Republicans look to fund Iron Dome in $14.3bn Israel aid package

White House says paying for proposal by offsetting costs elsewhere is a 'non-starter'

Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepts rockets launched from the Gaza Strip, as seen from Ashkelon, in southern Israel, on October 20. Reuters
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Republicans in the US House of Representatives on Monday released the details of their $14.3 billion Israeli aid package, with money for the country's present and future defence systems.

The proposal is in line with the $14.3 billion in funding for Israel that President Joe Biden had requested, although it would not be part of his larger $105 billion request.

Included in House Speaker Mike Johnson's proposal is $4.4 billion for Israel's Iron Dome and David Sling defence systems.

Another $1.2 billion would be used to help Israel develop its Iron Beam defence system against short-range rocket threats.

The Defence Department would also receive $4.4 billion to replenish stocks that the Pentagon has already given to support Israel since October 7.

But the bill's passage is far from certain and will be the first major test for Mr Johnson since coming to power.

The Republicans' proposal would be paid for by offsetting costs for Mr Biden's Inflation Reduction Act, something that typically does not happen in emergency funding requests.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said rescinding those costs is a "non-starter".

"Playing political games that threaten the source of funding for Israel’s self-defence - now and into the future - would set an unacceptable precedent that calls our commitment to one of our closest allies into question," she said in a statement.

It decouples Israeli aid from assistance that would go to Ukraine and Taiwan. Mr Biden requested funding for all three as part of his broader emergency funding request.

"There is strong bipartisan agreement that it is in our direct national security interest to help Ukraine defend its sovereignty against appalling crimes being committed by Russian forces against thousands of innocent civilians," Ms Jean-Pierre said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said separating Ukraine from Israel – as well as rescinding funds from Mr Biden's programme – would make it “much harder to pass”.

Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken were scheduled to testify before a senate committee on Mr Biden's funding request on Tuesday.

Mr Biden's administration has maintained its unequivocal backing of Israel's defence since the deadly Hamas assault three weeks ago killed about 1,400 people.

But as Israel has bombed Gaza over the past three weeks, resulting in more than 8,000 deaths, the White House has sought to make a finer point that it must act within the laws of war and be more conscious of civilian safety.

The US also said it had pressed Israel to restore communication channels to Gaza over the weekend and that it was “pleased” when the internet was restored.

Mr Biden has also pressed for more humanitarian aid be delivered to Gaza at a quicker pace. The US said 45 lorries carrying humanitarian assistance entered Gaza on Sunday, a number that must significantly increase.

He announced earlier in October that Washington would provide $100 million in humanitarian assistance for Gaza.

Updated: October 30, 2023, 10:10 PM