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30 Oct, 2023 00:47

Israel’s needs more ‘urgent’ than Ukraine’s – US House speaker

Republican Mike Johnson has revealed that lawmakers will vote this week on helping West Jerusalem, delaying a request for Kiev
Israel’s needs more ‘urgent’ than Ukraine’s – US House speaker

President Joe Biden’s latest request for funding Ukraine aid will be put on the backburner as US lawmakers vote this week on the more “pressing” priority of helping to defend Israel in its war with Hamas, newly elected House Speaker Mike Johnson has divulged.

“We’re going to move a stand-alone Israel funding bill this week in the House,” Johnson said on Sunday in a Fox News interview. “I know our colleagues, our Republican colleagues in the Senate, have a similar measure.” He gave no indication of when the House might take up the latest proposed round of funding for Ukraine.

Biden has called for bundling aid to both Ukraine and Israel into a $106 billion emergency funding bill, rather than allowing lawmakers to vote on the issues separately. His administration unveiled a plan earlier this month to provide an additional $61.4 billion to fund Ukraine’s conflict with Russia, $14.3 billion for Israel, and $9.2 billion for humanitarian aid in both countries.

Congress previously approved $113 billion in Ukraine aid in four rounds of legislation, but Republican opposition to further funding to Kiev has increased. Most House lawmakers in the majority party now oppose sending more aid to Ukraine, and strife over the issue among Republicans contributed to the ouster earlier this month of Johnson’s predecessor as House speaker, Kevin McCarthy.

Johnson predicted that the stand-alone Israel bill will win strong bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate. “My intention is not to use this for any partisan political gamesmanship,” he said. “This is a very serious matter.”

The new speaker, who has been a skeptic on aid to Kiev, argued in a Fox interview aired on Thursday that the Biden administration hasn’t provided a roadmap for what it expects to achieve with massive aid to Ukraine and how it plans to end the conflict. On the other hand, he has no such reservations about backing Israel.

“We believe that that is a pressing and urgent need,” Johnson said in Sunday’s interview. “There are lots of things going on around the world that we have to address, and we will, but right now, what’s happening in Israel takes the immediate attention, and I think we have got to separate that and get it through.” 

Johnson, who spoke on Saturday at the Republican Jewish Coalition summit in Las Vegas, said he heard “firsthand reports” at the event on Hamas atrocities against Israelis. “This is a priority for our country, and we cannot allow the brutality and the just unspeakable evil that is happening against Israel right now to continue,” he said. “We’re going to stand with our friends.”