update deskU.S.-Israel Relations

Biden campaign co-chair urges emergency aid to Israel days after his threat to condition it

Sen. Chris Coons said the House must “promptly” pass the Senate foreign aid bill “to ensure that our Israeli allies have everything they need to defend themselves from attacks by Iran and its proxies.”

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (right) shakes hands with Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), as Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) looks on during a Feb. 18, 2024 meeting in Tel Aviv. Credit: Shachar Yurman/Israeli Ministry of Defense.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (right) shakes hands with Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), as Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) looks on during a Feb. 18, 2024 meeting in Tel Aviv. Credit: Shachar Yurman/Israeli Ministry of Defense.

A week-and-a-half ago, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) suggested that the United States should condition aid to Israel. After Iran attacked the Jewish state on Saturday, the co-chair of the Biden campaign and close confidante to U.S. President Joe Biden had a different perspective.

“The House should promptly pass this coming week the long-delayed national security supplemental to ensure that our Israeli allies have everything they need to defend themselves from attacks by Iran and its proxies,” Coons wrote.

The senator urged the U.S. House of Representatives to take up the Senate’s foreign aid supplemental, passed in February, which provides $14.1 billion to Israel, in addition to massive aid for Ukraine and help for Taiwan.

“President Biden has pledged our full support to defend Israel from attack, and I join him in that determined defense. Iran’s direct attack on Israel with drones and missiles is a brazen escalation that will endanger lives across the Middle East,” Coons added. “American forces and our partners are already engaged in helping defend Israel, and I pray that our joint efforts will succeed in minimizing casualties.”

The shift is notable for the Delaware legislator, referred to by some as Biden’s shadow secretary of state.

Coons told CNN on Apr. 4 that he believed the United States was “at that point” in which conditions must be placed on aid to Israel, should Jerusalem move forward with a military operation in the southern Gazan city of Rafah, where Hamas’s last stronghold remains.

“If Benjamin Netanyahu were to order the IDF into Rafah at scale,” Coons said, “and make no provision for civilians or for humanitarian aid, I would vote to condition aid to Israel.”

“I’ve never said that before,” he added. “I’ve never been here before.”

On Mar. 13, eight Democratic senators sent a letter to Biden telling him to cut off military assistance to Israel, claiming Jerusalem was obstructing humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Of those eight, only two mentioned anything about Iran’s attacks on Saturday, with just one pledging assistance.

“The U.S. stands with the people of Israel against the attacks from Iran,” wrote Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M). “I will continue to work in Congress to ensure that Israel and all our allies have the support they need to defend themselves.”

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who has become a bitter critic of Israel, wrote that he stands with Biden “in seeking to prevent an even wider conflict that engulfs the people of the entire region.”

“I condemn the Iranian attack on Israel and support Israel’s right to defend itself against this aggression,” he said.

The other signatories—Sens. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.)—haven’t commented about Iran’s attack on social media. Five of the six haven’t posted anything since the attack, while Smith wrote during the attack, “Happy Vaisakhi to Sikhs in Minnesota celebrating the first day of the Spring Harvest! Wishing you a day filled with hope and renewal.”

Progressive “Squad” members Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) and Cori Bush (D-Mo.) also didn’t comment, although Bowman posted about another topic during the attack.

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