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European states wait as US decides on Israel, Ukraine funding with little money to fill void

U.S. senators stayed this weekend on Capitol Hill to try to pass a $95 billion package that would including funding for Israel and Ukraine, which are both at war.

Published: February 12, 2024 11:00pm

Updated: February 12, 2024 11:01pm

European countries are closely watching the U.S. Senate negotiate on a measure to provide billions in aid to Israel and Ukraine, without which, say European leaders, wars in those countries could escalate into a major geo-political confrontation.

Senators are trying to pass a $95 billion package, which includes funding for each country and appeared to be on track for eventual passage. They were forced Friday to delay the start of their two-week recess to work over the weekend to try to pass the measure.

Senator cleared a procedural hurdle Sunday and resumed working to final passage Monday. 

Alaska GOP Sen. Dan Sullivan had at one point proposed stripping $7.9 billion in economic assistance for Ukraine from the bill, which he has said European nations could cover while the United States focuses on supplying Kyiv with weapons to fight Russia.

His Senate office did not response to a question Monday about whether the senator's idea was still in the final mix. And the GOP-led House does not appear willing to pass such a large foreign aid package.  

If the full measure fails, like earlier version in recent weeks on Capitol Hill, the focus would turn on European nations.

Russia launched its war on neighboring Ukraine in February 2022. 

In addition, European Union states’ aid to Israel is generally measured in millions, not billions, which essentially means those states could not cover a major financial pullback by the U.S.

Divisions on Israel policy in Europe are focused on desires to avoid an escalation of tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, which could devolve into a large Middle East conflict, and in some ways already has.

A militant-group tied to Iran that purportedly sides with the Palestinian-back group Hamas, which is at war with Israel, has for months been attacking commercial ships in the Red Sea, which has disrupted supply chains. 

And late last month, three U.S. service member were killed at a base in Jordan by a drone purportedly launched by a militant group with ties to Iran, which in turn resulted in the U.S. conducting airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. 

Last week, reports emerged that Germany, Europe’s largest economy, was rethinking its unwavering support for Israel over what the German Chancellor Chancellor Olaf Scholz called “very worrying” provocations between extremist Israeli settlers and Palestinians on the West Bank. 

In early-October 2023, after Hamas launched deadly terror strikes on Israel, and Israel declared war on Hamas, which rules adjacent Gaza, Scholz said: “At this moment, there is only one place for Germany – the place at Israel’s side. Our own history, our responsibility arising from the Holocaust, makes it a perpetual task for us to stand up for the security of the state of Israel.”

Scholz met Friday in Washington, D.C., with President Biden.

"President Biden and Chancellor Scholz reaffirmed their resolute support for Ukraine in its struggle against Russia’s war of aggression," the White House said in readout of the meeting. "The president commended Germany’s exemplary contributions to Ukraine’s self-defense, and Chancellor Scholz emphasized the significance of sustained U.S. support.  

"The leaders discussed efforts to prevent regional escalation in the Middle East, and reaffirmed their commitment to Israel’s right to self-defense consistent with international law.  They also underscored the imperative to protect civilians in Gaza and increase deliveries of life-saving humanitarian assistance."

Prior to the meeting, the government in Berlin joined with those from Belgium, France, Ireland and Spain, Belgium in calling for sanctions like travel restrictions for Israeli settlers.

But on Thursday, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs nixed that step, at least for now. But calls for an end to European military aid for Israel are growing louder. 

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