Senate sense of Israel’s needs grows clearer as chamber eyes aid package

Senate sense of Israel’s needs grows clearer as chamber eyes aid package

Senators say their understanding of what assistance Israel actually needs in its war against Hamas is becoming clearer as the chamber rushes to provide aid to the embattled American ally.

But details — at least publicly — on those needs remain scant.

“After this briefing, we have a good understanding of what they need and whether they’re getting it,” Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said coming out of a classified briefing on Israel on Wednesday, though he said he’d defer to the secretary of Defense to give specific information.

“There’s already a lot of pre-existing Israel aid that has been pre positioned. So we imagine it would be a replenishment of that,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told POLITICO. “It’ll look different than Ukraine.”

Senate Foreign Relations ranking member Jim Risch (R-Idaho) said at a press conference “we have a very clear understanding” of what the Israelis are going to need, but was mum on expanding further.

State of play: There is an emerging effort in the Senate to lump Israel aid together with Ukraine aid, border money and aid to Taiwan, as Burgess reported Tuesday. But Ukraine aid is an issue that splits Republicans — and deals on the border or immigration are the white whale of Congress.

“We all know the world is burning right now. There’s things going on in a lot of different places,” Risch told POLITICO on Wednesday of the package. “So it’s coming in its raw form. As with everything around here, it’s going to need some negotiation.”

Also on Israel: Lawmakers coalesced around President Joe Biden’s announcement Wednesday morning that intelligence showed a bombing on a hospital in Gaza was not an Israeli operation — and that Palestinian militants were at fault.

Asked if intelligence defending that claim was made available to senators, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) told reporters, “What we’ve concluded is that a lot of information needs to be shared with the American people.”

“What I care about is the American people and the democratic world seeing — at the level that’s appropriate — information that let the president take the position he did earlier today. And I think that that’s forthcoming,” Tillis said.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), another national security hawk, said the intelligence showing the hospital attack was the fault of Palestinian militants “is as definitive as you can expect.”

“Obviously, we don’t have real time video. But yes, I think this clearly was not an Israeli operation,” Murphy said.

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