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Balancing Act Needed for Congress to Approve More Economic Aid for Israel

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Conflicting pressures between ties to a “valuable ally” and budgetary constraints will have to be bridged in order to secure Congressional passage of the increased U.S. aid Israel needs for its economic recovery, Rep. David Obey (D. Wisc.), the newly-named chairman of the Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, told the annual plenary session of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council.

The Wisconsin Democrat emphasized that there is “a bipartisan consensus” on viewing Israel as a friend and an ally with a “special relationship with the United States. America is bound to Israel by shared culture, values and national interest”, he said as he spoke on U.S.-Israeli Relations and the Israeli economy.

But Congress is under “conflicting pressures,” Obey declared, as it will want to respond to both Israel’s request for increased aid for its troubled economy, as well as to the American desire to cut spending and reduce federal budget deficits without raising taxes.

ISRAEL HAS TO ATTACK ITS ECONOMIC PROBLEMS

It is a “political fact of life,” he said, that foreign aid will be “very difficult” to pass unless it is “very carefully explained. We need to underline that Israel is an important ally in a part of the world that is important to the United States.”

But even before that, Obey said, “it is crucial for Israel to make a firm attack on its economic problems” through significant budget cuts, monetary reform, reducing subsidies and other measures. However, he added, “In light of the dignity of relations between two governments,” the specific details and dimensions of these steps must be determined by Israel.

“If Israel meets the test and does what is needed to bring its economic house in order, it will receive the emergency aid it needs from the United States,” the Wisconsin Congressman concluded. Furthermore, he noted, an economically strong Israel will be in a better position to pursue peace initiatives.

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