Intel: Congress advances key Israel military aid bill

al-monitor Florida Sen. Marco Rubio gives a thumbs up after being interviewed at the AIPAC policy conference in Washington, March 6, 2018.  Photo by REUTERS/Brian Snyder.

May 22, 2020

Congress is zeroing in on final passage of a 2-year-old military aid bill for Israel. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday unanimously voted to advance the United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act, introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. The legislation codifies the Barack Obama administration’s 10-year, $38 billion memorandum of understanding with Israel into law.

Why it matters: The bill is a key priority for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which welcomed the Senate's action. 

“The legislation includes vital US security assistance to Israel, enhanced medical cooperation and more,” AIPAC wrote on Twitter.

The bill also expedites the transfer of US precision guided missiles to Israel. Additionally, it extends Washington’s war reserve stockpile for Israel for five years. 

But critics of the bill argue that it sets the groundwork for Congress to appropriate even more military aid to Israel in future years, going well beyond the annual $3.8 billion laid in the Obama-era agreement.

The memorandum of understanding “was based on the understanding that the level of aid it established was a ceiling, not a floor; the bills seek to legislate the opposite,” said Lara Friedman, the president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace. 

What’s next: Thursday’s committee vote paves the way for a full vote on the Senate floor, followed by a House vote. Not a single House lawmaker objected when the lower chamber passed a more expansive version of the bill last year by voice vote.

Know more: Bryant Harris reports on progressive Democrats’ growing chorus of calls to condition US military aid to Israel, particularly as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sets his sights on West Bank annexation as early as July.

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