US senators introduce bill backing $3.3 billion bill annual aid to Israel
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US senators introduce bill backing $3.3 billion bill annual aid to Israel

Legislation would codify into law agreement with Obama administration; was originally part of wider legislation that stalled last year over anti-BDS clause

Sen. Marco Rubio, a member of both the Senate Intelligence Committee and Foreign Relations Committee, takes questions from reporters after a briefing by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and other national security officials, Jan. 8, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Sen. Marco Rubio, a member of both the Senate Intelligence Committee and Foreign Relations Committee, takes questions from reporters after a briefing by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and other national security officials, Jan. 8, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Two US senators from opposite sides of the aisle on Thursday introduced a bill to provide annual aid of $3.3 billion to Israel as part of a 2016 agreement.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Democratic Senator Chris Coons co-sponsored the bill, according to Reuters, which was originally part of wider legislation that stalled last year over a section that would have allowed local governments to impose punishments on those who boycott Israel. This was seen by some as an attempt to stifle free speech.

The bill would put into law the Memorandum of Understanding that was agreed between Israel and the Obama administration.

The Memorandum of Understanding has thus far been upheld by the US President Donald Trump’s administration, but theoretically could be torn up at any time. Codifying it into law would protect the aid over the life of the agreement.

Financial Services and General Government subcommittee Ranking Member Sen. Chris Coons questions Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, May 15, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Rubio told Reuters that the legislation was important given the current global climate in which Israel faces “unprecedented threats,” and Coons told the outlet that the “events of the past few days are a stark reminder of the importance of US assistance to Israel’s security.”

The proposed bill comes amid sky-high tensions in the region, following a deadly US drone strike on Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani.

In response, Iran fired over a dozen missiles at US bases in Iraq. Iran claimed 80 US troops were killed in the strikes, and warned that it could strike next at Israel; the US said there were no casualties.

In recent days a senior commander in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has warned that Tel Aviv could be targeted, while a former head of the IRGC threatened to turn Israeli cities “to dust” if the US attacks targets in Iran.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Iran against attacking Israel in response to the killing of Soleimani and reiterated Israel’s full support for the United States in its military confrontation with the Islamic Republic.

Mourners attend a funeral ceremony for Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and his comrades, who were killed in Iraq in a US drone strike, in the city of Kerman, Iran, January 7, 2020 (Erfan Kouchari/Tasnim News Agency via AP)

Israeli officials, however, believe Iran is unlikely to attack Israel in retaliation for the US airstrike that killed Soleimani in Iraq.

According to several officials who were present at a security cabinet meeting Monday and spoke to Hebrew media, several scenarios were presented regarding Iran’s possible response to the attack, with the security officials saying the chances of an attack on Israel were low.

“Israel was not involved in the killing and there’s no reason it will be dragged into it,” one senior official said.

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