became a progressive icon as a leading critic of the U.S. response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Porter, who is less defined on foreign policy, has generally aligned herself with Biden during the Israel-Hamas War — echoing his calls for humanitarian pauses while stopping short of supporting a ceasefire. Now, she is aligning herself with a growing group of House Democrats who are laying out conditions for a mutually negotiated ceasefire.

“In this painful time, we must acknowledge heart-wrenching losses but not give up hope for a better future,” Porter said. “A lasting bilateral ceasefire is a necessary step in achieving peace and prosperity for all.”

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