Lawmaker Says He’d Back Aid Cut if Israel Expands the Settlements

The chairman of the House subcommittee that allocates foreign aid has warned Israel that he would support a cut in Israel’s annual $3 billion aid package if Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are expanded.

“I want to make quite clear that if Israel expands their settlements in any way, or if they add a single new settlement, I will make a flat commitment right now that I will support any request by the administration to reduce aid to Israel in next year’s bill to reflect that expansion,” Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.) said Wednesday.

Obey, chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations, spoke on the House floor as it began debate on the 1991 Foreign Aid Appropriations Bill.

He said that “more and more members” have told him that they would not vote for the $15.8 billion bill, because they want to send a message of displeasure with Israel, which is the largest foreign aid recipient.

But Obey said that for the 1991 fiscal year, he will continue to support providing Israel with $1.8 billion in military aid and $1.2 billion in economic assistance.

Obey welcomed a statement Sunday by Israeli Housing Minister Ariel Sharon that Soviet Jews would not be sent to the territories.

But he stressed he did not want “to fund directly or indirectly settlements that we believe to be an impediment to the peace process.”

Obey said he was also giving Israel a “friendly warning” against “foot-dragging and obfuscation” in the peace process. U.S. aid to Israel is not provided “in a vacuum,” he added.

Israel should be willing to trade land for peace, provided that the security arrangements are sound, he said.

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