There Is Political Divide Over Foreign Aid to Ukraine and Israel
The brutality of accounts from atrocities in the Hamas attacks on civilians in Israel reflects “an eerie echo” of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as a piece in Huffington Post said this week. Civilians in Gaza, including hundreds killed in a hospital explosion whose cause remains under dispute, only adds to the toll.
In both conflicts, innocents, including women and children, were targeted for murder or kidnap. In both cases, international outcry has fueled bloody responses that stoke worries about widened conflicts beyond the localized battlefield localities.
But, as the article — one of several that have raised the theme — noted, the similarities appear to mean little to many congressional Republicans who clearly seek to prioritize immediate Israeli aid over threats to halt more Ukraine help, or to tie Ukraine aid to a deal with Democrats about changing our immigration practices at the border.
“The debate raises inherently uncomfortable questions over whether atrocities can even be compared, who deserves more help based on what conditions, and whether the passage of time matters,” the reported piece by Jonathan Nicholson said.
Here’s Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., among the most vocal of Republicans when it comes to winnowing Ukraine aid: “They’re two totally different situations.” She said the U.S. is completely funding the Ukrainian government — untrue — and paying for a proxy war with Russia, while in Israel. “They haven’t asked America to come over and fight for them. They haven’t asked [the U.S.] to provide all the weapons.” Ukraine hasn’t asked for U.S. troops either, and U.S. weapons and missiles already have started delivery to Israel.
President Joe Biden, on the other hand, said each involve “critical partners” who are facing threats so existential to themselves and to U.S. interests that we are obliged to extend weapons and humanitarian assistance — regardless of how long the conflicts continue in Europe or the Middle East.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says, it’s “the same evil. And the only difference is that there is a terrorist organization that attacked Israel, and here is a terrorist state that attacked Ukraine.”
We can argue endlessly over whether death by invading armies is different from death as a result of invading armed guerillas that we prefer to label as “terrorists,” but dead is dead without justification.
The Congressional Eddy
Whatever Congress wants to do about recognizing Israel, Ukraine or even, preemptively, Taiwan is moot, of course, unless Republicans can choose a speaker and consider legislation altogether. If Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, manages to pull off enough Republican deals to get the necessary votes to win the speakership, he will have promised to allow a vote on Ukraine aid — a vote that could again trigger a challenge of Jordan by his most extreme colleagues.
Jordan was unable to win the needed votes in the House’s first round of voting yesterday.
Indeed, we could not have a more jarring set of images than Biden going into a war zone to reflect American solidarity with Israel even while Republican congressmen diddle over the name of the speaker without doing a thing about national interests.
The White House must be working up what it would seek in such a legislation aid package, but faces the larger question of what happens if Republicans let the U.S. government simply shut down in most respects — and asks military folks to work without pay while lawmakers squabble about the size of the national debt and spending rates.
The incongruity of talking about spending cuts to keep the lights on at the same time as arguing about what kinds of ammunition to subsidize touches on the absurd.
Somehow, we are managing to swirl America’s reliability as a world partner close to the drain, thanks to Republican posturing that does not even represent the majority in Congress, never mind in the country.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., the ousted speaker, also sees Ukraine aid as a bargaining chip for border security enhancements. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., wants enough Ukraine aid to ensure no new aid votes before next year’s elections. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is pushing a package of aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan along with border security, which could gain Republican support.
According to the Congressional Research Service, Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid, which has given Israel a clear military advantage over Hamas — which the State Department considers a terrorist group. In just a week since the attacks in southern Israel that killed more than 1,000 Israelis, the Israel Defense Forces said it had dropped 6,000 bombs on Gaza. Ukraine has no such clear military advantage over Russia, all experts agree.
Politically, most Democrats appear to be willing to support more money for the U.S. Customs Border Protection and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agencies, though less eager to support policy changes that return harsh policies from the Donald Trump administration.
Don’t look for consistency in Congress through any of these issues.
Weirdly, the Republican case about Israel is based more on links to evangelical Christian groups in the United States than, say, to Jewish groups. Christians see Israel as the custodian for their holy sites as well as a home for Jews — and as a bulwark against the Islamic Middle Eastern countries.
But there is a movement led by former Fox News host Tucker Carlson that openly favors Russian influence over Ukraine, a stream of lobbying into which Trump dips fairly regularly in his rally speeches.
Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., told HuffPost that “there’s moral clarity on both issues as to why the United States should be, in the case of Israel, on the side of Israel and, in the case of Ukraine, on the side of the Ukrainians against the Russians.”
But it is a seriously split vote among Republicans.
In any case, none of the talk of underwriting war is going to lower the debt, end perceived border issues or change the price of eggs and fuel, a cost already rising anew with violence in both Ukraine and at the Israel-Gaza border.