US Congress Passes Military Aid Bill


What’s happened: On Saturday, the US House of Representatives passed a bill including $17 billion (£13.75 billion) in military aid to Israel. Some $9 billion is also set to be allocated to humanitarian relief in Gaza and other conflict zones.

  • $5.2 billion will go toward replenishing and expanding Israel’s missile and rocket defence systems; $3.5 billion to purchasing advanced weapons systems; $1 billion to enhancing weapons production; $4.4 billion for other defence supplies and services; and some $2.4 billion to US operations in the region amid the Gaza war.
  • The aid package, which also included $60 billion in aid to Ukraine, had become a hugely divisive political issue in the US, with House Republicans split, many siding against Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson in opposing the bill. In the event, the bill passed 311 to 112, with 101 Republicans voting against.
  • Prime Minister Netanyahu said the bill “demonstrates strong bipartisan support for Israel and defends Western civilisation. Thank you friends, thank you America!”
  • Elsewhere, in an unprecedented move, the US is set to impose sanctions on the IDF’s Netzah Yehuda unit, citing alleged human rights violations against Palestinians in the West Bank. The sanctions will see US military aid blocked from being used to fund Netzah Yehuda.
  • Responding on X (formerly Twitter), Netanyahu said “sanctions must not be imposed on the Israel Defence Force… at a time our soldiers are fighting the terrorist monster, the intention of imposing sanctions on an IDF unit is the height of absurdity and a moral low point.”
  • National Unity Party Chairman and war cabinet Minister Gantz wrote, “the Netzah Yehuda battalion is an inseparable part of the IDF. It is subject to military law and is responsible for operating in full compliance with international law. The State of Israel has a strong, independent judicial system that evaluates meticulously any claim of a violation or deviation from IDF orders and code of conduct, and will continue to do so.”
  • “I have great appreciation for our American friends, but the decision to impose sanctions on an IDF unit and its soldiers sets a dangerous precedent and conveys the wrong message to our shared enemies during war time. I intend on acting to have this decision changed.”
  • Opposition leader Lapid said the move was “a mistake,” but that “the source of the problem is not at the military level but at the political level.”

Context: The announcements on aid and sanctions come as more details emerge regarding Israel’s attack on an Iranian air base in Isfahan last week, in retaliation for Iran’s unprecedented direct attack on Israel of April 13th.

  • Israel faced a dilemma on how best to respond to the attack, which included a combination of cruise and ballistic missiles and weaponised UAVs. Its response needed to be strong even to restore deterrence but not so strong as to provoke further Iranian aggression and jeapordise international support.
  • A single missile was therefore fired from an Israeli F-15, deployed at an Iranian Air Force base, while included deployment of a Russian S-300 battery which protected the nuclear facility in Natanz.
  • The targeted strike sent a clear message to Iran that while its own attack on Israel consisted of over 300 projectiles which caused minimal damage, Israel was able to penetrate Iranian defences and reach a nuclear site area with just one missile.
  • Israel not publicly claiming the attack also gave Iran room to “plausibly deny” that the attack took place, thus minimising the risk of an Iranian counter-response.
  • Having successfully navigated the issue, there is a hope that Israel and the US can advance their coordination over a potential incursion into Rafah.
  • Israel maintains that the achievement of its war aims requires an operation in Hamas’s last Gazan stronghold – home to its remaining four battalions. The US has opposed the operation, citing the severe humanitarian situation in the Strip and the fate of over a million Gazan refugees sheltering in the city.
  • Heeding US calls for a non-escalatory response to Iran might well give Israel diplomatic currency to consider an operation in Gaza in coordination with Washington.
  • The Netzah Yehuda unit is comprised largely of ultra-Orthodox recruits and has faced scrutiny for a number of incidents involving Palestinians. In December 2022, it was moved out of the West Bank and onto the Syrian border. It is currently fighting on the Gazan front.
  • The apparent US sanctions will follow similar measures taken in recent months, and imposed by the UK as well, targeting those identified as violent West Bank settlers.
  • This comes amid a recent increase in violence. This morning, three were lightly injured in a car-ramming attacks in Jerusalem.
  • Yesterday, three West Bank Palestinians died after what the IDF said were attacks against Israeli soldiers, while over the weekend the IDF continued a counter terror operation in the Tulkarem area. 13 out of 14 Palestinians killed were identified as jihadist fighters and nine Israeli troops injured.
  • High tensions remains in the West Bank following the killing and abduction of an Israeli 14-year-old, which precipitated retaliatory attacks by some settlers in the area. Following a manhunt, a suspect was arrested this morning.

Looking ahead: The US aid package will now move to the Senate this week, with lawmakers expected to vote in favour.

  • Tonight marks the beginning of Passover, as well as the milestone of 200 days in captivity for the remaining 133 Israeli hostages in Gaza.
  • Reports suggest that US pressure on Qatar may lead to Hamas’s external leadership seeking relocation. Adding fuel to these rumours, senior Hamas leaders Ismail Haniya and Khaled Mashal met with Turkish Erdogan on Saturday.