WASHINGTON -- Rep. Keith Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat often a rare voice of anti-war dissent even in his own caucus, is calling for Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate rather than escalate the widening military conflict in Gaza.
"I am deeply concerned about the latest outbreak of violence between Israelis and Palestinians in Gaza," Ellison said in a statement to The Huffington Post. "I urge both sides to practice restraint and take immediate action to reduce hostilities."
Earlier Friday, Ellison was one of the few American politicians to call for a cease fire between the Israel Defense Forces and Hamas. Most American public figures, including President Barack Obama, have lent unequivocal support to an expansive definition of Israel's "right to self defense."
The fighting between Israel and Hamas reached a new height Friday night, as the two sides exchanged hundreds of rockets and aerial strikes, and Israel amassed troops and tanks on the border of Gaza in preparation for a possible ground invasion.
Ellison, in his Friday night statement, pointed out that he had been to Gaza as well as to places in Israel that frequently bear the brunt of Hamas rockets, and was fully aware of the suffering of citizens on both sides. But he said past conflicts, like the grueling three-week war in 2008, had not brought the promised lasting peace.
"Combatants on both sides of the conflicts must begin to address the root causes of this conflict through a real peace process," Ellison said. "Military escalation will not resolve this -- just as the 2008-2009 conflict in Gaza did not end hostilities."
Ellison's complete statement:
I am deeply concerned about the latest outbreak of violence between Israelis and Palestinians in Gaza. I urge both sides to practice restraint and take immediate action to reduce hostilities. I have been to Sderot, Israel and the Gaza Strip, and conditions for ordinary people are horrific on both sides of the Gaza-Israel border. Israelis endure relentless rocket attacks fired at innocent Israeli citizens in violation of international law. At the same time, Gazans, 57% of whom are under 18, live in extreme isolation, limited access, and deprivation of nearly everything including food, building materials, and water. Combatants on both sides of the conflicts must begin to address the root causes of this conflict through a real peace process. Military escalation will not resolve this—just as the 2008-2009 conflict in Gaza did not end hostilities. I join Noam Shalit, the father of former Hamas prisoner and Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, in calling for talks between the parties to resolve this crisis. Talks in the past helped to secure the release of Gilad Shalit and thousands of Palestinian detainees. Dialogue and negotiation can help save lives now.