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Biden’s Israel funding request gets scrutiny, hits early hurdle

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President Joe Biden’s recent funding request of $14 billion for Israel has raised concerns and drawn attention from rights groups in the United States. Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) has expressed alarm, highlighting language in the proposal that suggests potential efforts to relocate Palestinians from Gaza, a move perceived as supporting ethnic cleansing.

The White House, in a letter addressed to Congress on October 20, detailed how the funding request aimed to support displaced and conflict-affected civilians, including Palestinian refugees in Gaza and the West Bank. This assistance would encompass food and nonfood items, healthcare, emergency shelter support, water and sanitation aid, and emergency protection. It would also cover critical humanitarian infrastructure costs necessary to provide life-sustaining support to the refugee population.

The concerns about Palestinian displacement were further heightened when +972 Magazine reported that it had received a leaked Israeli government document outlining a plan to transfer Gaza’s entire population abroad, a claim confirmed by a source within Israel’s Intelligence Ministry.

Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director of DAWN, strongly criticized the Biden administration, stating, “The Biden administration isn’t just giving a green light for ethnic cleansing – it’s bankrolling it.” She further described the situation as a cruel and grotesque hoax, accusing the administration of facilitating Israeli plans to depopulate Gaza under the guise of humanitarian aid.

Gaza is home to approximately 2.3 million people, many of whom are refugees or descendants of those displaced during the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.

The White House has not yet provided a response to these concerns, but the Biden administration indicated this week that it does not endorse plans to remove Palestinians from their homes. President Biden discussed with his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the importance of protecting civilian lives, international humanitarian law, and ensuring that Palestinians in Gaza are not displaced to Egypt or any other nation.

However, the path forward remains uncertain. White House National Security Spokesperson John Kirby noted that the US is still working on “safe passage” abroad for Gaza residents seeking to escape ongoing Israeli bombardment. He acknowledged that not many Palestinians want to flee permanently to another part of the world, raising questions about the logistics of such a plan.

Meanwhile, domestically, Biden’s funding request encountered an early hurdle in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, despite the traditional strong support for Israel among Republican lawmakers. House Speaker Mike Johnson introduced a bill that separates aid for Israel from assistance for Ukraine. Biden’s proposal had combined the funds, amounting to a total request of $105 billion. Moreover, the Republican bill sought to offset the aid to Israel by reducing funding for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), a move criticized by Democrats.

While some Democrats oppose the Republican proposal, the two parties may need to find common ground to advance legislation for aid money. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer rejected the Republican bill, accusing right-wing lawmakers of exploiting the crisis in Israel to benefit the wealthy by diverting funds from the IRS.

Progressive lawmakers have long called for conditions to be placed on aid to Israel to discourage abuses against Palestinians, but these voices remain a minority in Congress. Israel currently receives approximately $3.8 billion in US military assistance annually and faces accusations of imposing apartheid on Palestinians by major human rights organizations like Amnesty International.

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