The White House shot back at Republican efforts to redirect aid from Gaza to the Iron Dome, arguing the GOP lawmakers behind new legislation should back President Biden’s new supplemental funding bill for Israel.
‘Before becoming the first American commander-in-chief to set foot in Israel during wartime, President Biden’s unflinching backing for Israel in the wake of the worst terrorist atrocities in their history was welcomed across that country as the strongest expression of support from anyone to ever sit in the Oval Office,’ White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates told Fox News Digital. ‘He quickly sent military aid to Israel, and he has been clear that the United States will ensure Israel has what it needs to protect itself, – and those Americans living in and traveling to Israel – from terrorism.’
The comments come after a group of Republican senators led by Sen. Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., introduced legislation Thursday that would require the president to transfer ‘all unexpended balances of appropriations made available to Gaza to the Department of Defense, to be available for grants to Israel for the Iron Dome short-rage rocket defend system.’
‘In the wake of Iran-backed Hamas’s savage attack on Israel in which over 1,300 people in Israel were murdered, including 30 Americans, and as Iran-backed Hamas terrorists continue to launch missiles and rockets into Israel, the American people have seen the images of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense systems repeatedly intercepting rockets and saving the lives of countless civilians,’ Hagerty told Fox News Digital. ‘My legislation requires the Biden Administration to halt U.S. foreign assistance from going to Hamas terrorist-dominated areas and instead to redirect these resources to help Israel resupply its life-saving Iron Dome interceptors. The United States should unequivocally support the right of Israel to defend itself from terrorists.’
The bill has 11 GOP cosponsors, with some taking aim at Biden’s priorities in the war.
‘The Biden Administration insists on sending foreign assistance to Gaza, while Hamas steals it to fund weapons to kill Israelis and Americans,’ Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., told Fox News Digital.
‘Instead of providing assistance to Gaza, the Biden Administration must ensure any taxpayer funds are used to support Israel’s Iron Dome to defend its citizens from the savagery of Iran-backed Hamas,’ Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla, added.
However, Bates argued that ‘the overwhelming majority of the Palestinian People are not Hamas’ and chastised the GOP effort to ‘stop our work to feed innocent people.’
‘There is strong, bipartisan support for President Biden’s efforts to deliver humanitarian necessities to the people of Gaza – like food, water, and medicine – without benefiting Hamas,’ Bates said.
Bates also pointed to the president’s efforts to secure additional funding for the Israeli war effort, something he argued the GOP senators should support.
‘If these congressional Republicans want to join President Biden in his efforts to help Israel destroy Hamas, we look forward to their endorsement of the supplemental funding bill he will soon propose,’ Bates said.
Meanwhile, a National Security Council spokesperson pointed out to Fox News Digital that Biden made the Iron Dome’s continued operation a priority in the early days of the war, pointing to Oct. 10 remarks in which the president vowed a surge of military aid to Israel.
‘We’re surging additional military assistance, including ammunition and interceptors to replenish Iron Dome. We’re going to make sure that Israel does not run out of these critical assets to defend its cities and its citizens,’ Biden said at the time. ‘My administration has consulted closely with Congress throughout this crisis. And when Congress returns, we’re going to ask them to take urgent action to fund the national security requirements of our critical partners.’
The spokesperson also pointed out that Biden promised to halt any aid if it fell into the hands of Hamas.
‘If Hamas confiscates it or doesn’t let it get through or just confiscates it, then it’s going to end, because we’re not going to be sending any humanitarian aid to Hamas if they’re going to be confiscating it,’ Biden said Wednesday. ‘That’s the commitment that I’ve made.’
The spokesperson stressed that ‘U.S. assistance for Palestinians does not go to or through Hamas’ and that the aid ‘provides funding for essential and life-saving humanitarian assistance to Palestinian refugees through vetted international and non-governmental organizations.’
‘These organizations fill a critical role in providing assistance that would otherwise be filled by terrorist organizations like Hamas,’ the spokesperson told Fox News Digital. ‘Our trusted partners and beneficiaries are subject to extensive vetting and oversight procedures to help prevent assistance from flowing to individuals or organizations that are affiliated with terrorists.’
Responding to the criticism, a spokesperson for Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., one of the cosponsors of the effort, said ‘it makes no sense to condition aid to Israel on aid to Ukraine’ while also stressing that ‘Gaza is run by Hamas.’
Meanwhile, Hagerty argued that the ‘reality is that Hamas controls Gaza, and Hamas will likely find a way to use incoming American taxpayer dollars to further its objective of obliterating Israel.’
‘This is not my opinion, but that of Biden’s own State Department that warned that there is ‘a high risk’ Hamas could potentially derive indirect, unintentional benefit from U.S. assistance to Gaza,’ Hagerty said. ‘Until we know that U.S. taxpayer dollars won’t inadvertently fund Hamas, President Biden should support Israel’s efforts to put Hamas out of business once and for all—rather than push misguided measures to appease the radical far-left, sending taxpayer dollars that will inevitably be diverted to Hamas leadership.’