Wars rage in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. And both Israel and Ukraine rely heavily on financial and military support from the USA. But that is a long time coming.
Domestic political dispute between Democrats and Republicans in the US Parliament is blocking US aid to Israel in the middle of the Middle East crisis.
The Republican-dominated US House of Representatives passed a bill with billions in support for Israel on Thursday. However, the aid is subject to conditions, which in turn meets with vehement resistance from US President Joe Biden and his Democrats.
The legislative plans therefore have no prospect of being passed by the Democratic-controlled Senate and ultimately coming into force. Due to disputes between both parties and internal battles among the Republicans, it is also unclear whether and when the US Parliament could approve further aid to Ukraine.
A few days ago, Biden requested an aid package worth around 105 billion US dollars (around 99 billion euros) from Congress, which, among other things, provides comprehensive support for Israel and Ukraine. However, some Republicans in the House of Representatives have reservations about sending further extensive aid to Ukraine – and would prefer to see at least some of the money invested in their own country. They therefore wanted to vote separately on support for Ukraine and Israel.
The Republicans’ Israel push
The Republican leadership in the parliamentary chamber then separated the two and initially presented a package solely on Israel. The draft that has now been approved provides aid for the closest US ally in the Middle East in the amount of 14.3 billion dollars (13.46 billion euros). However, cuts to the US tax authority (IRS) to the same extent are planned to provide counter-financing.
Biden and his Democrats are therefore accusing the Republicans of wanting to politicize aid to Israel and try to use it to push through their domestic political agenda. Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern said during Thursday’s debate in the U.S. House: “Tying aid to Israel to helping the richest tax cheats in America – that’s crazy.”
The vote was 226 to 196 votes. Two Republicans opposed the bill and 12 Democrats supported it. The Republicans have a slim majority in the House of Representatives.
In the other chamber of Congress, the Senate, Biden’s Democrats have an even thinner majority. The initiative has no chance of success there. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Thursday the chamber would not even take up the Republicans’ “severely flawed” proposal but would instead work on an aid package that includes support for Israel, Ukraine and others. Schumer said he was puzzled as to how Republicans, in a moment of crisis, could tie support for Israel to a far-right proposal that would help wealthy tax cheats get off scot-free.
The White House has also announced opposition and has already threatened that Biden would, if necessary, veto the law if it ends up on his desk for signing. The US President can veto legislative decisions from Congress. A two-thirds majority is needed in parliament to overrule him. In this case, that would hardly come about.
The fundamental dispute behind it
Behind the dispute is a fundamental dispute between Democrats and Republicans. Republican lawmakers, particularly those on the right, have long opposed extensive government spending and called for more austerity. This has already brought the USA to the brink of a temporary standstill in government business on several occasions. Such a “shutdown” threatens to occur again in mid-November if the US Parliament does not pass a new federal budget by then – or at least another interim budget.
The new Republican leader of the House of Representatives, Mike Johnson, defended his group’s course and said that he did not include the cuts to the tax authority in the Israel bill for political purposes, but for reasons of fiscal responsibility. The USA has international obligations and wants to help Israel. “But we also have to keep our own house in order.”
The problem for Ukraine
Johnson announced that his group would next present a bill to support Ukraine. But the Republicans also want to link this aid to a controversial domestic political issue: “We want to connect border security with Ukraine,” said Johnson. “If we care about a border in Ukraine, we must also care about America’s borders.” Republicans are calling for more restrictive immigration policies and increased protection of the border with Mexico. But such a combination is also likely to meet with resistance from the Democrats.
The USA is Ukraine’s most important supporter in the defense against Russia. In the interim budget, which expires in mid-November, no further aid is planned for the country due to pressure from parts of the Republican faction. And the money for Kiev previously approved by Congress is running out, so new funds are urgently needed.
The most recent US packages of military equipment for Ukraine have recently been increasingly smaller. If military supplies from the Americans were to take a long time to arrive, were to be significantly smaller in the future or were to stop altogether, this would have a significant impact on the war.
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.