As Israel has declared a “complete siege” on Gaza in response to the Hamas attack on southern Israel, the US is scrambling to get more weapons in the hands of the Israelis.
According to The Washington Post, the Biden administration is considering combining its request for more spending on the war in Ukraine with new aid for Israel. The idea would be to “jam the far right,” referring to Republicans in Congress who oppose the proxy war in Ukraine but are staunch Israel supporters. No final decision has been made, and in the mean time, the US is already shipping new arms to Israel using existing authorities.
A Pentagon official told POLITICO on Monday that planes carrying new military aid for Israel have “already taken off.” The US is sending air defense and munitions. According to media reports, Israel has requested precision-guided munitions, small-diameter bombs, and interceptors for its Iron Dome missile defense system.
Israel receives $3.8 billion in military aid each year from the US, including $500 million to fund air defense development and $3.3 billion for Foreign Military Financing, which gives foreign governments money to buy US arms. Neither type of aid allows direct weapons shipments from US military stockpiles, but according to POLITICO, the US has $100 million available for the Presidential Drawdown Authority, which does.
The Pentagon is working to determine what arms in the US stockpile could be made available and is also pressing the arms industry to expedite deliveries of weapons Israel has already purchased. The effort comes as the US is expecting Israel to launch a ground invasion of Gaza, which will incur a huge amount of civilian casualties.
Israel could start to compete with Ukraine for the types of weapons it needs from the US. Right now, it’s focusing on pounding Gaza with airstrikes, which requires munitions Ukraine doesn’t use, but a ground assault would require 155mm artillery rounds, which are in short supply since the US has poured millions of shells into Ukraine.
US Army Secretary Christine Wormuth is calling on Congress to approve additional funding to ensure the US can sustain both wars. “One thing that is really important in terms of the munitions in particular and our ability to support both potentially the Israelis and the Ukrainians simultaneously is additional funding from Congress to be able to increase our capacity, in terms of our capacity to expand production and then to also pay for the munitions themselves,” she said.
Congress isn’t expected to authorize more spending on Ukraine or Israel until a new House speaker is elected, which will likely happen this week. According to The Messenger, House Foreign Affairs Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) said Congress is discussing a massive military aid package for Ukraine and Israel that would also include funds for Taiwan. “There’s discussion about putting Israel funding, Ukraine funding, maybe Taiwan funding and finally border security,” he said.