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Biden readying emergency weapons aid for Israel

Biden readying emergency weapons aid for Israel

Update: White House considering using the conflict to pass his Ukraine package, too.

Reporting | QiOSK

UPDATE 10/9: The Washington Post is reporting tonight that the White House is now considering pairing its Ukraine aid request with one for Israel, in hopes that such a proposal would clear the hurdles now posed by a vocal GOP minority in the House opposed to giving Kyiv another "blank check." From the Post:

No final decisions have been made on whether to link the requests, said two senior administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. One of the officials said such a move could make sense because it “jams the far right,” which is firmly opposed to more Ukraine aid but strongly supportive of aid to Israel.

The United States has begun to move military assets into the Middle East to assist Israel after coordinated attacks against Israel by Hamas from the Gaza Strip over the weekend.

"The United States unequivocally condemns this appalling assault against Israel by Hamas terrorists from Gaza, and I made clear to Prime Minister Netanyahu that we stand ready to offer all appropriate means of support to the Government and people of Israel,” President Joe Biden said in televised remarks Saturday.

“Terrorism is never justified. Israel has a right to defend itself and its people,” he added. “My Administration’s support for Israel’s security is rock solid and unwavering.”

According to reports, the Pentagon has already sent a U.S. Navy carrier group to the region. “I have directed the movement of the USS Gerald R Ford Carrier Strike Group to the Eastern Mediterranean,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a statement Sunday.

The White House is also readying a package of weapons that Israel has already asked for. Officials won’t disclose what those weapons are out of security considerations, according to POLITICO, but they assured that it won’t take away from any of the needed weapons that are currently going to Ukraine. From POLITICO:

One option the White House may be considering is to release a little-known stockpile of American ammunition stored in Israel. The weapons are intended for the U.S. to use in Middle East conflicts, but the U.S. has also allowed Israel to access the ammunition in emergencies….

While the U.S. sent some of that ammunition to Ukraine to help it repel Russian invaders, there is still enough left in the stockpile for Israel, the U.S. official said….

The U.S. official said the administration does not anticipate that any military assistance to Israel will impact its ability to continue to send weapons to Ukraine, as the two countries use different systems.

While Republicans in the House are trying to hold up additional aid for Ukraine, a supplemental emergency aid package — one that the White House is currently mulling for Israel — will likely sail through Congress, observers say, with or without a House Speaker.

From Punchbowl News this morning:

Lawmakers expect that the Biden administration will soon brief them on what, if anything, will be needed in the near-term to assist Israel. This could include a supplemental security assistance package, as well as the replenishment of the Iron Dome missile-defense system.

Without a House speaker, it’ll be tricky to pass anything in Congress. But senior GOP sources tell us if the House needs to act, it may do so regardless of the procedural consequences.

Punchbowl also noted that “under discussion” this weekend “among some national-security hawks” was “a potential legislative package that lumps Israel aid in with a big Ukraine package that Congress is still trying to pass.”

“This idea is to force the GOP’s Ukraine skeptics into a bind. That group has been highlighting the need to support Israel by using some of the same arguments that pro-Ukraine Republicans are making about the importance of continuing to back Kyiv. This is incredibly risky from a political and practical point of view.”

Meanwhile, a Telegraph article claimed over the weekend that Biden may ask for a $100 billion “one and done” Ukraine aid package which “will allow him to bypass the deadlock with congressional Republicans and free up enough aid for Ukraine to last until the 2024 presidential election.” The story was based on an unnamed U.S. official, who also said the president was readying a speech to the American people "to unify America behind why it's so important to support Ukraine and just how much is at stake."

Currently, Israel is the greatest cumulative recipient of U.S. military aid. It has already been getting more than $3 billion a year in assistance from the U.S. — to date, more than $146 billion. With this aid, the U.S. has “helped transform Israel’s armed forces into one of the most technologically sophisticated militaries in the world,” according to the Congressional Research Service.

In 2023, the U.S. sent Israel $3.8 billion and an additional $100 million “in funding for other cooperative defense and non-defense programs.”

Washington also helps Israel maintain its “qualitative military edge” over its Arab neighbors in the region, meaning it gets access to the U.S. military’s most sophisticated weapons, including fighter aircraft like the most advanced versions of the F-35.

Many of the weapons the U.S. has helped Israel develop have been used against Palestinians over years of conflict and in homeland security operations, which has drawn fire from critics. In March, Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to the State Department asking whether U.S. weapons were being used in crackdowns on Palestinians in the West Bank.

The discussion today, at least in Democratic leadership quarters on the Hill, will be more focused on condemnation of Hamas and on how to give Israel more weapons and other assistance. Sen. Chuck Schumer, in Shanghai on a Senate delegation, said he’ll do “all I can to deliver everything Israel requires in this time of urgent need.”

Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell voice a similar commitment: “Failure to support friends under attack — in Kyiv or Tel Aviv — will only embolden the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism and fellow authoritarians who watch closely for a weakening of American leadership and Western solidarity.”

Photo credit: Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepts rockets launched from the Gaza Strip, as seen from the city of Ashkelon, Israel October 9, 2023. REUTERS/Amir Cohen TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Reporting | QiOSK
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