Israel officials say they’re badly in need of additional U.S. military aid

‘When the Democrats and Republicans decide they love Israel more than they hate each other, we'll get the aid,’ an Israeli official told JI

JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images

A picture taken from a position in southern Israel along the border with the Gaza Strip on February 15, 2024 shows an Israeli military helicopter flying above destroyed buildings inside the Gaza Strip.

Israel has an immediate need for additional U.S. military aid, Israeli sources told Jewish Insider, as the support remains mired in Congress amid disputes between Republicans and Democrats, and the House and Senate, over Ukraine aid and border policy, among other issues — with no clear path or timeline moving forward.

Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Yuli Edelstein said that when he was on Capitol Hill last week, he told all of his interlocutors that the aid “is extremely urgent.” 

“This is aid for immediate needs, not for something we’ll use in a matter of years,” he emphasized to JI on Thursday.

An Israeli security official said that “the aid package is critical for Israel’s security and for our ability to maintain readiness and defense on all fronts.”

Another source said that Israel is already beginning to tap into stockpiles of munitions and air-defense interceptors that would be needed in the increasingly likely event of a war with Hezbollah along Israel’s northern border. Israel’s needs would be especially great in the event of a protracted conflict, the source added.

That source noted that the situation would become critical if Congress is unable to pass additional military aid by March or April, given issues in military production supply chains.

Israeli sources denied that March was a specifically problematic date in terms of supply, simply saying that the need is immediate.

But Edelstein explained that the problem comes from the intersection between congressional politics and the Knesset’s schedule. Even if Congress approves the aid package in the coming weeks, it will still take time before Israel will be able to spend the money – by his estimate, not before the second half of 2024. 

The Knesset is set to vote on the updated 2024 state budget next week, with all of the new, war-related expenditures. The Defense Ministry drafted its budget taking the U.S. aid into consideration, and the ministry has already placed orders based on that assumption. If the aid does not arrive on time, in some cases the ministry can make necessary procurements within Israel’s defense industry, but in many cases, the government may have to make cuts within the Defense Ministry or from other areas to fulfill its commitments.

Neither the security official nor Edelstein would comment on the Iron Dome stockpile. Edelstein said the aid was urgent for specific needs, and the security official said that “air defense is among the critical elements that we need.”

The Iron Dome missile-defense system not only protects Israeli cities but also gives Israel’s leadership the time to make strategic decisions about when and how to respond to attacks.

Edelstein acknowledged that the hold-up of the U.S. aid is “not because of any problem in Israel… This is totally about American politics. Everyone promised [the aid would come] soon, including the most senior Republicans and Democrats, but I still don’t know when that will be.” 

The security official was “confident in the strong U.S.-Israel relationship, and ties with the administration and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle.”

One Israeli official exasperatedly paraphrased the Golda Meir quote that “peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us,” saying: “When the Democrats and Republicans decide they love Israel more than they hate each other, we’ll get the aid.”

U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin have told their Israeli counterparts that they are committed to getting Israel the aid that it needs, Israeli diplomatic sources told JI.

U.S. lawmakers have said for months that Israel urgently needs additional aid as soon as possible, and that Israeli officials have been growing increasingly concerned about finalizing the aid package.

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