Tucked inside Monday’s 5,593-page U.S. coronavirus relief package with its $600 stimulus checks for Americans was a foreign aid package that included $1.3 billion for the Egyptian military, $500 million for Israel and $75 million in humanitarian aid to Palestinians.
Congress faces criticism for offering $600 covid stimulus checks to Americans while allocating more than $4.7 billion in foreign aid to countries including Sudan ($700 million, Pakistan ($25 million including for “gender programs”) and Ukraine ($453 million).
The bill included “$500 million for Israeli cooperation,” with a large percentage of that dedicated to missile defense systems.
The “$500 million for Israel” triggered outrage on social media and was trending online around the world, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Monday.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) was among 53 House members who voted against the bill.
“$600 is a slap in the face to every American struggling due to the pandemic. You deserve better,” Babbard tweeted. “I voted against the 5,593-page spending bill that gave billions to corporate interests, the military industrial complex & other countries, leaving crumbs for you who need help most.”
Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance — $146 billion — since World War II, according to the Congressional Research Service. The U.S. provided $3.8 billion in foreign military aid to Israel in fiscal 2019. Israel also benefits from about $8 billion of loan guarantees. Almost all U.S. aid to Israel is in the form of military assistance.
However, from 1971 to 2007, Israel also received significant economic assistance. Each administration, working with Congress, has provided Israel with this assistance in light of “robust domestic U.S. support for Israel and its security; shared strategic goals in the Middle East; a mutual commitment to democratic values; and historical ties dating from U.S. support for the creation of Israel in 1948,” according to Congress.
The bill highlights a disagreement between the Democratic-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate over funding earmarked for Palestinians, Haaretz reported. The House-approved version originally appropriated $225 million in humanitarian assistance for the West Bank and Gaza. The final total passed by the Republican-held Senate was $75 million.
Because it was an omnibus bill, the latest stimulus package forced Congress members to accept all of it in a single vote. However, it packaged together several measures. Because of their large size and scope, omnibus bills limit opportunities for debate and scrutiny.
“Where’s the outrage from the ‘stop all the foreign aid’ conservatives?” a Twitter user asked.
“I am conservative, I don’t think we should have ever sent a cent to Israel. Palestine deserves their land back, and many conservatives feel the same way,” another tweeted.
President-elect Joe Biden tweeted support of the bill’s passage.
“I applaud this relief package, but our work is far from over. Starting in the new year, Congress will need to immediately get to work on support for our COVID-19 plan. My message to everyone out there struggling right now: help is on the way,” Biden said.
Some conservatives voted against the bill, opposing the foreign aid allocations compared to the one-time $600 check to Americans, HeraldMailMedia reported.
“America’s struggling workers should be prioritized over gender-specific programs in Pakistan or anti-narcotics programs in Burma, or money for Ukraine (all of which are funded in this bill),” said U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, (R-Fla.)
At the 2018 Annual Israeli American Council conference in Hollywood, Florida, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made the case that Democratic support for Israel had not diminished.
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“If this capital crumbled to the ground, the one thing that would remain is our commitment to our aid to Israel,” Pelosi said. “And I don’t even call it aid, our cooperation with Israel. That’s fundamental to who we are.”
The Israeli American Council advocates for Israeli-American Jews and is backed by Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson, whose wife Miriam is Israeli.
On Twitter, one poster asked, “How much does Israel pay in taxes to the U.S.? The American citizen is taxed on everything but we can only get 600 dollars of our own money but Israel is somehow entitled to 500 million. Man WTF, at some the citizens of America need to stand up.”