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UPDATE: Gaza cease-fire resolution stalled for good due to lack of Metro Council support

Large group of people seated in rows holding signs, many wearing keffiyehs.
Roberto Roldan
The resolution, which calls for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, drew tense debate in committee last week.

Louisville Metro Council didn’t vote on a resolution calling for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, despite repeated efforts to find agreement among Democrats.

Sponsors of the cease-fire resolution hoped that a new version that removed more pointed language about the ongoing war in Gaza could get enough votes from the 16 Democrats on Louisville Metro Council. But support for the compromise legislation fell apart ahead of the Thursday night meeting, according to District 4 Council Member Jecorey Arthur, one of the primary sponsors.

Arthur, an Independent, said he learned some Democrats were threatening to walk out rather than cast a vote on the resolution.

“They were OK with voting on it if we watered it down to the most bare bones,” he said. “We had to ask ourselves, ‘Do we want to do that or would we rather just hold it, as it is, and redirect our energy to other actions?’”

That could include other efforts to pressure the U.S. government into pursuing peace in Gaza, like a letter-writing campaign and encouraging Democratic primary voters to vote "uncommitted" in May as a rebuke to President Joe Biden's approach to the conflict.

Arthur said supporters of a cease-fire — including Palestinian residents who have advocated for months through phone calls, emails and protests — asked him and cosponsor Shameka Parrish-Wright, a District 3 Democrat, to hold the resolution indefinitely. They preferred that to risking a “no” vote or the possibility that council would further amend the proposal to remove the term “cease-fire” entirely.

Council President Markus Winkler, a District 17 Democrat, initially opposed the cease-fire resolution because he thought the issue would further divide residents in Louisville. He later agreed to cosponsor a less-detailed version than the one that passed out of committee.

On Thursday, Winkler told LPM News some council members who indicated they supported the compromise resolution had soured on it, and planned to vote “present” instead. He said there was a fear the vote would hurt residents.

“If the resolution were to fail, that would likely be extremely traumatic to people in our Palestinian community,” he said. “If it were to pass, there are people equally impacted on the other side … Regardless of what the words say, there’s a larger context surrounding the issue.”

He said, moving forward, the body should be cautious about weighing in on controversial issues the city doesn’t have much control over.

“Sometimes we have to take actions that are symbolic,” Winkler said. “Sometimes we have to take actions that are divisive, but taking action on things that are symbolic and divisive is where we should really be careful.”

The fate of the cease-fire resolution was very different than a resolution two years ago supporting the people and leaders of Ukraine. That passed without discussion about whether it was in Metro Council’s purview.

On Thursday, Council chambers were packed with people, most holding signs that read “Free Palestine” or “Ceasefire Now!”

During the public comment period, Chad Kamen, a Jewish resident of District 8, spoke in favor of the resolution, saying calls for peace aren’t divisive. He said supporting a cease-fire has helped him build relationships with others, including Jewish and Palestinian Americans.

“We are five months into unrelenting violence against the people of Gaza by Israel and I think we can all agree that we don’t want to see another 30,000 elders and parents and children killed,” he said.

Leen Abozaid, a Palestinian American health care worker, told the council that she’s lost many family members in the war. She spoke in support of language in a previous draft, which called on Congress to put money toward issues in American communities rather than fund military aid to Israel.

“When Louisville taxpayers reject sending millions of our tax dollars to a foreign occupying country in the Middle East, this is an act that allows us to better fund life-giving services like health care access in our community,” Abozaid said.

Cease-fire supporters stood up from their seats following Abozaid’s speech and filed out of the chamber, chanting “Free Palestine.”

Rabbi Shlomo Litvin, director of Chabad of the Bluegrass, was one of the speakers opposed to the resolution. Litvin called it “performative” and said Metro Council can’t end the war in Gaza.

“Benjamin Netanyahu is not waiting to hear what Louisville has to say before he plans his next operation and neither is Hamas,” he said.

Litvin said he thought the only people who would be impacted by the resolution are members of the Jewish community in Louisville.

For now, the cease-fire resolution will sit on the Metro Council agenda until it falls off, after six months with no action or the sponsors withdraw it. The version that remains on the record is what passed out of committee last week, which includes the statement that “there is no military solution to this conflict.”

Resolution's tumultuous path

The resolution narrowly passed out of committee last week after tense debate, during which Winkler said he would block a final vote. But, days later, Winkler agreed to cosponsor a new, less-detailed version. That never made it to a vote.

In an interview Tuesday, Winkler said the new draft removed language that he thought community members would see as divisive.

“I think everybody would like the conflict to end,” he said. “I do think different people maybe have different reasons for why they want it to end or who they think is at fault, and I think that’s where a lot of the divisiveness ends up.”

The resolution that could have gone to a vote on Thursday did not include references to genocide, illegal settlements or even the death tolls, which were in previous versions. Instead, it would have had the council affirm “its support for people around the world to live in peace” and encourage residents to offer their support to Palestinian and Israeli communities.

That draft called on the federal government to facilitate a cease-fire, the release of hostages and “unimpeded humanitarian aid.”

The Republican Caucus expressed its opposition in a statement last week before the new draft came out. It said the resolution failed to address the role of Hamas in the conflict and called it “a distraction from the critical local issues that Council should be focused on.”

The current war in Gaza began after the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks in southern Israel, in which about 1,200 people were killed and more than 200 were taken hostage. Israel responded with a full-scale military attack and siege. More than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli response so far, according to the Gaza health ministry.

Following Winkler’s comments last week, he and Arthur worked closely to find a compromise they thought would allow a final vote. Both said they used a resolution recently passed by Cincinnati City Council as a template.

Arthur said Wednesday he hoped the newer version would have broad support.

“Even if it doesn’t say everything we want it to say, it still says what we need it to say and that’s that we need to have a cease-fire,” he said.

Arthur credited residents who have protested, organized and lobbied their Metro Council members to support a cease-fire for getting the resolution through committee.

“I think that government sometimes is overwhelming and confusing for people, so they just disengage with it,” Arthur said. “But when people show up, they figure out how it works and they call out what’s wrong…we can get wins and we can get changes in government. This is an example of that.”

The tabled resolution could technically be revived, but it's unlikely.

Correction: A previous version of this story, based on information provided by Metro Council, included the wrong district information for resident Chad Kamen. He lives in District 8.

Roberto Roldan is the City Politics and Government Reporter for WFPL. Email Roberto at rroldan@lpm.org.

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