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Lawmakers Say Aid to Israel May Be Endangered in Future

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Four Democratic members of the House Foreign Affairs and Appropriations committees assured Jewish leaders here last week that Israel’s $3 billion in yearly foreign aid remains secure.

But they warned that budgetary pressures may build against the aid package in the not-too-distant future.

The solution, in what one of the four representatives acknowledged was an “intensely partisan” appeal, is to help the Democratic Party retain its majority within the House of Representatives.

Speaking here last Thursday before the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations were Reps. Dante Fascell (D-Fla.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Mel Levine (D-Calif.) and Larry Smith (D-Fla.), members of the committee; and Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), member of the House Appropriations Committee.

They appeared at the invitation of the Conference of Presidents, as part of what Malcolm Hoenlein, its executive director, called an ongoing series of briefings with top congressional leaders.

The umbrella group has previously met with Republican Party Chairman Lee Atwater, and will meet with his Democratic counterpart, Ron Brown, on June 19.

“I don’t know of a single issue in this rewrite of the foreign aid bill that would directly affect Israel in any way,” said Fascell, like the others a staunch supporter of Israel.

AID REQUEST PRESENTED

“However, the major problem is we don’t have any money. And when we don’t have any money, all the money that is earmarked for Israel comes under pressure,” he said.

On Friday, Israel asked the United States for $3 billion in aid for the 1990 fiscal year. That request matches the grants of the past few years, which have been apportioned into $1.2 billion in economic support and $1.8 billion in military assistance.

The federal budget deficit and the Gramm-Rudman legislation providing for budget cuts, however, have created a climate of austerity in Washington, In 1986, Israel agreed to a Reagan administration request to return $51 million of the money it had received that year in order to forestall across-the-board cuts to other countries.

U.S. Ambassador William Brown told reporters Friday that, because of inflation, Israel had effectively accepted a cut in aid this year by not increasing its request from last year.

Levine said Israel’s share under the foreign aid and State Department authorization bills is secure, but that defending it is “going to become more difficult than in the recent past.”

He said support for Israel is not strictly a partisan issue and praised the Reagan administration for its support of Israel. But he said the “jury is still out” on the Bush administration. He asked the leaders to make sure that “support is there” for the Democratic Party.

Hoyer was the most blunt in his pitch for Democratic votes. “Read my lips’ is not working,” he said in a reference to President Bush’s campaign pledge not to impose new taxes.

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