The Biden administration is asking Congress to approve a $106 billion proposal that would mostly benefit Ukrainian and Israeli war and defense efforts. The administration wants roughly $61 billion for Ukraine and $14 billion for Israel with the large majority of that money going to military supplies.
These are massive numbers: In the 2019 fiscal year, the United States spent about $48 billion on foreign assistance across the entire world, of which about $14 billion went to military aid. Biden is now requesting at least $55 billion in military aid alone for Ukraine and Israel. The $14 billion in total aid for Israel would be roughly four times what the United States normally provides per year. The $61 billion requested for Ukraine would add to the more than $75 billion the United States has already sent—most of which has gone to security assistance.
Along with money for Ukraine and Israel, Biden is asking for nearly $14 billion to address the near-record levels of people coming to the US-Mexico border and $4 billion to counter China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific and developing countries.
What’s conspicuously absent from the funding request is a specific amount of humanitarian aid for Palestinians under siege in Gaza, where the death toll reached more than 3,700 on Thursday, according to the health ministry. Instead, the administration is asking for about $9 billion for humanitarian aid for Israel, Palestine, and Ukraine as a collective group. The administration has not said how much of that money will go to help Palestinians. Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young told reporters on Friday that the “account has flexibility.”
The $106 billion Biden is requesting is staggering when considering the cost of many of the domestic priorities the administration has been unable to get Congress to fund. The liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that making a $2,000 child tax credit fully available to children in low-income households would cost roughly $12 billion per year. Doing so would keep about 1.5 million children above the poverty line, but the policy has essentially no chance of being approved by a GOP-controlled House.
In an Oval Office address on Thursday, Biden framed the funding request as part of a broader effort to defend democracy against rising authoritarianism. “Hamas and Putin represent different threats, but they share this in common,” Biden said. “They both want to completely annihilate a neighboring democracy.”
The parallel draws on the fact that Hamas, whose brutal attack on October 7 claimed the lives of more than 1,300 Israelis, has long said it wants to destroy Israel. But there are also differences between the two situations.
Leading human rights organizations, including the Israeli group B’Tselem, consider Israel to be an apartheid regime due to the way it deprives Palestinians of basic rights and self-determination. Israel has spent decades building settlements on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank as part of a systematic effort to create “facts on the ground” designed to render a viable Palestinian state impossible. The United States has done little to stop Israel from building these settlements and continues to provide largely unconditional support for its government.
In his speech, Biden made a point of saying that “Putin denies Ukraine has, or ever had, real statehood.” This view has a direct parallel among the far-right extremists and Jewish supremacists who in part helped bring Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to power and now have key positions in the Israeli government.
In particular, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich who said earlier this year that there is “no such thing as a Palestinian people.” In 2016, Smotrich called for segregating maternity wards so that Jewish women did not have to give birth alongside Palestinian citizens of Israel, who make up about a fifth of the population. “It’s natural that my wife wouldn’t want to lie down [in a bed] next to a woman who just gave birth to a baby who might want to murder her baby twenty years from now,” he explained. Smotrich added, “Arabs are my enemies and that’s why I don’t enjoy being next to them.”
Early polling shows that the rush to send weapons to Israel is not particularly popular, particularly among Biden’s base. A CBS News and YouGov Poll found that 52 percent of Americans believe the United States should not send weapons and supplies to Israel, versus 48 percent who think it should. Self-identified liberals oppose sending weapons to Israel by a 22-point margin. Both liberals and moderates support sending humanitarian aid to both Israel and Palestinians in Gaza by wide margins, according to the survey.
The funding request comes at a time when Americans are not happy with the state of the economy. In a late July poll from CBS News and YouGov, 65 percent of Americans said the economy was in “bad” shape, versus 29 percent who rated it “good.” A new poll from Bloomberg News and Morning Consult found that voters in swing-states were more likely to trust Donald Trump than Biden on the economy by a 14-point margin.
As @heatherscope first reported, the WH is weighing proposing a domestic package after this $100B Ukraine/Israel/border package. But this is big foreign policy bill at a time of major dissatisfaction among voters with the US economy
— Jeff Stein (@JStein_WaPo) October 20, 2023
Biden is betting Republicans will be more amenable to sending bombs and missiles abroad in order to defend a precarious global order if he combines money for Ukraine and Israel. Ukraine has been a tougher sell with right-wing members of Congress pushing against more funding over the last year. But with Israel he is on firmer ground. Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) is calling it “offensive” for Biden to use “Israel for political cover” to send money to Ukraine.
Still, it’s unclear how long legislators will want to keep providing funding for either war.
The New Yorker reports that senior Israeli officials have told Americans to be prepared for a war against Hamas that lasts as long as ten years. The Iraq war officially lasted for eight.