Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said on Tuesday Israel plans to ask for a billion dollars in urgent aid following the latest round of fighting with Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza Strip last month.
“There's going to be a request tomorrow, I think, or Thursday, by the Israelis to the Pentagon for a billion dollars in aid to replenish the Iron Dome batteries that were used to defend Israel,” Graham told Fox & Friends in an interview from southern Israel.
During the 11-day fighting, according to Israeli figures, more than 3,400 rockets were fired at Israel, and about 1,600 of them were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system, mostly in areas bordering the Gaza Strip.
According to Senator Graham, “Every time someone tries to destroy Israel, our response is going to be more aid, and it starts with replenishing Iron Dome. A billion dollar investment would be a good investment for the American people.”
Israel's Defense Minister Benny Gantz is set to depart for Washington on Wednesday for meetings with U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.
In a statement, Gantz's office said they would discuss the Iran nuclear deal, regional stability and actions to ensure long-term quiet on the Gaza front.
This would the first such high-profile visit by an Israeli official since President Joe Biden took office.
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In his Fox interview, Graham said: "I want to thank the Biden administration for being receptive to more aid for Israel. I think the request will be coming to the Pentagon soon, and I will do my part to lead the effort in the Senate to make sure Israel gets the money."
He is one of three Republican senators currently visiting Israel. The other two, Bill Hagerty and Ted Cruz, recently introduced legislation aimed at ensuring that any U.S. foreign assistance for Gaza shall be made available instead for the Iron Dome. The bill is widely considered to be a partisan political tool and has no real possibility of passing.
The news comes amid unprecedented attention surrounding U.S. arms sales to Israel following the recent round of violence in Gaza.
When reports emerged of a pending $735 million arms sale to Israel already in motion, members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee agreed at an emergency meeting that the committee’s chairman, Rep. Gregory Meeks, would send a letter to Biden asking him to halt the sale pending a review. The news sent shock waves through the political landscape, since it was the first time that U.S. arms sales to Israel had officially been called into question in Congress. Meeks, however, reversed course the next day following significant pressure and instead agreed to meet at the White House on the matter.
Progressive lawmakers led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez were not satisfied, introducing a last-ditch House resolution aimed at halting the sale. Sanders later introduced a matching Senate resolution, creating a joint effort to prevent the sale of offensive weapons during a military operation. While neither resolution had any chance of passing, it put an unprecedented spotlight on the matter and will help fuel future debates regarding the Israel-U.S. strategic relationship.