Senate Votes to Provide Israel with Weapons Worth $700 Million

The Senate approved a measure Monday that would authorize President Bush to provide Israel with an additional $700 million in weaponry, taken from U.S. forces in Western Europe.

The measure, an amendment to the 1991 foreign aid bill, is seen as a recognition of the increased military threat faced by Israel since the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. It may also serve to partially offset any increased threat to Israel from proposed U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

The Bush administration has also agreed to double its munitions stockpiles in Israel, from $100 million worth of weapons to $200 million. Defense Secretary Dick Cheney agreed to the increase when he met here last month with Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens.

The measure providing additional weaponry was sponsored by Sens. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Robert Kasten (R-Wis.). It was approved 97-1, with only Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) opposing it.

Byrd was co-sponsor, along with Senate Minority Leader Robert Dole (R-Kan.), of another amendment to the foreign aid bill that was overwhelmingly defeated last Friday evening, by a vote of 90-8.

The measure would have required the Bush administration to report every two months to Congress on Israeli settlement activity. The purpose of the measure was to deter Israel from settling Soviet Jewish immigrants in East Jerusalem or the West Bank.

Earlier this month, Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy pledged in writing that his government would not “direct or settle” Soviet Jews in the administered territories or use $400 million in loans guaranteed by the United States to build housing for them in areas not controlled by Israel prior to June 1967.

That position was endorsed Sunday by the Israeli Cabinet. But Israeli leaders said it did not prevent the government from building apartments in East Jerusalem with its own funds.

Besides Byrd and Dole, the senators who voted for the measure were Jake Garn (R-Utah); James Jeffords (R-Vt.); Nancy Kassebaum (R-Kan.); James McClure (R-Idaho); David Pryor (D-Ark.); and Malcolm Wallop (R-Wyo.).

The defeated measure was one of a string of proposed amendments to the foreign aid bill, which the Senate must adopt before it recesses this week. Once the Senate votes, the bill must be reconciled with the version approved this summer by the House of Representatives.

Israel had been hoping for earlier adoption of the foreign aid bill, because it is designated to receive all of its $1.2 billion in economic aid by Oct. 31 of each fiscal year.

This year for the first time, both versions of the bill also require that the entire $1.8 billion military aid package be sent to Israel by Oct. 31.

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