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Biden’s Aid Dilemma: Strained Alliances and Congressional Roadblocks


Mideast violence and the Ukraine-Russia war test Biden's resolved and global leadership

Posted: December 15, 2023 at 1:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

President Joe Biden’s efforts to secure a substantial aid package for Ukraine and Israel have hit significant roadblocks, with interlinked challenges in Congress and shifting international alliances, particularly with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Strained Relations and Aid Stalemate

The Biden administration’s diplomatic maneuvers are under scrutiny amid rising tensions with Netanyahu and complications in securing congressional approval for a $106 billion aid package critical for both Ukraine and Israel. Recent developments have exposed rifts between the U.S. and its key ally Israel, with Biden openly critiquing Netanyahu’s hardline stance and the Israeli PM countering U.S. plans for post-war Gaza.

Speaking to Democratic donors in Washington, Biden voiced criticism of Israel’s hardline government and said Netanyahu’s government is “the most conservative government in Israel’s history.”

“I think he has to change, and with this government, this government in Israel is making it very difficult for him to move,” Biden remarked, expressing concern over the dwindling global support for Israel’s military campaign in Gaza.

Biden told donors that the Israeli government “doesn’t want a two-state solution” and that Israel is “starting to lose that support by the indiscriminate bombing that takes place.”

In contrast, Netanyahu firmly rejected the idea of Palestinian Authority governance in Gaza post-war, emphasizing Israel’s sovereignty and security interests.

Netanyahu has recently signaled his intention to keep Israeli troops in Gaza indefinitely.

“I wish to clarify my position — I won’t allow Israel to repeat the mistake of Oslo,” he said, referring to the 1993 Oslo accords that were meant to create a historic road map to peace between Israelis and Palestinians and allowed limited Palestinian self-rule.

“I won’t allow, after the immense sacrifice made by our citizens and fighters, for us to put in Gaza people who teach terrorism, support terrorism, finance terrorism,” he said.

“Gaza will be neither Hamastan nor Fatahstan,” Netanyahu’s statement concluded, a reference not just to Hamas but also to Fatah, the largest Palestinian faction.

Israeli communications minister Shlomo Karhi posted on X on Tuesday that there will be no Palestinian state.

Israel began its assault on Gaza shortly after Hamas’ terror attacks, which left more than 1,200 people dead. Since October 7. Israel has killed 18,000 Palestinians so far. A recent study conducted by Israel has shown that a whopping 60% were civilians. 

Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war continues to be met with majority disapproval with 61% of Americans disapproving of his handling of the conflict, according to a CBS News poll

Congressional Impasse and Humanitarian Concerns

Amidst these diplomatic strains, Biden’s bid to secure aid for Ukraine and Israel faces a congressional deadlock. 

The funding request includes $61.4 billion for Ukraine and $14.3 billion for Israel. The administration is also requesting $13.6 billion for border security. But the package is boeing criticized by both parties. 

Republicans demand sweeping changes to U.S. immigration law in exchange for approving the aid package. The Senate’s failure to advance the bill, primarily due to GOP filibuster and demands for immigration limits, has left the aid for both nations in jeopardy.

The impasse is exacerbated by internal Democratic divisions. Senator Bernie Sanders, for instance, opposed unconditional aid to Israel, urging for a change in Netanyahu’s government’s practices, which he deemed “immoral” and in violation of international law.

In a Dec. 12 letter to President Biden, Sanders argues that “it would be irresponsible to provide an additional $10.1 billion in military aid beyond” the “defensive systems” that will protect Israeli civilians from incoming missile and rocket attacks. 

Sanders wrote that providing another $10.1 billion in military aid to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s regime “would allow for the continuation of the Netanyahu government’s widespread, indiscriminate bombardment.” 

Zelensky’s Plea and Republican Resistance

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visited the White House Tuesday to highlight the urgency of the situation in Ukraine. The Ukrainian President warned that without more aid, the conflict will turn far more brutal as his military inevitably cedes ground to its determined and well-armed adversary. 

“It’s very important,” he said, “that by the end of this year we can send very strong signal of our unity to the aggressor and the unity of Ukraine, America, Europe, the entire free world.”

Despite his appeals, the aid package, crucial for Ukraine’s defense against Russia, faces stiff opposition. Republicans have linked their support to stringent border security measures, leaving the package in limbo. Biden’s assertion that failing to support Ukraine would delight Russia adds another layer of complexity to the negotiations. 

“Putin is banking on the United States failing to deliver for Ukraine,” Biden warned, emphasizing the geopolitical stakes involved.

Biden indicated that he is willing to accept that he’s willing to accept immigration restrictions to get a deal. 

“Compromise is how democracy works, and I’m ready and offered compromise already,” Biden said. “Holding Ukraine funding hostage in an attempt to force through an extreme Republican, partisan agenda on the border is not how it works. We need real solutions.”

Upon meeting Zelensky, Biden announced that he had signed off on another $200 million drawdown.

“We’ll continue to supply Ukraine with critical weapons and equipment as long as we can, including $200 million I just approved today in critical needed equipment, additional air defense interceptors, artillery and ammunition,” Biden said during a news conference with Zelensky. “But without supplemental funding, we’re rapidly coming to an end of our ability to help Ukraine respond to the urgent operational demands that it has.”

A new FT-Michigan Ross monthly poll found that nearly half of American voters think the US is spending too much on aid for Ukraine, compared with 27 per cent who said Washington was spending the “right amount” and 11 per cent who said the US was not spending enough.

To date, Congress has allocated more than $111 billion to support Ukraine.

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