Inside story

Jerusalem conditionally backs including Gaza aid in US security package for Israel

Senior official urges funding for Strip to be spent on both immediate relief that is fully coordinated with Israel and post-war projects, including shoring up Egypt-Gaza border

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

This aerial view shows humanitarian aid trucks arriving at a storage facility in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on October 21, 2023, after having crossed through the Rafah border from Egypt. (Belal Al Sabbagh/AFP)
This aerial view shows humanitarian aid trucks arriving at a storage facility in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on October 21, 2023, after having crossed through the Rafah border from Egypt. (Belal Al Sabbagh/AFP)

Israel supports US President Joe Biden’s inclusion of humanitarian aid for Gaza in the $106 billion national security package that he presented to Congress last month to fund Washington’s security support for Israel and Ukraine, a senior Israeli official told The Times of Israel.

However, the official clarified that this support from Israel is conditioned on the aid meeting specific criteria, which Israel is raising with US lawmakers who are currently working to advance the aid package.

These include differentiating between short-term, emergency assistance, which must be fully coordinated with Israel, and funding for rehabilitating Gaza after the war. Israel is also asking for post-war funding to include aid that will help bolster security along Egypt’s border with Gaza to ensure the enclave is not re-militarized in a “post-Hamas Gaza,” according to the senior Israeli official.

The senior official’s comments were the first time that Israel has publicly weighed in on the aid package that Biden presented to Congress last month.

House Republicans rejected the proposal and advanced an alternative package that included only the $14 billion in funds that Biden sought for Israeli security assistance, while leaving out the $61 billion for Ukraine and another $9 billion the White House wants to largely use for humanitarian efforts in Gaza. The Senate’s Democratic majority along with the White House have vowed not to pass the GOP version, which included massive cuts to the IRS, leading to an ongoing deadlock.

The senior Israeli official was careful not to weigh in on the dispute between Democrats and Republicans but said Jerusalem is not opposed to US security aid for Israel being tied to aid for Ukraine.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York (left) hands the gavel to speaker-elect Rep. Mike Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, at the Capitol in Washington, October 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Biden’s $9 billion humanitarian funding request was left rather vague, with the White House stating it wants the funds to support civilians impacted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Hamas’s onslaught in Israel and the IDF operation in Gaza.

There was no breakdown of how the funds slated for Gaza will be spent, which the senior Israeli official said is crucial to ensure there are enough funds for both near-term projects and ones after the war.

As for the more immediate relief, the senior official asserted this aid will have to be delivered in coordination with Israel so that it doesn’t undermine the IDF’s operations in Gaza or worse, end up in Hamas’s hands.

The senior Israeli official said that no less important are funds for a “post-Hamas Gaza.”

US President Joe Biden speaks from the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, October 19, 2023. (Jonathan Ernst/ Pool via AP)

“Assuming we achieve our goal of getting rid of Hamas in Gaza, it will require a lot of investment in Gaza for it to be demilitarized, rebuilt,” the official said. “We would definitely support this funding and believe that regional and international actors will follow the US’ lead.”

Elaborating on the post-war funds that Israel would like to see used on shoring up Egypt’s border with Gaza, the senior official said the money should go toward boosting the Rafah crossing along with other parts of the border, adding that these projects would be fully coordinated with Cairo.

While Egypt sealed many of the tunnels that Hamas dug under the border to smuggle in weapons, at least some of the subterranean passages are believed to have remained operational until more recently, a US official told The Times of Israel last month.

“The position we are conveying to legislators as they debate the whole package is that we support the [humanitarian aid for Gaza] under the aforementioned terms. As long as it doesn’t contradict our operations and objectives in Gaza. We support it,” the senior Israeli official said.

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