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Saturday, December 2, 2023

Exploring the Prospects of Linking Aid to Israel & Ukraine in Congress

The corridors of power in Washington are abuzz with discussions that could potentially reshape the dynamics of foreign aid. The Biden administration, in concert with key lawmakers on Capitol Hill, is actively considering a novel strategy: linking aid to Israel with additional funding for Ukraine. The aim? To secure both spending priorities in a complex political landscape. This intriguing proposition has garnered the attention of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle who are ardent supporters of bolstering Ukraine’s position on the global stage. While some Republican members in the House and the Senate have voiced opposition to new funding for Ukraine, the idea of providing additional aid to Israel in the wake of Hamas’ brutal attacks on Israelis appears to face less resistance in Congress.

Evaluating the Political Viability

Behind the scenes, the White House is carefully evaluating the political viability of tying aid for Ukraine and Israel together. An administration official has disclosed that this decision ultimately rests in the hands of Congress. However, it’s clear that the administration recognizes the importance of both nations. As Adm. John Kirby, the National Security Council’s coordinator for strategic communications, aptly put it, “Both are important, and we are a large enough, big enough, economically viable and vibrant enough country to be able to support both.” The timing of this potential strategy remains uncertain, as Congress is facing a mid-November deadline to fund the federal government.

The Israel-Ukraine Connection

The Biden administration has already taken swift action by providing additional military assistance to Israel in its ongoing conflict with Hamas. However, it anticipates that congressional action will be necessary to meet Israel’s evolving needs. In a recent call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Biden reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to fulfilling Israel’s requests in the coming days and weeks.

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A Republican senator has shared their expectation that both Israel and Ukraine will be linked in a future spending bill. The senator stated, “I do believe that there will have to be a supplemental that includes aid to Israel as well as Ukraine given the horrific terrorist attacks by Hamas.” This assertion comes in the wake of the short-term spending bill signed by President Biden last month, which did not include any new funding for Ukraine, triggering a significant debate on how to address the matter.

Bipartisan Consensus for Assistance

Amidst the political wrangling, one thing remains clear: there is a strong bipartisan consensus for providing support to both Israel and Ukraine. Democratic Representative Ro Khanna, a member of the Armed Services Committee, voiced his support for assisting both nations. He emphasized, “This is a moment where American leadership matters,” underlining the critical importance of American engagement.

However, it’s worth noting that opposition to Ukraine assistance has grown among House Republicans in recent months. In a telling sign of this trend, 93 Republicans voted in favor of an amendment to a military funding bill, proposed by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), that aimed to halt all military aid to Ukraine. This marked an increase from the 70 Republicans who supported a similar proposal by Gaetz in July.

The Role of Congressional Leadership

As congressional leadership evolves, the fate of aid to Israel and Ukraine becomes increasingly intertwined. With the departure of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, the GOP is poised to elect a new speaker. The looming question is whether aid to Israel should be included in a package alongside funding for Ukraine and border security. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a staunch advocate for both Ukraine and Israel, has drawn parallels between the two situations, noting the imperative of decisive action in foreign policy.

Differing Needs and Capabilities

While some may question whether linking aid to Israel with aid to Ukraine is prudent, the White House maintains that its ability to support these nations is not a zero-sum game. However, it is important to recognize that replenishing the stockpile for any aid provided to Israel in the near term may be necessary. The distinct air defense systems and capabilities of Israel and Ukraine mean that they are not in direct competition for the same types of military support. This could alleviate concerns regarding potential supply shortages.

In conclusion, the proposition to link aid to Israel with aid to Ukraine presents a unique opportunity for Congress to address critical international priorities. While the political path forward remains uncertain, the bipartisan consensus in support of both nations underscores the significance of American leadership in an increasingly complex world. The coming weeks will undoubtedly shape the trajectory of this strategy and determine its impact on foreign policy.

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