WASHINGTON (Jan. 14)
The Clinton administration will seek to maintain the current high level of foreign aid to Israel, Secretary of State-designate Warren Christopher told the Senate this week.
“There’s a very strong case for the maintenance of aid at those existing levels, a case that’s usually strongly put and strongly felt here on Capitol Hill,” Christopher told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during confirmation hearings Wednesday.
His comments came in response to a question from freshman Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), who asked for specific examples of where the Clinton administration might consider cutting back on foreign aid.
Christopher responded that some “military supply relationships” could be cut back now that the United States is “out of the Cold War era.”
But he added that the new administration would seek to maintain aid to Israel and Egypt at their existing levels, despite the fact that “a tremendous proportion” of U.S. aid goes to those two countries.
Christopher reaffirmed that position in testimony Thursday.
When committee Sen. Claiborne Pell (D-R.I.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, asked the secretary-designate whether he shared “the president-elect’s views on the importance of continuing aid to Israel and Egypt at the current level,” Christopher responded: “Absolutely, Mr. Chairman, both because he is president and because those are my personal views.”
Israel currently receives $3 billion a year in U.S. aid, including $1.8 billion in military assistance and $1.2 billion in economic aid. That is more than any other foreign recipient, but it is an amount that has remained constant since the mid-1980s.
In a political climate favoring a shift of priorities to domestic concerns, Christopher’s strong endorsement of maintaining a high level of aid to Israel undoubtedly came as a relief to pro-Israel forces.
Jewish organizational leaders were also pleased by other pro-Israel statements Christopher made in the course of his confirmation hearings Wednesday and Thursday.
In his opening statement to the Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday, Christopher said the Clinton administration would be “committed to maintaining a strong and vibrant strategic relationship” with Israel.
In addition, in response to a question from Sen. Larry Pressler (R-S.D.), Christopher said he would raise the issue of the Arab boycott against Israel when he met with Arab leaders in “the very near future.”