Israel Calls Alliance With U.S. ‘Ironclad’ After Receiving Billions in Aid

By Equipo
8 Min Read

Israel welcomed a U.S. aid package signed by President Biden on Wednesday that will send about $15 billion in military aid to Israel, increasing American support for its closest Middle East ally despite strains in their relationship over Israel’s prosecution of the war in the Gaza Strip.

“Our alliance is ironclad,” Israel Katz, the country’s foreign minister, said in a statement thanking Mr. Biden for signing the legislation. It was part of a long-stalled $95.3 billion in aid that had faced vehement opposition from some Republicans over its support for Ukraine, which is also part of the legislation, as is Taiwan.

The aid for Israel includes more than $5 billion to replenish three of the country’s defense systems: Iron Dome, which intercepts rockets that fly in high arcs; David’s Sling, which shoots down drones, missiles and rockets; and Iron Beam, which was designed to use laser beams to destroy incoming projectiles.

It also includes $1 billion to enhance the production and development of artillery and munitions and $2.4 billion for American military operations in the U.S. Central Command region, which includes the Middle East as well as parts of South Asia and East Africa.

At the White House on Wednesday, Mr. Biden said he was authorizing “vital support for Israel,” less than two weeks after Iran attacked the country with more than 300 missiles and drones, almost all of which were shot down. Mr. Biden also pointed out that Israel had been fighting Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, both of which Iran supports.

“The security of Israel is critical,” Mr. Biden said. “I will always make sure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself against Iran and the terrorists it supports.”

The aid bill was signed as Israel continued to make plans to invade the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where more than a million displaced Palestinians are sheltering. The Biden administration has said it will oppose such an invasion without a workable plan to protect civilians from harm.

The legislation also provides $1 billion in additional humanitarian aid for civilians in Gaza, including food, medical supplies and clean water, Mr. Biden said. “Israel must make sure all this aid reaches the Palestinians in Gaza without delay,” he said.

Severe hunger in Gaza is already widespread, and the World Food Program, a United Nations agency, warned on Wednesday that a famine there could begin in six weeks without a major scale-up in food deliveries.

“We are getting closer by the day to a famine situation,” Gian Carlo Cirri, the director of the Geneva office of the World Food Program, told reporters. “Malnutrition among children is spreading.”

About 30 percent of children under the age of 2 in Gaza are severely malnourished, Mr. Cirri said. In northern Gaza, 70 percent of the population is facing catastrophic levels of hunger, meaning they have exhausted nearly all means of coping and are eating animal feed or selling belongings to buy food, he said.

“Most of them are destitute, and clearly some of them are dying of hunger,” he said.

Intense heat is compounding the suffering in Gaza, where many civilians were sweltering in makeshift tents under a blazing sun as temperatures reached 39 degrees Celsius, or 102 degrees Fahrenheit, on Wednesday.

“The tent feels like it’s on fire,” said Maryam Arafat, 23, who was sheltering with her husband and their three young children in Deir al Balah, in central Gaza. They had fled their home in Gaza City, which was under Israeli bombardment in the winter. “It’s so hot you can’t bear it, especially with young children,” she said.

Ms. Arafat said she used a piece of cardboard to fan her children and dampened their heads and limbs with what little water she had. The hot weather, combined with a lack of clean water, has intensified concerns about the spread of waterborne diseases in Gaza.

Despite the humanitarian crisis, the aid bars funding from going to UNRWA, the main U.N. agency that provides aid to Palestinians in Gaza. The United States suspended contributions to the agency this year over Israeli allegations that a dozen of the agency’s employees participated in the Hamas-led attacks on Israel on Oct. 7 or in their aftermath. The United Nations is conducting an internal review of the allegations.

But an independent review commissioned by the United Nations reported this week that Israel had not provided evidence to support its accusation that many UNRWA workers were members of Hamas and other terrorist groups.

The commission recommended that UNRWA protect its neutrality by putting in place additional screening and training of its staff members and by working more closely with host countries and Israel to share rosters of its employees.

Oren Marmorstein, a spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry, denounced the review after it was released, calling it “an effort to avoid the problem.”

But Germany, one of Israel’s close allies, said on Wednesday that it would resume funding for UNRWA, about three months after it suspended payments. The announcement was likely to cause further strain in its longstanding ties with Israel, which have deteriorated because of differences over the war in Gaza.

Germany gave more than $200 million to UNRWA in 2023 and is its second-largest donor, after the United States. Several other countries, including Australia, Canada and Sweden, have also resumed funding for UNRWA.

The United States is by far the biggest supplier of weapons to Israel, and even though the Biden administration has faced growing calls to restrict or stop the arms shipments, it has largely maintained its military support.

The package Mr. Biden signed does not put any conditions on military aid for Israel. That was a sticking point for some liberal Democrats who have become more vocal in criticizing the Israeli military’s conduct in Gaza, where more than 34,000 people have been killed, according to the territory’s health authorities.

When asked on Wednesday if the Biden administration would sever U.S. aid to an Israeli military unit accused of human rights abuses, Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, said the matter was for the State Department to decide and that the White House would not intervene.

The State Department is weighing action against the Israeli military battalion, Netzah Yehuda, under a U.S. law that bars American equipment, funds and training from going to foreign military units found to have committed gross human rights violations. The unit has been investigated in Israel for crimes in the West Bank predating the Oct. 7 attacks.

Reporting was contributed by Catie Edmondson, Robert Jimison, Raja Abdulrahim, Ameera Harouda and Shashank Bengali.

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