WASHINGTON (Dec. 5)
The Reagan Administration is determined to keep trying to persuade Congress not to increase United States military and economic aid to Israel beyond the $2.5 billion it has recommended for the current fiscal year.
State Department deputy spokesman Alan Romberg said that the Senate Appropriations Committee’s action last Thursday in approving its subcommittee’s proposal for an additional $475 million in grant aid to Israel “could imperil” the United States efforts in Lebanon. But he could not explain how it would imperil the effort.
The Republican-controlled Senate Appropriations Committee approved the additional money for Israel, without any comment, as part of a $11.5 billion foreign aid bill. It acted despite a plea from Deputy Secretary of State Kenneth Dam in which he warned that the increased aid would not only imperil the U.S. efforts in Lebanon but would take away funds from U.S. friends and countries in southwest Asia which are threatened by the Soviet Union.
Romberg also noted that “the President believes, in view of the declining resources available to address our other global foreign policy and national security concerns, that his recommendation is sufficient to preserve Israel’s qualitative technological advantage.” He said the President’s recommendation for military aid to Israel is 21 percent more than last year.
SAYS ISRAEL HAS HIGH PRIORITY
Romberg said that $2.5 billion proposed by Reagan for assistance to Israel “will leave absolutely no doubt that the Administration has no higher priority than meeting Israel’s need.” He added that the President’s request “is positive proof that he is second to no one in his support for Israel’s security and well-being.”
Romberg said the President believes that the additional $475 million “is excessive in view of our commitment to Israel’s security.” In addition, Romberg said, Reagan believes “any increase could imperil the strenuous effort we are making to find a settlement in Lebanon and to make progress in the broader peace process.”
While the foreign aid bill still must go to the full Senate, this was the first test on the feelings toward Israel since the war in Lebanon and Israel seems to have maintained its support. However, the entire exercise may be academic since the House is not expected to pass a foreign aid bill, for reasons having nothing to do with Israel, before the lame duck Congress adjourns this month. The bill would then be taken up by the new Congress which takes office in January.