WASHINGTON (Feb. 25)
The Bush administration is weighing an Israeli request for $1 billion in military aid to cover the costs of the Israel Defense Force’s added preparedness during the Persian Gulf crisis.
State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler said Monday that Israel submitted the request formally last Friday.
The request came as President Bush was sending Congress two emergency spending bills for 1991.
One bill is exclusively devoted to covering the Pentagon’s costs during Operation Desert Storm and could not serve as the vehicle for supplemental aid to Israel.
The second bill, for a potpourri of domestic overspending since last Oct. 1, does not contain any money for Israel. But members of Congress appear to be anxious to help Israel and themselves politically at the same time by attaching aid for Israel to this bill.
Pro-Israel activists had predicted Israel would hold off on making a formal request for extra assistance until it was clear there was a legislative vehicle to attach it to.
Although it could take months for any additional aid to gain congressional approval, Israel is in no particular hurry.
An official at the Israeli Embassy here said Israel does not want such aid to be seen as a direct payoff for its restraint in responding to Iraq’s repeated Scud missile attacks.
One pro-Israel lobbyist suggested Israel had erred by asking for exactly $1 billion, saying the request would have been better received if it were the $910 million figure used by Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens two weeks ago in meetings with senior U.S. officials.
The $910 million figure included Israel’s added military costs projected through April 1. Asked how the figure jumped $90 million so fast, the Israeli Embassy official speculated that it may have stemmed from the costs incurred from some of the latest Scud attacks.
Israel receives $3 billion each year in regular economic and military assistance from the United States. In addition, it just received U.S. guarantees for $400 million in loans to build housing for Soviet Jewish immigrants.