WASHINGTON (Mar. 7)
The State Department has distanced itself from remarks made by U.S. Ambassador to Israel William Harrop last week suggesting a possible cutback in U.S. aid to the Jewish state.
Speaking in Israel, Harrop was quoted as saying March 4 that “it may prove difficult to maintain our economic aid” to Israel “at its current high level.”
But State Department spokesman Richard Boucher on Friday reiterated the Clinton administration’s commitment to maintaining aid to Israel at its current $3 billion annual level.
“The president’s fiscal year 1994 budget does not assume any cuts in security assistance to Israel and Egypt,” Boucher said. “It is our intention to continue significant levels of aid to Israel and Egypt.”
Boucher later clarified that by “security assistance,” he meant the entire $3 billion sum for Israel, which includes $1.8 billion in military aid and $1.2 billion in economic assistance.
While Boucher avoided either criticizing or defending Harrop, he made it clear that the ambassador was not expressing the official views of the U.S. government.
“Ambassador Harrop was not speaking on instructions,” Boucher said. “His remarks on possible aid cuts may perhaps be a reflection of his own personal views, but I do want to make clear he was not speaking on instructions.”
President Clinton, Vice President Al Gore and Secretary of State Warren Christopher have all publicly expressed support for maintaining aid to Israel at its current level.
But in the current climate of financial sacrifice, supporters of Israel have expressed concern that foreign aid may be significantly sliced in future budget plans.
In his remarks, Harrop, a Bush appointee, expressed concern that aid to Israel may not be able to continue at its current level.
“The commitment of the American government and people to Israel is not in question now or in the future,” he said, “but it may prove difficult to maintain our economic aid at its current high level.”
“It is not prudent,” the ambassador said, “for a nation to rely in the long term even on its most dependable ally for 7 to 8 percent of its national budget.”