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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez apologizes after tearful ‘present’ vote on Israel Iron Dome funding bill

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) drew ire from some liberal supporters for her decision to effectively abstain from voting on funding for Israel's Iron Dome defense system. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) penned a lengthy and emotional open letter apologizing to her constituents on Friday for effectively abstaining in a vote over funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, which overwhelmingly passed in the House a day earlier.

Ocasio-Cortez, who could be seen weeping in the House after the vote, used her letter to criticize both the substance of the bill and what she described as the “reckless” and “rushed” process to pass it. She opposed the “unconditional aid to the Israeli government,” she added in her letter, but ultimately switched her vote from “no” to “present,” meaning a member takes no position in favor or against but records their presence.

The House voted for the measure 420 to 9.

However, Ocasio-Cortez’s decision to effectively abstain attracted ire from some liberal supporters.

“Normally I find AOC a person with moral values … This time though, as a few other times, I must say she should’ve stuck with other “Squad” members,” wrote one person on Twitter. Another said, “AOC primes people to believe she will never compromise, then does.” Meanwhile, an opinion piece accused her vote of being “a tactical mess” and a “worst-of-both-worlds solution,” and suggested that it indicated she could have higher political ambitions.

Describing her actions in her letter, Ocasio-Cortez wrote: “Yes, I wept. I wept at the complete lack of care for the human beings that are impacted by these decisions, I wept at an institution choosing a path of maximum volatility and minimum consideration for its own political convenience.”

She added: “To those I have disappointed — I am deeply sorry. To those who believe this reasoning is insufficient or cowardice — I understand.”

She was not explicit about the reasons for her change of heart but hinted at a lack of time for substantive community consultation, as well as “hateful targeting” and the creation of an atmospheric “tinderbox of vitriol.”

The $1 billion funding for the Iron Dome system, which is designed to counter short-range rockets and mortar fire from militants in the Gaza Strip, was originally part of the wider government spending bill. However, some liberals threatened to vote it down, upending the entire spending package.

As a result, Democratic leaders opted to instead strip out the Israel funding provision and make it a stand-alone bill, which passed on Thursday. The procedural maneuver, however, inflamed tensions among Democrats, with Ocasio-Cortez slamming the process as “deeply unjust.”

Democratic tensions over Israel erupt again as House backs funds for Iron Dome system

Israel continues to be a fault line across the Democratic Party caucus, with the debate over the Iron Dome funding the latest issue to pit members of the so-called Squad, a group of liberal House members, against establishment Democrats.

A high-profile member of the Squad, Ocasio-Cortez is often a lightning rod for conservative criticism. However, in this case, her abstention saw her break away from fellow Squad members Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), all of whom voted against the bill.

Tlaib, the first Palestinian American woman to serve in Congress, called Israel an “apartheid state,” while Rep. Ted Deutch (Fla.) in response accused her of antisemitism.

Biden is increasingly at odds with other Democrats over Israel

Amid the fray, Republicans were eager to paint the entire Democratic Party as anti-Israel.

“Democrats do NOT support Israel,” Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), the No. 3 in House GOP leadership, wrote on Twitter. “Instead they choose to side with the Hamas Caucus wing of their Party.”

But House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Conn.) said in a statement that the United States’ “commitment to the security of our friend and ally Israel is ironclad.”

The vote was welcomed by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who thanked “Democrats and Republicans alike, for the overwhelming support for Israel and for the commitment to its security.”

The bill moves to the Senate.

Ice cream company Ben & Jerry's said July 20 it is “inconsistent" with its values for their ice cream to be sold in Palestinian territory occupied by Israel. (Video: Reuters)