Political Rifts Expose Divided America as Aid to Israel is Delayed

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US House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., is waiting in the wings in case Rep. Jim Jordan bows out of the speaker's race.Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call via AP file

The House’s struggle to send $14 billion in emergency aid to Israel exposes political rifts and a fractured foreign policy consensus in the United States.

The U.S. House’s ongoing battle to send $14 billion in emergency aid to Israel is shining a spotlight on deep political divides, portraying America as a fragmented superpower struggling to provide timely assistance to an ally it believes is in an existential conflict.

According to a CNN report, House GOP leaders have declared their intention to vote on the aid package this Thursday. However, given the current unpredictability within the GOP majority, it’s unclear if this timetable will hold. House GOP Whip Tom Emmer and House Majority Leader Steve Scalise both expressed confidence about passing the package later in the day. “It shouldn’t be this hard,” they commented.

For many years, supporting Israel with aid was largely uncontroversial. Yet, the present delays, shifting power dynamics in Washington, and internal conflicts within both major political parties regarding the ongoing Middle East conflict reveal that no vote is straightforward anymore.

Newly elected House Speaker Mike Johnson’s decision to offset the $14.3 billion aid package to Israel with equal cuts from the Internal Revenue Service’s budget is a significant point of contention. While this strategy resonates with conservatives, many Democrats view it as a mere political stunt, further complicating the aid package’s progression.

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Further muddying the waters, President Joe Biden has chosen to include the Israeli aid in a broader request that also covers the next set of arms and ammunition for Ukraine. Some elements within Johnson’s conference are opposed to this funding request, which surpasses $100 billion.

CNN reports suggest that Johnson might be influenced more by the extreme factions within his party than vice versa. His tactics, including the use of IRS offsets, show a potential willingness to cater to these hardline stances, even though such moves might not find favour with the Democratic-led White House or Senate.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, while a staunch conservative, seems more aligned with Biden’s stance than with his House counterparts on this issue. “Over and over again, history has taught us that the costs of disengaging from the world are far higher than the costs of engaging,” McConnell remarked on Wednesday, emphasizing the importance of the U.S.’s continued role as a global superpower.

Furthermore, the current tussle over aid to Ukraine is laying bare an ever-widening chasm within the GOP. The core issue? Whether the U.S. will continue to champion the independence of Ukraine, currently under threat from a planned invasion from the Kremlin. According to CNN, many House Republicans and a growing number from the Senate do not consider Ukraine a crucial aspect of U.S. foreign policy.

Israel’s conflict with Hamas is also producing domestic challenges for President Biden, with increasing criticism from progressives regarding Israel’s tactics in Gaza. Biden encountered this firsthand during a recent Minnesota trip, where Rabbi Jessica Rosenberg publicly called for a “ceasefire now.” While Biden has emphasized Israel’s right to self-defense, he faces a tricky political path, with both Islamophobia and antisemitism on the rise in the U.S.

In light of the ongoing Middle East conflict, President Biden unveiled plans to counter Islamophobia in the U.S., showcasing the intricate political challenges he must navigate domestically.