U.S. Economic Aid Parity to Israel and Egypt a Possibility

The State Department appeared to indicate today that if Israel gets increased U.S. aid next year, so will Egypt, although not necessarily in the same amount.

This position was hinted at when the Department’s deputy spokesman, Alan Romberg, was asked about a published report that Egypt will ask the U.S. to raise its aid for 1985 by $1 billion to a total of $3.15 billion.

Romberg replied that while Egypt “has made various requests for increases in the level of our economic and military assistance,” the Reagan Administration has “not yet made any decisions as to the assistance level which will be proposed to Congress.”

When asked if any Egyptian increases would be tied to an increase for Israel, Romberg replied, “both Egypt and Israel are full partners in the peace process and as such reasonably could expect comparable treatment. Comparability has not been and should not be interpreted to imply that aid levels should be identical. We are dealing with two countries whose specific needs differ.”

The Egyptian request for additional aid was revealed by Prime Minister Kamal Hassan Ali in an interview published in The Washington Post today. He said the increase was needed to offset an expected decrease in Egypt’s income from oil sales, money sent home by Egyptians working abroad and tourism.

Israel has asked for $800 million this year in emergency economic aid in addition to the $2.6 billion it is receiving. It has requested that military and economic aid for the 1986 fiscal year be increased to $4.05 billion.

Meanwhile, Romberg said the U.S. hopes to conclude by next week negotiations with Israel for a Free Trade Area. He said several issues still have to be resolved but “we have made considerable progress.” Congress approved establishment of an FTA last fall.

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