Amherst council takes up Gaza cease-fire resolution Monday

Palestinians search for survivors after an Israeli airstrike on a residential building of the Yaghi family in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip, Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Palestinians search for survivors after an Israeli airstrike on a residential building of the Yaghi family in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip, Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Adel Hana) Adel Hana

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 02-28-2024 3:57 PM

AMHERST — Significant local and regional interest in an Amherst Town Council resolution advocating for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war is prompting the meeting to discuss, debate and possibly vote on the matter to be moved to the Amherst Regional Middle School auditorium next week.

Long the site of Amherst’s previous legislative body, representative Town Meeting, the auditorium will be the stage for the Town Council meeting Monday at 6:30 p.m.

The rescheduled and relocated meeting came after this week’s session was postponed when more than 80 people indicated they intended to come to the Town Room at Town Hall, exceeding the capacity of that venue.

The resolution, sponsored by District 2 Councilor Pat DeAngelis and At Large Councilor Ellisha Walker and the Amherst4Ceasefire community group, states the Amherst Town Council calls for an “immediate and sustained cease-fire in Gaza, an end to the Israeli military siege of the Gaza Strip, the release of the hostages and detainees on both sides, removal of obstacles to urgently needed humanitarian aid entering Gaza, and an end to unconditional U.S. military aid to the Israeli government.”

Even though the resolution focuses on the humanitarian concerns in the Middle East, critics of the resolution have argued it places too much blame on Israel.

Amherst resident Ken Rosenthal recently submitted a competing resolution to the Town Council, with an accompanying letter contending that the current resolution is divisive. But his resolution is not sponsored by a councilor and it’s unclear how and whether it can be discussed.

Rosenthal’s resolution calls for an immediate and simultaneous cease-fire by the Israeli government and release of all hostages by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the delivery of medicine, food, and other necessary supplies to the residents of Gaza immediately upon the implementation of the cease-fire and release of all hostages, and the prompt and sincere participation of the Israeli government, the Palestinian Authority, and the leadership of Hamas in peace negotiations led by the United States, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other nations.

Town Manager Paul Bockelman said the Town Council and Town Hall have received hundreds of emails about the resolution, some written as form letters organized by groups in favor of it, though in recent days there also have been a number of letters advocating against its passage.

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Due to the time the issue is expected to take up, Bockelman said it’s likely that agenda items that can be postponed will be pushed back to the March 18 meeting, when there will be a public forum on Community Preservation Act spending.

People can also participate in the March 4 meeting via Zoom and telephone, and it will be broadcast on Amherst Media. A period of public comment will be held at the meeting, with comments limited to two minutes per person.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.