We will see two tests of the influence of the pro-Israel lobby in the United States in the next few months. The first test will be in the coming weeks over the fate in Washington of the extra American aid package to Israel following 7 October.
The second will be the fate of members of Congress from the left wing of the Democratic Party who criticise Israeli actions in Gaza and are running for reelection this year.
On 22 January, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) again asked its supporters to pressure congressional offices to pass special new assistance for Israel.
Last November, the House of Representatives passed a bill to provide Israel with an extra $14bn in military aid in addition to the roughly $4bn in aid it is scheduled to receive in the regular 2024 budget.
However, the 226 members of Congress who voted in favour of the special aid bill were mostly Republicans who put political poison in their bill. It required that the Biden administration take funding from other parts of government — notably the Treasury Department’s tax directorate — to finance the extra $14bn for Israel.
The Biden administration and Democrats in Congress object; they need the tax directorate to collect more taxes to pay for government programmes the Democratic Party wants.
Negotiations between Republicans and Democrats now focus not on emergency aid to Israel but on spending for other programmes, including border security, the tax directorate and aid to Ukraine. Donald Trump is urging the Republicans to reject the compromise, and thus, the aid to Israel has no agreed funding.
If there is an unexpected resolution to this argument between the two parties, the aid to Israel still must receive approval from the Senate, which has become the intersection of support for Israel and criticism of Israel’s military operations in Gaza.
In January, Senator Bernie Sanders, a leader of the left-wing politicians in America, failed to win much Congressional support for his demand that the US Department of State issue a report about Israel’s human rights record before the military aid could go to Israel.
AIPAC strongly opposed Sanders' proposal, and it lost a vote in the Senate, with 72 senators opposing compared to only 11 senators supporting. However, other senators from the left wing of the Democratic Party propose new restrictions on military aid to Israel.
Senator Van Hollen from Maryland is proposing an amendment to the bill that all military aid to Israel stop if the Department of State determines that Israel is violating American and international law regarding laws of war.
Eighteen senators — more than a third of Democrats in the Senate — support Van Hollen’s proposal. Meanwhile, Senator Tim Kaine (Hillary Clinton’s vice president candidate in 2016) proposed a resolution requiring the Biden administration to allow Congress to review all military aid to Israel – which would delay deliveries.
AIPAC objects to both measures, and they will not receive support from Republicans if the Israel aid bill ever arrives in the Senate.