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update deskU.S.-Israel Relations

Pro-Israel groups applaud Senate passage of 2024 defense policy bill

"Congress dropped the ball on the emergency supplemental to Israel, but we have confidence that with strong leadership, that legislation will advance," stated Sandra Parker, chair of CUFI Action Fund.

A view of the Pentagon. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
A view of the Pentagon. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The U.S. Senate passed H.R. 2670, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2024 which outlines how Pentagon’s budget for next year, by a vote of 87 to 13 on Wednesday evening.

Six Democrats and six Republicans—including Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and J.D. Vance (R-Ohio)—voted against the bill, as did Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

“It’s nothing to celebrate,” Hawley wrote of the bill. “Defense contractors get paid billions, while Missourians poisoned by their government get nothing. It’s a travesty.” Lee wrote that it was being used to spy on Americans.

The $886 billion bill includes 5.2% pay raises for members of the military, which is the largest increase in two decades, per the Associated Press. The AP noted that the bill halts some military diversity and inclusion training but not the Defense Department’s abortion travel policy or health-care for transgender service members and their families.

The bill leaves “an unusually divisive debate over what is traditionally a strongly bipartisan effort,” per the AP.

Pro-Israel groups praised the passage of the bill, which goes to the House next.

AIPAC noted that it authorizes $500 million for missile-defense cooperation between Jerusalem and Washington, including funds for the Iron Dome and David’s Sling systems.

The bill also calls for $47.5 million for “new U.S.-Israel cooperation on emerging defense technologies,” including artificial intelligence and cybersecurity; increases funding for the cooperative counter-drone program by nearly 40% to $55 million; and extends the U.S.-Israel Anti-Tunneling Cooperation Program until 2026, per AIPAC.

The bill, per the pro-Israel group, also authorizes the Pentagon to transfer weapons to Israel through January 2027 under the War Reserves Stockpile Authority-Israel and to transfer precision-guided munitions; calls on the Pentagon to weigh deploying U.S. KC-46 refueling tanker aircraft to Israel; instructs the Defense Department to better help combat threats against the Jewish state by sea; and “establishes a presidential envoy for the Abraham Accords, Negev Forum and related integration and normalization agreements.”

Christians United for Israel leaders welcomed passage of the bill in the Senate.

“Congress dropped the ball on the emergency supplemental to Israel, but we have confidence that with strong leadership, that legislation will advance,” said Sandra Parker, chair of CUFI Action Fund.

“In the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks, it is a moral requirement and strategic imperative that American defense policy enhances deterrence against Israel’s enemies and reemphasizes unshakeable bipartisan support for Israel’s security,” said Pastor John Hagee, founder and chairman of CUFI.

“Our leaders must be clear to the world, in word and deed, that there is no greater friend, and no more dangerous enemy, than the United States,” Hagee said. “Passing this legislation is an important step forward towards reattaining that reputation.”

The Libertarian Party denounced the bill. “Follow the federal money trail in the new $886 billion NDAA bill, and you’ll find Congress represents Ukraine, Israel, the military-industrial complex, the surveillance state and the banks,” it wrote. “Not regular Americans, who are struggling to make ends meet.”

Three days prior, the House Armed Services Committee Republicans wrote that the bill contained “unprecedented levels of support for the security of Israel.”

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