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Israel, Ukraine: the massive aid package before US Congress

Israel, Ukraine, TikTok: the massive aid package before US Congress
3 min read
The US House of Representatives passed a $95 billion legislative package providing security assistance to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan. What does this mean?
Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) speaks to members of the press after the House of Representatives passed bills, including aid to Ukraine and Israel, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC [Getty]

The US House of Representatives on Saturday approved a giant aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan and a bill threatening to ban TikTok.

Here is a breakdown of the $95 billion package, which now moves to the Senate, where it could be taken up as early as Tuesday.

The majority of funds in the package, nearly $61 billion, are earmarked for Ukraine's war effort against the Russian invasion. President Volodymyr Zelensky has been pleading for this money for months, warning that "if Congress does not help Ukraine, Ukraine will lose the war."

Washington is Kyiv's main military supporter, but Congress has not passed a major aid package for its ally since December 2022 due to partisan squabbling.

The bill passed Saturday would provide nearly $14 billion to train, equip and finance the needs of the Ukrainian army.

Ukraine would also receive $10 billion in "forgivable loans" for vital economic and budgetary support, including for the energy and infrastructure sectors.

The idea of a loan, rather than a grant, was suggested by former president Donald Trump, who believes the United States should stop handing out money without any payback. A "forgivable loan" can be partly or fully forgiven or deferred under certain conditions.

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A large chunk of this money will also go to replenishing US military stockpiles.

The bill also authorizes the US president to confiscate and sell Russian assets in order to finance the reconstruction of Ukraine, an idea that is also gaining traction with other G7 countries.

The United States' historic ally Israel will receive $13 billion in military assistance amid its brutal war in the Gaza Strip.

These funds will be used in particular to reinforce Israel's Iron Dome air defense system.

More than $9 billion will be spent to address "the dire need for humanitarian assistance for Gaza as well as other vulnerable populations around the world."

The measure, however, would prohibit any direct US funding of the UN crisis-hit Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA). Israel has accused some of the agency employees in Gaza of involvement in the October 7 attack on southern Israel by Hamas.

Following the allegations, UNRWA later published a report saying it had documented the release of 1,506 Palestinian detainees via the Karam Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) crossing on 4 April, many of whom had suffered torture, ill-treatment, and sexual violence at the hands of Israeli forces.

UNRWA staff members were among the released detainees and the report said they were forced to confess to actions they were innocent of.

The bill would provide some $8 billion to counter China through investment in submarine infrastructure and boosting competition with Chinese projects in developing countries.

The bill also earmarks several billion dollars in weapons funding for Taiwan, a self-ruled island that is claimed by China.

Another bill passed Saturday would force TikTok to divest from its Chinese parent company ByteDance or face a nationwide ban in the United States.

American officials have voiced alarm over the popularity of TikTok with young people, alleging that it is subservient to Beijing and a conduit to spread propaganda, claims denied by the company and Beijing.

AFP and The New Arab's April 17 article 'UNRWA report details harrowing torture of Palestinians detained by Israeli forces in Gaza' contributed to this piece.