'Unprecedented victory' as Democrats prevent $1 billion in extra aid to Israel
The request was removed on Tuesday from a continuing resolution (CR) bill to prevent a government shutdown over exceeding the debt ceiling.
The unusual request, which has the potential to shut down the US government for going over the debt ceiling, is controversial due to the US government’s long history of largely unobstructed aid to Israel.
“Today was an unprecedented victory for people who fight for Palestinian rights. This never could have happened two decades ago,” Raed Jarrar, advocacy director at Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), told The New Arab.
“The fact that we have enough political clout in Congress to get the language removed, for me and other staffers who pushed for this today, is a win. We were surprised.”
Israel has already responded to the funding request removal by threatening to pull its ambassador from the US.
However, what is being considered a win is a long way from what pro-Palestine activists and the left-wing of the Democratic party would want in terms of a much more even-handed US policy in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Annually, the US gives Israel $3.8 billion in aid.
The bill, which was mainly voted on along party lines, is a stopgap measure that will extend government funding, set to expire on 30 September, until 3 December. It also includes a debt limit suspension through 16 December.
The bill was expected to pass immediately, but it hit a snag when progressive Democrats insisted on removing the $1 billion for the Iron Dome, a provision that was added later and goes against a 2016 memorandum of understanding stipulating that Israel will not request additional funding, except in exceptional circumstances.
Even with such agreements in place, it is still unusual for the US government to reverse a decision to send money to Israel. This week’s development might be a sign that times are changing – at least for unconditional aid to Israel.
“There is a massive shift happening in the Democratic base,” Jarrar said. “What we’re seeing now is a manifestation of progressive Democrats not being OK with the blank checks policy to Israel.”
Editor's note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly suggested pro-Palestine staff in Congress, rather than activists lobbying Congress, were celebrating following the block of funds for Iron Dome. The New Arab regrets this error.