By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is due to make his case for President Joe Biden’s $64 billion foreign affairs budget request in four congressional hearings this week, amid deep divides with Republicans over spending priorities and Israel policy.

Blinken testifies on Tuesday in the Democratic-controlled Senate to the Foreign Relations Committee and to the appropriations subcommittee that oversees diplomatic and foreign aid spending.

He returns to Capitol Hill on Wednesday for two more rounds of testimony at hearings of the Republican-led House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee and a House appropriations subcommittee.

The hearings are expected to focus on Israel policy, after Biden earlier this month said he would delay a shipment of bombs to Israel and consider withholding others if Israeli forces launched a major invasion of Rafah, a refugee-packed city in southern Gaza.

The developments prompted angry denunciations from Republicans, some of whom have accused Biden of abandoning Israel, despite the billions of dollars in U.S. military assistance that remains in the pipeline for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

But Biden has also faced criticism from many of his fellow Democrats, who want him to do more – including putting conditions on arms exports – to push Netanyahu’s government to protect Palestinian civilians. Israel is fighting to wipe out Hamas militants who attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing 253 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

Palestinian authorities say more than 35,000 people have been killed during Israel’s campaign in Gaza, many of them women and children. Malnutrition is widespread and much of the population of the coastal enclave has been left homeless, with much of the enclave’s infrastructure destroyed.


When Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin testified in the Senate on Oct. 31 about Biden’s request for security assistance for Ukraine and Israel, they were repeatedly interrupted by protesters who denounced the officials for backing what they called “genocide” against Palestinians in Gaza.

Protests over Gaza have intensified across the United States since then, including on college campuses where there have been dozens of arrests.

The sweeping foreign aid package for Israel, Ukraine, Taiwan and humanitarian needs, finally passed Congress in April, after being stalled for months by Republicans unhappy about the billions of dollars in assistance Washington has sent Kyiv as it battles Russian invaders.

The package only passed the House because a majority of Democrats supported it, and the parties remain divided over how much more help Washington should provide to Ukraine.

Republicans also expressed outrage on Monday when the International Criminal Court in the Hague requested arrest warrants for Netanyahu and his defense chief, and for three Hamas leaders for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Senator Lindsey Graham, the top Republican on the appropriations subcommittee where Blinken is testifying on Tuesday, called the ICC’s actions “outrageous” and promised to act.

“I will feverishly work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle in both chambers to levy damning sanctions against the ICC,” Graham said in a statement.

Democrats also criticized the ICC’s action, with Biden calling it “outrageous.” Blinken raised questions over the court’s jurisdiction as well as its process in making the request. He added that it could jeopardize negotiations to achieve a hostage deal and a ceasefire.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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