How will Zelenskyy's latest US visit affect aid to Israel?

Ukrainian President to lobby for congressional support for more financial assistance

Israeli troops stand next to a tank amid ongoing battles with Hamas in Gaza. AFP
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Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrived in Washington on Tuesday for a high-stakes trip to secure more funding for Kyiv's war efforts against Moscow, but the Ukrainian President's visit will also have implications for Israel's war in Gaza.

In October, President Joe Biden requested Congress to approve more than $100 billion in emergency funding that would be spent on Ukraine, border security, the Indo-Pacific region and Israel.

Of that total package, Mr Biden asked for $14.3 billion to be allocated to support Israel's air and missile defence systems.

His request came weeks after Hamas launched its October 7 attack on Israel that left about 1,200 people dead.

“This funding will increase security assistance for Israel as it seeks to re-establish territorial security and deterrence and will bolster Israel’s ability to protect itself,” Mr Biden wrote in an October letter to House Speaker Mike Johnson.

And National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement last week: “It’s time for Congress to fund Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorists, Ukraine’s right to defend itself against Russian aggression, and the United States to secure our border and stop the flow of fentanyl into the country.”

While Republicans in Congress remain sceptical over more funding for Ukraine, they have signalled a desire to send continued aid to Israel, passing a bill in November allocating $14.3 billion in assistance to the country.

But their reticence in funding Ukraine – as well as their demands for tougher immigration restrictions on the Mexican border – complicates the sending of proposed assistance to Israel. Debate on the national security package stalled in the Senate last week after Republicans in the chamber held a filibuster over immigration issues.

During his visit, Mr Zelenskyy will aim to convince Republicans that funding Ukraine's defensive efforts is vital.

Should he be unsuccessful, as expected, that would mean Congress would also not be able to deliver funds to Israel.

Washington has remained resolute in its support for Israel despite facing global pressure to call for a ceasefire after Israeli air strikes have killed more than 18,000 people.

Mr Biden on Tuesday said Israel is “starting to lose that support” from the global community due to the indiscriminate bombings that have left thousands of civilians dead.

Updated: December 13, 2023, 6:33 AM