WASHINGTON (Feb. 2)
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has unanimously authorized an increase in the U.S. foreign assistance program for the current fiscal year by 25 percent to take into account the “transitional quarter” between the present and next fiscal year caused by the government’s bookkeeping changes.
The practical effects of the Committee’s action late last Thursday is to authorize an additional $56 million for Israel and equivalent increases for about 50 other countries on the foreign aid list. The increase is across the board for all programs including military and economic assistance. However, the Committee also engaged in some cutting of the economic sector for Israel and other countries, including Israel’s Arab neighbors.
The House International Relations Committee also has a provision in the bill it is discussing for a similar increase in its authorization and for the same reason, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency was informed. The vote in that body is pending conclusion of work on 21 “controversial amendments” with aid to Turkey ranked as the thorniest.
The transitional quarter became a problem for all countries receiving U.S. aid after that factor was exposed in the budget for the fiscal year 1977 that begins Oct. 1. The transitional quarter is for the period July 1 through Sept. 30 and is part of the current fiscal year that technically concludes June 30.
DINITZ URGED KISSINGER FOR AMENDMENT
The brunt of the appeal for an increase in the programs because of the special quarter was reported to the JTA as having been shouldered by Israel. The JTA was informed by Congressional sources that Israeli Ambassador Simcha Dinitz urged Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger last Thursday for the amendment because the failure to make any allowances for the transitional quarter was unexpected and burdensome.
Sen. Clifford Case (R.NJ) had introduced the 25 percent increase to meet the extra three month period needs but many Senate committee members refused to accept it in view of the Administration’s position. Following the meeting with Dinitz, the JTA was told, Kissinger agreed to the increase and the log jam in the committee was broken.
Under the Senate committee’s provisions, Israel is to receive $1.5 billion in military credits of which up to one-half may be converted into grants by the President; and $725 million in economic supporting assistance which is to help Israel meet its requirements because of its defense expenditures. The Administration had asked $740 million in supporting aid for Israeli. Both the Administration and the committee were in accord on the $1.5 billion figure for military aid.
REDUCTIONS FOR ARAB COUNTRIES
The Administration sought $750 million for Egypt in economic supporting assistance but the committee reduced it by $50 million to $700 million. Jordan was cut from $100 million recommended to $67 million and Syria from $90 million to $60 million. In the military credits, Jordan was dressed from $100 million to $55 million and in grant military assistance Jordan was reduced from $100 million to $60 million.
The Senate Foreign Relations and House International Relations Committees take the first action in Congress on money bills related to foreign affairs and draft the authorization measures. These set the policy and the ceiling of the funds in the programs. The Senate and House Appropriations Committees then provide bills for the actual amounts they think should be allowed. Usually, appropriations measures show lower amounts than authorizations. Both Houses of Congress must pass both bills and they must be signed by the President before they become effective.
The current legislation reported by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the measure in the House International Relations Committee relates to the fiscal year and transitional quarter. The controversy between Israel and the United States since the new U.S. budget appeared two weeks ago is based on fiscal year 1977 which begins Oct. 1. In this case, the U.S. has acknowledged the $1 billion but has not yet made public what it will recommend in economic supporting assistance.
Israel expected the same amount as this year in military aid–$1.5 billion–and about $800 million in supporting assistance, or the same total amount as this year. The Administration is to make the total figures public about Feb. 15 when it presents its program to Congress for all countries. The speculation at the White House is that the figure of $1 billion will not be changed.