The US House Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday cut the Obama administration’s $51 billion 2012 budget request for the State Department and foreign aid by $6.4 billion, but kept unchanged the $3 billion in military aid for Israel.
Commentators say that the committee vote is a direct challenge to President Barack Obama. The Republican majority in the House of Representatives is trying to limit Obama’s freedom of action in handling foreign policy and to minimize US contributions to international organizations – especially the UN. An Israeli source told “Globes” that the Foreign Affairs Committee slashed foreign aid for the Palestinians, Egypt, Lebanon, and Yemen, until the President certifies that these governments are “not directly or indirectly controlled by a foreign terrorist organization”, and eliminated military and civilian aid altogether for Pakistan, until the Secretary of State certifies Pakistan’s cooperation in the war on terror and the effectiveness of civilian programs.
The Republican majority in the House means that the bill will be easily passed. However, the Democratic majority in the Senate has its own version of the foreign aid and State Department budget bill. The Senate version gives Obama the freedom of action that the House is trying to take away. The joint Senate-House committee will have to reconcile the two versions, and the final version will undoubtedly remove the House clauses limiting the administration.
Bipartisan support for Israel keeps US military aid intact a year after Congress ratified the US-Israeli agreement that formalizes US aid for Israel through 2018. Under this agreement, US aid will increase by $150 million to $3 billion in fiscal year 2012, which begins on October 1, 2011. Aid will increase by another $150 million in fiscal year 2013, and stay at this level until 2018. The bill explicitly includes aid for specific programs, such as anti-missile programs.
The statement by House Committee chairwoman Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Republican – Florida) says, “The U.S.-Israel alliance is vital to the safety and security of both nations, and this bill continues Congress’s bipartisan commitment of fully funding security assistance for Israel.”
The House bill is strongly pro-Israel, in both operational measures, which stipulate funding levels for Israel, in measures against Arab states, and in declarations. The statement says, “The bill reaffirms support for Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital by requiring that Jerusalem be identified as Israel’s capital on relevant US Government documents, and requires the Executive Branch to move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem by the start of 2014. It also expresses Congress’s opposition to the Arab League Boycott of Israel. The bill states that it shall be US policy to uphold the reassurances provided by the President of the United States in an April 2004 letter to the Prime Minister of Israel, which reassured US support for secure, defensible borders for Israel and for Israel’s qualitative military edge, and stated that it is unrealistic to expect negotiated final borders to parallel the pre-1967 lines.”
Other clauses stipulate as follows:
- Prohibits further security assistance to Egypt until the President certifies that the Government of Egypt is not directly or indirectly controlled by a Foreign Terrorist Organization; is fully implementing its peace treaty with Israel; and is actively destroying tunnels used to smuggle materials into Gaza.
- Prohibits further security assistance to Lebanon until the President certifies that no members of Hezbollah hold policy positions in any ministry, agency, or instrumentality of the government.
- Prohibits further security assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA) until the President certifies that no members of Hamas hold policy positions in any ministry, agency, or instrumentality of the government; that the PA is dismantling the extremist infrastructure in Gaza and West Bank; that the PA is actively halting anti-Israel incitement; and that the PA recognizes Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.