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Israel will request $1bn in additional American aid, says US senator

Israel is already the largest recipient of assistance from Washington, with $3.8bn annually
Israeli air strike targets building in Gaza City, 15 May (AFP)
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Israel, the largest recipient of US assistance, will ask for an additional $1bn in American aid to replenish its rocket defence system after the recent war on Gaza, US Senator Lindsey Graham announced on Tuesday.

Speaking to Fox News from Israel, Graham - a key Republican and staunch ally of former President Donald Trump - held a sign that read "more for Israel", calling on Congress and the current administration to approve the Israeli request for more funding.

The Israeli government already receives $3.8bn in US military aid annually.

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"Every time somebody tries to destroy Israel, our response is going to be more aid," Graham said.

The call for more US aid came on the same day the Israeli government reported that the country recorded the highest ever tally of military exports in 2020 at $8.3bn.

Progressives in Congress have been pushing to impose conditions on aid to Israel, and a recent poll by the Arab American Institute showed that most Americans oppose unrestricted aid to the Israeli government.

The request for more US taxpayers' money will likely spark opposition from left-wing Democrats and test the power of Israel's advocates in Washington amid growing criticism of Israeli policies against Palestinians.

On Tuesday, Graham pledged to lead efforts to secure the additional aid in Congress after the Pentagon officially receives the request in the coming days.

The senator met with top Israeli officials this week, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose office lauded the Republican lawmaker as a "tremendous friend and ally".

Amid reports that Netanyahu's political rivals are on the cusp of forming a coalition government that would remove him from power, Graham said Washington's relationship with Israel will not be affected by Israeli politics.

"The government may change in the next couple of days, quite frankly. But one thing [that] won't change is the relationship between Israel and the United States," Graham said on Tuesday.

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"There's been no better friend to the United States than Israel, and Bibi has been one of the strongest leaders in the world for the last 15 years."

Despite deep ideological disagreements with President Joe Biden, Graham praised the current US administration for its handling of the recent crisis.

"I want to thank the Biden administration for standing by Israel," he said.

Israeli air strikes on Gaza last month killed at least 256, including dozens of children, but Biden and his top aides kept voicing support for what they called "Israel's right to defend itself". 

Washington also blocked a UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire.

Throughout the crisis, which started with Israeli efforts to forcibly remove Palestinian families from the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, Biden refused to explicitly criticise Israel's actions.