Israel demands more funds and weapons as US House bill stalls

Israel demands more funds and weapons as US House bill stalls
As the clock ticks, Israeli officials are expressing frustration that it could be too late to meet their own government's timeline.
3 min read
Washington, DC
20 February, 2024
A bill for US aid to Ukraine and Israel could have difficulty passing the House. [Brooke Anderson/The New Arab]

Israel says it needs more US military aid as a major funding bill continues to stall in Congress, according to a report by Jewish Insider.

Following a visit to Capitol Hill the week before last, Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee Chairman Yuli Edelstein described the transfer of US aid to Israel as urgent.

Calls for more US aid come as Israel continues its war on Gaza, causing more than 100,000 casualties, including around 29,000 deaths, most of whom are women and children, as well as mass destruction of property, infrastructure and the environment and growing cases of malnutrition and disease. Israel also holds more than 7,000 Palestinians, while Hamas continues to hold more than 100 Israelis following its attack on Israeli military bases and civilian settlements within and around the Gaza envelope on 7 October.

"This is aid for immediate needs, not for something we’ll use in a matter of years," Edelstein told Jewish Insider earlier this month.

Other sources suggested the potential for a longer and broader conflict, raising the possibility of a protracted war extending across Israel's northern border against Hezbollah in Lebanon. In the past several weeks, airstrikes in the Gulf related to the war in Gaza have also raised concerns of a much wider conflict.

The bill for US$95.3 billion in aid to Israel, Taiwan and Ukraine, which includes US$60.1 billion for Ukraine and US$14.1 billion for Israel, passed with bipartisan support in the Senate. However, it has been stalled in the House largely due to Republican objections over continued large-scale US military support for Ukraine. 

While most Republicans who voted against it did so due to the large-scale aid to Ukraine, progressives Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Jeff Merkley of Oregon voted against it due to the supplemental aid for Israel in light of the ongoing war on Gaza.

"While I have supported military aid to Israel in the past and continue to support aid for defensive systems like Iron Dome and David's Sling, I cannot vote to send more bombs and shells to Israel when they are using them in an indiscriminate manner against Palestinian civilians," said Merkley in a public statement prior to voting against the bill, which he described as against US values and law.

Though the bill also includes money for humanitarian aid to Gaza and the occupied West Bank, it's unclear how that assistance would reach the Palestinians given the conflict's effect on aid delivery. 

Part of the bill originally included provisions for immigration policy on the southern border, however Senate Republicans were able to push for that portion's removal before its passage. Now, it is Republicans in the House holding it up over Ukraine.

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At this point, House Speaker Mike Johnson has not set a date for bringing the aid bill to the House floor. On Monday, Biden said he would be willing to meet with Johnson to urge Republicans to pass the bill. However, with the chamber's narrow party divide and with more than 60 House Democrats supporting a ceasefire in Gaza, it will likely be a hard sell for many in both parties.

As the clock ticks, Israeli officials are expressing frustration that it could be too late to meet their own government's timeline.

Edelstein told Jewish Insider that even if Congress passes the bill soon, Israel might have to wait until the second half of 2024 to spend it.

He acknowledged that the hold-up of the US aid is "not because of any problem in Israel… This is totally about American politics. Everyone promised [the aid would come] soon, including the most senior Republicans and Democrats, but I still don’t know when that will be."