Senate passes $10 billion in Israeli military aid with only 3 democratic caucus members dissenting

The decision was part of a broader legislative package that also includes military support for Ukraine and Taiwan, with the bill passing by a substantial bipartisan majority of 70-29 votes.

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Image Credit: Amir Levy/Getty Images

The United States Senate, in an early Tuesday session, passed a bill allocating over $10 billion in military aid to Israel amidst the nation’s preparations for a potential ground invasion of Rafah, a Gaza city sheltering over 1.4 million people. The decision was part of a broader legislative package that also includes military support for Ukraine and Taiwan, with the bill passing by a substantial bipartisan majority of 70-29 votes.

The bill, which proposes a staggering $95 billion in total aid for the three countries, has sparked a heated debate within the Senate, particularly concerning the $14 billion earmarked for Israel. Senators Bernie Sanders, Jeff Merkley, and Peter Welch stood in opposition, expressing their concerns over the implications of such support amidst the ongoing conflict in Gaza. Sanders, in a statement made on social media, emphasized his disapproval, stating, “This bill provides [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu $10 billion more in unrestricted military aid for his horrific war against the Palestinian people. That is unconscionable.”

The controversy over the bill stems not only from the financial aspect but also from the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza, where Israeli military operations have led to significant civilian casualties. Senator Chris Van Hollen, despite ultimately voting in favor, highlighted the dire situation in Gaza, describing it as “pure hell” and labeling the deliberate withholding of food from Gazan children as a war crime. “Kids in Gaza are now dying from the deliberate withholding of food. In addition to the horror of that news, one other thing is true, that is a war crime,” Van Hollen articulated in a poignant Senate floor speech.

Amidst the legislative process, proposed amendments aimed at curbing offensive military aid to Israel and supporting humanitarian efforts in Gaza, put forth by Senator Sanders, were not included in the final bill. This exclusion has drawn criticism from those advocating for a more balanced approach to addressing the Israel-Palestine conflict, emphasizing the need for congressional oversight and adherence to international humanitarian laws.

As the bill advances to the House of Representatives, Speaker Mike Johnson has indicated that the lower chamber will independently assess the proposed measures. The absence of amendments related to U.S. border policy, despite Johnson’s critique, underscores the complexity of intertwining foreign aid with domestic policy issues.

In the face of these legislative developments, the international community and humanitarian organizations continue to call for a resolution that prioritizes human rights and seeks to alleviate the suffering of civilians caught in the crossfire. The Senate’s decision to extend further military aid to Israel, amid such a tumultuous backdrop, raises critical questions about the balance between strategic alliances and the ethical implications of supporting military operations that have resulted in widespread civilian casualties.

Senator Sanders, reflecting on the bill’s passage, lamented the missed opportunity to reevaluate U.S. support in light of the ongoing humanitarian crisis, stating, “Over and over again, I hear the president and members of Congress express deep concern about Netanyahu and the humanitarian disaster in Gaza that he has caused. Then why are they supporting giving Netanyahu another $10 billion to continue his war against the Palestinian people?”

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