With the US economy reeling from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee agreed to give Israel a minimum of $3.8 billion in military aid per year. A full vote on the gift is expected soon.
The US unemployment rate now stands at 14.7 percent, the worst figure since records began. Nearly 39 million Americans have lost their jobs since the coronavirus reached US shores in late January, and the Congressional Budget Office warned on Tuesday that the US economy won’t recover from its current contraction until after next year. Moreover, the federal government’s financial relief packages to date have pushed national debt past a record $25 trillion.
You wouldn’t think there was anything wrong if you asked Senator Marco Rubio though. The Florida Republican and his colleagues on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee quietly approved a bill on Thursday to guarantee Israel a minimum of $38 billion in military aid over the next ten years, despite the economic shambles at home.
Passed unanimously, the bill now heads to the Senate floor for a full vote.
Though authored by Rubio – a Republican of hawkish persuasion – the bill aims to legally codify a promise made by former President Barack Obama in 2016. Under the terms agreed to by Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Jewish state would not seek any additional funds beyond the annual $3.8 billion. Indeed, when Congress voted on an earlier version of Rubio’s bill in 2018, that figure was set as a cap. The 2018 bill was eventually rolled into another Middle East security bill the following year, which was left to die in the Democrat-controlled House.
Now, with Rubio once again pushing the bill, the spending cap has been removed. In the version passed by the Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday, the US will send “not less than” $3.3 billion in direct military aid and $500 million in funding for missile defense programs every year for the next decade.
Rubio boasted on Thursday that the bill “strengthens our nation’s strategic security alliance with Israel, a vibrant democracy that faces growing and unprecedented threats to its security and stability.” Yet the bill was passed with no fanfare, and in a state of near-secrecy.
The Foreign Relations Committee voted on it alongside a package of 15 other bills, with committee head Jim Risch (R-Idaho) foregoing the usual live-streaming of proceedings. Some of Risch and Rubio’s Democratic colleagues voiced concerns about the hush-hush nature of the session, but none objected to passing the bill, which amounts to the largest such aid package in American history.
The vote was not covered by American media, and was noted by only a few anti-Israel activists. Should the full Senate vote attract more coverage, it will likely draw some criticism. Even before the coronavirus hammered the US economy, support for Israel among the American public was falling. According to a Gallup poll taken late last year, 59 percent of Americans sympathized with Israel in the Middle East conflict, down from 64 percent a year earlier.
Think your friends would be interested? Share this story!