Middle East Monitor / December 22, 2020
The United States has passed a $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill to support industries and workers affected by the ongoing pandemic, of which hundreds of millions of dollars have been granted to Israel and its defence.
In the bill passed by US Congress yesterday – part of an overall $2.3 trillion package – the act under the heading of “Procurement, Defense-Wide” detailed a total of $500 million for the “Israeli Cooperative Programs”.
Of that amount, “$73,000,000 shall be for the Secretary of Defense to provide to the Government of Israel for the procurement of the Iron Dome defense system to counter short-range rocket threats.”
In addition to that, a further “$177,000,000 shall be for the Short Range Ballistic Missile Defense (SRBMD) program, including cruise missile defense research and development under the SRBMD program, of which $50,000,000 shall be for co-production activities of SRBMD systems in the United States and in Israel to meet Israel’s defense requirements consistent with each nation’s laws, regulations, and procedures.”
Meanwhile, the rest of the relief package deals with matters such as tax breaks, the selection of the next Dalai Lama, and providing businesses and the unemployed with benefits to ease their ordeal during the coronavirus pandemic.
In the announcement of the agreement, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stated that the bill is “another major rescue package for the American people,” referring to the first relief package made in March this year. He promised that the 5,593-page-long bill “is packed with targeted policies to help struggling Americans who have already waited too long.”
Even those policies which help the citizens and unemployed are severely limited, however, with the agreed $300 per week bonus jobless benefit reportedly being half of the federal unemployment benefit given in the previous package. That payment runs for 11 weeks in comparison to the 16 in the last package. To add to that, the direct stimulus payment of $600 to many people is also half of that given in March.
The disparity in relief payments leads to questions relating to the prioritisation of the US defence industry, its affiliated companies, and the Pentagon – which reportedly received $696 billion in the package – as well as the defence industry of a foreign nation such as Israel.
Congress’ justification for the limit in spending on the unemployed and businesses is that billions were allegedly also needed for other essential resources and unfinished business such as water provision and flood control in the country. The defence companies and military sectors which are provided money in the bill were also said to be heavily hit by the pandemic.