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Republican, Democratic lawmakers urge fully funding US assistance to Israel

Republican, Democratic lawmakers urge fully funding US assistance to Israel
© Greg Nash

An overwhelming majority of House lawmakers are urging the House Appropriations Committee to fully fund U.S. assistance to Israel amid debate over the fiscal 2022 budget and pushback from progressive Democrats.

Rep. Ted DeutchTheodore (Ted) Eliot DeutchWray grilled on FBI's handling of Jan. 6 Omar feuds with Jewish Democrats Shakespeare gets a congressional hearing in this year's 'Will on the Hill' MORE (D-Fla.), ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the Middle East, and Rep. Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulSullivan says US preparing more Russia sanctions over Navalny House votes to repeal 2002 Iraq war powers GOP lawmakers urge Biden to add sanctions on Russia over Navalny poisoning MORE (R-Texas), the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs committee, led 328 lawmakers in a letter Thursday to the Democratic and Republican leaders of the Appropriations Committee, chair Rosa DeLauroRosa DeLauroShelby signals GOP can accept Biden's .5T with more for defense COVID-19 long-haulers press Congress for paid family leave Democrats seek staffer salary boost to compete with K Street MORE (D-Conn.) and ranking member Kay GrangerNorvell (Kay) Kay GrangerProgressives nearly tank House Democrats' Capitol security bill House narrowly approves .9B Capitol security bill after 'squad' drama GOP urges members to vote against Capitol security bill MORE (R-Texas). 

They urged the leaders to fully fund the $3.8 billion in annual security assistance to Israel that was authorized in 2016 as part of a 10-year memorandum of understanding between then-President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE.

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That funding was codified into federal law in 2020 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, titled the U.S.-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act (UISAAA).

Deutch and McCaul said in their letter that assistance to Israel is in the U.S. national security interest. 

“Congress is committed to maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge and its ability to defend itself, by itself, against persistent threats. Our aid to Israel is a vital and cost-effective expenditure which advances important U.S. national security interests in a highly challenging region,” the lawmakers wrote. 

“For decades, Presidents of both parties have understood the strategic importance of providing Israel with security assistance,” they continued.   

Progressive Democrats are pushing for more oversight on U.S. security assistance to Israel.

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Rep. Betty McCollumBetty Louise McCollumProgressives ramp up scrutiny of US funding for Israel Overnight Defense: Groups use Afghanistan withdrawal to push for defense budget cuts | Confederate renaming effort could affect 'hundreds' of military assets | Progressives see 'historic' moment to shift US-Israel relations Groups urge Congress to use Afghanistan withdrawal to cut defense budget MORE (D-Minn.), chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, introduced legislation last week that would prohibit U.S. assistance to Israel from being used in the detention of Palestinian children in the West Bank, destruction of Palestinian homes and property or to support annexation of Palestinian territory.

Deutch and McCaul acknowledged lawmakers' issues with some decisions made by the Israeli government, but underscored President BidenJoe BidenExpanding child tax credit could lift 4 million children out of poverty: analysis Maria Bartiromo defends reporting: 'Keep trashing me, I'll keep telling the truth' The Memo: The center strikes back MORE’s commitment to providing security assistance without conditions. 

“We recognize that not every Member of Congress will agree with every policy decision of every Israeli government," they wrote. 

"However as President Biden has stated, ‘I’m not going to place conditions for the security assistance given the serious threats that Israel is facing, and this would be, I think, irresponsible.’ Reducing funding or adding conditions on security assistance would be detrimental to Israel’s ability to defend itself against all threats. We urge you to fulfill our commitments as agreed to in the 2016 MOU as codified by the UISAAA, and in accordance with all U.S. laws.”

Biden included a request to fully fund “U.S. commitments to key allies in the Middle East, including Israel and Jordan” in his discretionary budget proposal for fiscal 2022. 

The House Appropriations Committee is currently undertaking budget review hearings as it considers the budget proposal for 2022. 

Updated at 12:31 p.m.