As the dust clears from the recent conflict with Gaza, many Democrats in Congress are trying to block funding to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system while President Biden has pledged over $100 million in humanitarian aid to Gaza which many fear will end up in Hamas coffers.
Sen. Hagerty: first-hand witness of Hamas aggression
Sen. Bill Hagerty (R., Tenn.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, recently toured Israel to assess the effects of the recent attack from Gaza which saw over 4,000 rockets fired from Gaza. On his website, Hagerty described the absolute need for the trip and his support for Israel:
“The trip comes as Democrats in Congress are increasingly divided over U.S. support for Israel. Lawmakers on the Party’s left flank have repeatedly called for the Biden administration to freeze security aid to Israel and consider sanctioning the country for carrying out defensive strikes on Hamas positions in the Gaza Strip,” Hagerty wrote. “The Democratic Party’s divisions on Israel were on full display in the House earlier this month when virtually every Democrat voted to table two bills that would sanction Hamas and boost funding to Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, which played a central role in intercepting Hamas missiles before they struck civilian areas.”
$100 million being sent to Gaza
But this partisan battle took on a new dimension when President Biden pledged than $100 million in humanitarian aid to Gaza, raising concerns that this massive funding would, as it had in the past, be usurped by Hamas, the ruling power in Gaza, and be used to build up the terrorist infrastructure rather than for its intended purpose. Hagerty expressed this concern in an interview with The Washington Free Beacon.
“Hamas is taking their toll, they’re involved in everything that moves in and out of the Gaza Strip,” Hagerty said. “They will redirect [the aid money]. If you send in money and materials for reconstruction, the concrete that’s being utilized there in Gaza is actually being used to build tunnels for [Hamas], not rebuilding houses.”
There is no way the administration can “provide aid to them under current conditions and not have Hamas benefit from this,” Hagerty said. “What’s more than likely to happen, whether it’s Hamas or the Islamic Jihad, they are going to benefit from the aid we are flowing into that area.”
Hagerty also stated that providing any aid to the Palestinian Authority would also be problematic as it violates the Taylor Force Act which prohibits giving any American economic aid to the Palestinian Authority until the PA ceases paying stipends through the Palestinian Authority Martyr’s Fund to individuals who commit acts of terrorism and to the families of deceased terrorists.
In March, the General Accounting Office, a US government watchdog agency, issued a report showing that USAID did not fully comply with vetting procedures for primary recipients in the years 2015-2019 and that some of the funding may have reached terrorist organizations.
Hagerty noted that this concern was addressed in his meetings with Israeli officials.
“The leadership in Israel said, ‘You’ll notice that Arab countries are going to have a very hard time doing this and America should think very hard about it, too,” Hagerty told The Free Beacon.
US State Department admits there is a problem
The US State Department admitted as much last month when an unnamed official was asked this question in a press briefing.
“We’re going to be working in partnership with the United Nations and the Palestinian Authority to kind of channel aid there in a manner that does its best to go to the people of Gaza,” the official said, according to a White House transcript. “I’m also sure that the government of Egypt will have some role in that.”
“As we’ve seen in life, as we all know in life, there are no guarantees, but we’re going to do everything that we can to ensure that this assistance reaches the people who need it the most,” the official added.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R. Calif.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, reacted to the admission by emphasizing the government had an obligation to ensure that this did not happen.
“The Biden Administration has a fundamental obligation to do whatever it can to prevent American taxpayer dollars from winding up in the bank accounts of terrorists. It is in no way acceptable for the State Department to flippantly offer that this is all a matter of fate well beyond their control,” Issa told the Free Beacon. “This reinforces the imperative of Congress’ core oversight function, and I hope that the White House provides quick clarification and commits to redoubling all its efforts to ensure that American aid is never handed over to those who would use it to take other people’s lives,” Issa said.