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Rep. McCaul wants more aid to Israel. Here's why

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

President Biden is scheduled to speak tonight, urging the U.S. to send more support to Israel as it battles Hamas, and he'll also urge sending more support to Ukraine. One person who is sure to be listening tonight is also our next guest, Republican Congressman Michael McCaul of Texas, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Welcome.

MICHAEL MCCAUL: Oh, thanks, Ailsa. Thanks for having me.

CHANG: Well, thanks for being with us. So I assume that you do agree with the idea of sending more aid to Israel, right?

MCCAUL: Oh, yes. And I've had, you know, extensive conversations with the Israelis and the ambassador, and they have submitted their numbers to us. They need the Iron Dome to be replenished with the interceptors. They need precision-guided missiles, you know, weapons. And they also need more ammunition, particularly as they prepare to enter the second phase, which will be the ground operation going into Gaza.

CHANG: But let me ask you - the U.S. already does send billions of dollars a year in aid to Israel. Can you explain to taxpayers, who are probably listening right now, how you would justify additional - tremendously additional - aid to Israel now?

MCCAUL: Well, because they were under enormous attack from Hamas. But also, you know, Hezbollah has fired some rockets, and we want to contain this to just the Gaza and Hamas. We don't want to see this escalate any more than it already has. But that contingency is there. And so deterrence is going to be key. That's why our destroyers are there. That's why our aircraft carriers are off the coast of the east Mediterranean. But, you know, you raise a good point. We - I authorized $3.3 billion annually to Israel so she can defend herself. But look. We haven't gotten all the details of these numbers. And we have the power of the purse, and we'll be looking at the numbers.

CHANG: Well, some members of your party object to sending more aid to Ukraine, but they do support sending additional aid to Israel. So can you just explain that piece for me, like, why there's some resistance to aid for Ukraine, but maybe not as much when it comes to aid for Israel?

MCCAUL: Yeah. You know, I've been a strong supporter of Ukraine. I think it would be a terrible mistake to withdraw out of Ukraine like we did in Afghanistan. It would just project more weakness and empower our adversaries. And so I think it's also important to know that Putin is involved with Hamas. I mean, this is not just about Ukraine. Putin has decided to side with Hamas with this narrative that he's going to liberate them from the occupier - you know, the little Satan, Israel. And China is involved in this as well. I think it's important for, I think - foreign policy-wise, to just remember that, you know, Putin and Chairman Xi of, you know, China are aligned very closely on this, along with the Ayatollah and Kim Jong Un. And we know that Putin's been meeting with him recently as well. So it's really those four adversaries against, you know, the Free West. And so...

CHANG: Well, with respect to Putin, many Republicans say that money the White House wants to send to Ukraine should stay in the U.S. But why does that argument not apply when we're talking about money for Israel? This is what I don't understand.

MCCAUL: Well, I don't either. I think we need to be - look. This is the largest land invasion in Europe since World War II - my father's war - and the greatest threat to the Pacific since World War II. So I think it's shortsighted. I know there's this argument about the southern border, and we can't do anything with Ukraine. And I think we can do both. And I think that's why you're going to hear the president talk tonight about a border security package being in this broader national security package, which will also include, you know, funding for Taiwan and helping deterrence in the Pacific.

CHANG: Right.

MCCAUL: I just think that, you know, it would be very shortsighted. We have to support our allies.

CHANG: But that said, as the U.S. does give more aid to Israel, if that's, indeed, what it does decide to do, and that aid passes, should it put conditions on that aid to not harm civilians in Gaza, where more than 3,400 people have been killed already, at least 1,200 of whom are children?

MCCAUL: Well, I do think - part of the aid package, by the way, will be humanitarian assistance. And, you know, I know the president just got back from Israel yesterday. I know - I've been talking to our leaders in the region as well. I'm glad the Rafah gate has been opened from Egypt into Gaza so the humanitarian assistance can come in. I think that's vitally important because if, you know, you have a million Palestinians that have nothing to do with Hamas, but a million...

CHANG: Right.

MCCAUL: ...Palestinians that may be starving...

CHANG: All right.

MCCAUL: ...That's going to send the wrong...

CHANG: All right.

MCCAUL: ...Message to, you know, that part of the world and, in fact...

CHANG: OK.

MCCAUL: ...Would hurt Israel.

CHANG: That is Republican Michael McCaul, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Thank you very much.

MCCAUL: Oh, thanks for having me. Appreciate it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Linah Mohammad
Prior to joining NPR in 2022, Mohammad was a producer on The Washington Post's daily flagship podcast Post Reports, where her work was recognized by multiple awards. She was honored with a Peabody award for her work on an episode on the life of George Floyd.
Justine Kenin is an editor on All Things Considered. She joined NPR in 1999 as an intern. Nothing makes her happier than getting a book in the right reader's hands – most especially her own.
Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.