Baldwin voices support for permanent ceasefire in Gaza, drawing backlash and praise

NOW: Baldwin voices support for permanent ceasefire in Gaza, drawing backlash and praise

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin this week backed the idea of a permanent ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war. Her comments drew praise Wednesday from liberals hoping to pressure President Joe Biden into being more forceful with Israel while Republicans criticized the remarks as appeasement of Hamas' negotiating position.

Following a roundtable event Baldwin held Monday on the price of inhalers, Baldwin reaffirmed her support for a halt to the fighting in Gaza.

"We certainly need an immediate ceasefire. It has to be agreed upon by Israel and Hamas," Baldwin said. "We need it desperately, so that hostages can be released and so that humanitarian aid can come in to deal with a very, very desperate situation."

Baldwin previously called for a "humanitarian ceasefire" in December. Last month, she signed a letter with 24 other Democratic senators calling for "a break in the fighting."

While the Biden administration is currently trying to help negotiate a six-week ceasefire, a number of left-wing groups have called for the president to demand a permanent ceasefire by threatening to withhold military aid to Israel.

That includes "Listen to Wisconsin," which held a rally Tuesday at Milwaukee City Hall. Members urged Democratic voters to mark their April 2 primary ballots as "uninstructed" as a protest of the Biden administration's current approach to the war.

During the exchange with local media Monday, a CBS 58 reporter asked Baldwin whether she was referring to a humanitarian or permanent ceasefire.

"I would hope that the parties could agree to a permanent ceasefire," Baldwin replied. "They both have to agree."

Hamas leadership said earlier this month it would not agree to exchange Israeli hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners unless it was part of a permanent ceasefire that included the Israeli military withdrawing from Gaza.

White House officials have said they do not want Hamas to "be allowed a safe haven" but also added they oppose the idea of Israel launching a major ground offensive in Rafah.

Matt Fisher, communications director for the Republican Party of Wisconsin, said given Hamas' stance, Baldwin's support of a permanent ceasefire amounted to appeasement.

"Let's not sugarcoat it. Tammy Baldwin just said that Israel and the United States should cave to Hamas' demands," Fisher said.

In the February letter, Baldwin and the other Democratic senators wrote, "We recognize that it is in Israel’s vital national interest that Hamas — a brutal terrorist organization — be removed from power in Gaza. We continue to support Israel’s pursuit of that objective."

Baldwin voted last month for a package that included more than $14 billion for Israel and more than $9 billion in humanitarian aid to Gaza, the West Bank, Ukraine and other conflict zones around the world. Wisconsin's other senator, Republican Ron Johnson, voted against the bill, citing in part the $60 billion the bill included for Ukraine.

Fisher maintained it was unreasonable to expect Hamas to relinquish power as part of a lasting peace deal it'd accept with Israel and the U.S.

"She was asked, would she prefer a humanitarian or a permanent ceasefire. She said a permanent ceasefire," Fisher said. "And the question then becomes how on earth would Hamas be out of the equation if you're agreeing to a permanent ceasefire with Hamas?"

Ryan Clancy, a Democratic state representative who also serves on the Milwaukee County Board, is also a member of "Listen to Wisconsin." Clancy said he was encouraged by Baldwin's comments Monday.

"I'm extremely grateful to Senator Baldwin for calling for this, for being bold on that and stepping out and saying in no uncertain terms that she is in favor of a permanent and durable ceasefire," Clancy said.

When asked whether a ceasefire could be durable if Hamas remained in control of Gaza, Clancy said that issue was of secondary importance.

"The idea of which government is in control or which government says that they have control of any individual part of Palestine is really much less relevant than the idea of stopping the genocide that put them there in the first place," Clancy said.

This most recent Israeli-Palestinian war began on Oct. 7, when Hamas killed more than 1,200 Israelis and kidnapped more than 200 others. Israel believes more than 100 hostages are still being held captive.

According to the Hamas health ministry, more than 31,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel's response over the five months that have followed. The Hamas casualty numbers do not distinguish between Hamas fighters and civilians.

CBS News reports fighting has taken place this week around Al-Shifa hospital, where the Israeli Defense Forces said they've found weapons stored. At the same time, an estimated 30,000 people had been sheltering at the hospital complex.

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