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“Senate leadership is now using the crisis in Israel as a ‘Plan B’ to get the Biden administration’s funding request across the finish line.”

An Op-Ed Published In The Hill

By Senator JD Vance & Dr. Kevin Roberts

October 19, 2023

The horrific terrorist attack against Israel by Hamas, funded and supported by the Islamic Republic of Iran, has left over 1,400 Israelis dead, along with at least thirty American citizens.

The United States’ closest ally and strategic partner in the Middle East is well equipped to respond to this escalating war and defend its people, but military support from the U.S. will be necessary in the coming weeks. 

Having failed to force through more Ukraine funding by tying it to disaster relief for Americans, Senate leadership is now using the crisis in Israel as a “Plan B” to get the Biden administration’s funding request across the finish line — this time by as much as $100 billion.   

But the conflicts in Ukraine and Israel are two distinct events that deserve two distinct responses.

For starters, Israel is a democratic, historic U.S. partner and key ally in the Middle East, whereas Ukraine is still shedding Soviet-era corruption and is not a NATO partner. Additionally, Israel has wealthy neighbors, but they are not going to assist Israel’s war effort, and aid is unlikely to come from any source but the U.S. The same cannot be said of Ukraine, whose wealthy EU neighbors — notably Germany and France — could provide considerably more assistance.  

In the case of Israel, U.S. assistance would be exclusively military, provided with the clear end goals in mind of defeating terrorists, weakening Iran’s influence in the region, and rescuing hostages, including American citizens. In contrast, the U.S. has already sent $113 billion in aid to Ukraine, much of it economic aid. And despite having spent the equivalent of $900 for every U.S. household on Ukraine, the Biden administration still has not articulated a clearly defined strategic case or an end goal.

Americans overwhelmingly oppose Vladimir Putin’s savage invasion of Ukraine. Whether you support or oppose a continued U.S. financial contribution to that conflict, we should all insist that President Biden articulate a clear strategy, that Congress require transparency, and that Europe take the lead in support for that war.

Since the start of the Russia-Ukraine war, conservatives have articulated the need to fund national security priorities, such as the rising threat of China, given the limited resources and state of domestic challenges the U.S. currently faces.

The assertion that America’s focus on Ukraine has not come at the expense of other allies simply doesn’t hold water. In January, the U.S. raided one of our major arms stockpiles in Israel, designed to support our allies in that region, and instead transferred 300,000 155mm shells to the war in Ukraine.

With a flawed military industrial base, a broken supply chain, and $33 trillion in debt, policymakers must be more strategic than ever before when it comes to U.S. foreign involvement. It is becoming abundantly clear that the U.S. has overcommitted resources and attention to Ukraine at the expense of allies like Israel and Taiwan. A new aid package only threatens to set our readiness back even further. 

Instead of holding up aid to Israel for additional Ukraine funding, Congress should give the situation in Israel the separate debate and vote that it deserves. Conservatives should also insist on securing our own borders and fully enforcing our immigration laws, considering that Hamas and other terrorist organizations have infiltrated our homeland through our open borders and continue to do so today.

The Border Patrol has encountered a staggering 154 aliens from the terror watchlist in the last fiscal year. Before Biden became president, that number was just three per year. This is in addition to 505 watchlist encounters this year at land ports, and the 1.6 million known “gotaways” who have evaded the Border Patrol during this administration.

The ongoing protests by Hamas supporters in U.S. cities are public signals that they are here and will attack in response to U.S. action in the Middle East. Americans shouldn’t have to wait until an attack on our homeland for the Biden administration to act.   

And conservatives do not advance President Reagan’s “peace through strength” approach to national security by depleting critical military resources in a quagmire in Eastern Europe. We do so by ruthlessly defending our strategic interests and strengthening our domestic industrial base. America cannot project strength abroad unless we are truly strong at home.

Today, we honor this founding principle by standing with Israel, our strongest regional ally. As the Israeli people suffer through their own 9/11, 50 years after the Yom Kippur War, the conservative movement and the American people will rally behind them and are ready to support Israel in its hour of need.

Kevin Roberts is president of the Heritage Foundation. JD Vance is the junior U.S. senator from Ohio.