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Sunday, November 21, 1999

Lobbying pays off as U.S. promises Israel $4 billion in aid

By Nitzan Horowitz, Ha'aretz Correspondent

 

WASHINGTON - The U.S. budget of $1.8 trillion, which was approved at the weekend following a lengthy battle between President Bill Clinton and Congress, earmarks more than $4 billion for Israel.

Israel will receive $1.92 billion in military aid, $1.2 billion for implementing the Wye accord and $900,000 in civilian aid. All told, 26 percent of all U.S. foreign aid will go to Israel.

Intensive lobbying in the Senate by Israel paid off: Israel was able to effect a significant change in the foreign aid law which will enable it to go on receiving the majority of the military aid funds in an advance allocation, as in past years.

In the course of the attempts to find a solution to the financing of the aid package promised Israel for signing the Wye agreement, Prime Minister Ehud Barak agreed to forgo the early transfer of the military aid funds and thus save the U.S. government hundreds of millions of dollars in interest.

However, in the wake of the fierce criticism this approach drew from the defense establishment in Israel, Israeli officials, backed by the Jewish lobby, endeavored to get Congress to change the terms of the concession and enable Israel to get most of the money already at the beginning of the fiscal year.

In the past few days their efforts proved successful: about three-quarters of the military aid funds will be transferred to Israel in an advance allocation.

Israel will lose about $15 million in interest because of the postponement in the transfer of the rest of the military aid. By forgoing the entire early transfer, Israel would have lost $60 million in interest.

Following give-and-take between Congress and the White House, the clauses relating to the status of Jerusalem as Israel's capital were stricken from the budget act, as the administration threatened a veto if they were left in. The White House negotiators argued that such clauses would sabotage the current peace negotiations in the Middle East.

The clauses in question would have subordinated the American consulate in East Jerusalem to the embassy in Tel Aviv and made it mandatory to refer to Jerusalem as Israel's capital in official publications of the administration.

As such, interested parties in Congress would have achieved through the budget what they have not yet been able to accomplish otherwise, beyond enacting special legislation for the transfer of the American embassy to Jerusalem.

(c) copyright 1999 Ha'aretz. All Rights Reserved

 

Source: http://www3.haaretz.co.il/eng/scripts/article.asp?id=61467&mador=1&datee=11/21/99


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