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Aid to Israel, Free Trade Area Won’t Suffer from Budget Crunch

U.S. aid to Israel, as well as the America-Israel Free Trade Area agreement, will not be affected in fiscal year 1988 by the budget package being prepared by Congress, according to Sen. Bob Packwood (R-Ore.).

Packwood appeared with Rep. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) Monday night at a general assembly convened by the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York and held at the headquarters of UJA-Federation of Jewish Philanthropies here.

The meeting was organized as a preliminary education seminar for members of the Jewish community concerned with financial difficulties posed by the stock market crash of October 1987 and the resulting pressure in Washington to reduce the federal budget deficit. The discussion was not limited to Jewish issues but covered the entire spectrum.

Because aid to Israel has been specifically earmarked, and exists outside the general foreign aid allocation for other countries, U.S. funding for Israel remains intact, Packwood’s communications director, Bob Witeck, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Witeck said that Israel will receive $3 billion this fiscal year, which began Oct. 1. The breakdown of this funding is $1.8 billion for military assistance and $1.2 billion in economic aid.

WON’T AFFECT TRADE PACT

Packwood, a strong supporter of aid to Israel, who is ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, also said the budget-cutting drive will have no impact on the Free Trade Area agreement (FTA) between the United States and Israel, which went into effect in the summer of 1985.

As a matter of fact, he said, the FTA has become a model. The recently concluded free-trade agreement between the United States and Canada would not have been possible without the U.S.-Israel precedent, he said.

However, he and Schumer cautioned that as Congress cuts the budget to reduce the deficit, people may very well question why poverty-stricken countries receive diminished U.S. assistance, while aid to Israel remains untouched.

Both Packwood and Schumer were circumspect about the future. Schumer said the budget is “based on predictions of growth. We’re dealing with uncertainties.”

Each of them addressed the issues of entitlements, that is, programs for which people are eligible by law, such as Medicare, whose allotments are growing out of control in the budget. They suggest tax increases to replenish needed funds that might well be cut.

David Pollack, JCRC assistant executive director, told JTA that as the federal government cuts funding or adds revenue, many issues of Jewish interest will be impacted.

“As budgets get cut, these kinds of things get balanced against aid to the homeless, to citizens who need affordable housing, all those kind of things. The question,” he said, is “are we going to have a compassionate society and will the federal government return to the role of provider of affordable housing in light of a declining budget?”

Pollack said that in New York, there are “Jewish members of the community who have moderate incomes and are not homeless, but nevertheless cannot afford condominiums. I think that we have a concern that there is housing for people who cannot afford anything.”

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