Senate Defeats Move to Prune $100 M in Military Aid to Israel

An amendment to the foreign aid bill introduced by Sen. Mark Hatfield (R.Ore.) that would have reduced the $1 billion appropriation of military aid to Israel by $100 million, or 10 percent of the total, was defeated last Thursday night in the Senate by a 78-7 vote.

Hatfield contended that the reduction of the aid to Israel would be “a signal to the Israeli government” to avoid striking at the Palestine Liberation Organization forces in south Lebanon and use American weapons in these “preemptive strikes.” Resorting to press reports, Hatfield charged that the Israeli air attacks have caused more than 200 civilian deaths, 400 severely injured and created 300,000 refugees.

Led by Sen. Robert Packwood, the other Republican from Oregon, strong opposition developed against the Hatfield amendment. The opponents of the amendment defended Israel for protecting its people against PLO terrorism. Packwood said he marveled at the restraint of the Israelis and heaped scorn on Hatfield’s assertion that he was sending a signal to Israel. “If we adopt this amendment,” Packwood said, “we will send a signal all right. That signal will be that it will be perfectly all right for the PLO to build up their fortifications two, three, five and 15 miles north of Israel.”

He said from those points they will be able to “launch” their “little life rafts full of terrorists.” The amendment, he said, would mean “it is perfectly all right” for the PLO “to prepare, arm and wait and choose when and where they will surprise some innocent Israelis with a bomb, in a market place or a theater, or a half dozen terrorists will creep into a school and kill the children. That is the signal we will send.”

Supporting Packwood’s view that depriving Israel of weapons is not a policy “we will advocate,” Sen. Daniel Inouye (D. Hawaii) said the Hatfield amendment is “the wrong message.” He said it will be a message that the U.S. has changed its foreign policy and is no longer supportive of Israel and that Israel is now fair game.

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D.Mass.), who was among the solons supporting Packwood, said “The Hatfield amendment not only would affect Israel but could be to the detriment of all parties engaged in the peace process.” He added: “I want to emphasize my condemnation of the terrorist violence of the PLO against Israel, which is at the root of the question we are discussing tonight.”

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