WASHINGTON (Oct. 2)
An amendment to provide Israel with U.S. guarantees for $10 billion in immigrant resettlement loans was introduced Wednesday in the Senate, but it will not be acted upon until January.
Sens. Robert Kasten (R-Wis.) and Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) thereby agreed to President Bush’s demand that the legislation be delayed until next year so as not to harm the chances of convening a Middle East peace conference later this month.
Kasten told the Senate that the decision was worked out as a compromise between senators and the Bush administration. The deal “keeps faith with 350,000 Soviet and Ethiopian refugees,” while avoiding a clash between Congress and the administration, he said.
“I believe that America will uphold this commitment to Israel and to millions of refugees who have looked to us for hope for over 45 years,” he said.
By introducing the amendment with 70 cosponsors, Kasten and Inouye put the president on notice that they have more than the 67 votes needed to override a presidential veto.
Bush threatened to veto the legislation if it was not postponed. He later said he would support loan guarantees eventually, although not necessarily for the full $10 billion.
The president has denied that his request for a delay was linked with Israel’s policy of continuing to build Jewish settlements in the West Bank, which the administration has called “an obstacle to peace.”
But Bush is expected to demand conditions for his support of the guarantees, perhaps even a freeze on settlements.
Tom Dine, executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, expressed gratitude for the strong backing that the Kasten-Inouye measure received in the Senate.
“We are extremely pleased with the overwhelming bipartisan support in the Congress for securing the refugee guarantees,” he said.