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Biden’s urgent wartime aid bundle for Israel will help channel more funds to Ukraine, say observers

US President Joe Biden’s urgent wartime funding request to Congress, expected at roughly US$100 billion over the next year, will help to channel money towards Kyiv at a time when American support for more aid towards Ukraine is dwindling, observers say.

The proposal, which will be unveiled on Friday (Oct 20), includes money for Ukraine, Israel, humanitarian aid and border management, Mr Biden said during a White House speech late on Thursday.

He made the address a day after his visit to Israel to offer US support as the Middle Eastern country readies its troops for an impending ground offensive into Gaza.

“(What) President Biden (did in his speech) was an effort to make the big picture strategic case, and then drill down into the specific requests that he was going to be making to Congress,” Mr Michael Singh, managing director at think tank The Washington Institute for Near East Policy told CNA’s Asia First.

“This was his pitch for continuing American leadership and engagement overseas, and a willingness to bear the costs that go with that.”

Opinion polls by several US media showed a sizeable number of Americans were sympathetic towards the Israelis and favoured continued support. In contrast, support for sustained aid to Ukraine has diminished significantly since Russia’s invasion more than a year ago in February 2022.

Analysts said bundling the funds into one request could help ramp up support from both the public and politicians, and fast-track it through Congress.

“More aid for Israel will be very popular with Congress and with the American people. This will help get the aid to Ukraine through their package together,” said Mr Singh.

He pointed out that a lion’s share of the package will go towards Ukraine’s war chest.

Reuters, quoting a source familiar with the plan, said US$60 billion will go to Ukraine and US$14 billion to Israel. The remaining will include US$10 billion for humanitarian aid, US$14 billion for border security and $7 billion for the Indo-Pacific region.

THE CASE FOR UKRAINE

US voters tend to view terrorism as a major threat, and are more likely to back related policies, said Mr Singh. Hamas’ bloody rampage through Israeli towns on Oct 7 was labelled a “terrorist attack” by the White House.

By tying the two conflicts together, and drawing a parallel between Hamas and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mr Biden can make a more persuasive case for Ukraine, and on US’ engagement overseas, said experts.

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