WASHINGTON (Oct. 3)
Israel’s annual package of $3 billion in U.S. aid cleared its final hurdle on Capitol Hill last week, as both houses of Congress voted by large margins to adopt the 1994 foreign aid appropriations bill.
The votes of 321-108 in the House of Representative Sept. 29 and 87-11 in the Senate the next day came as a relief to pro-Israel forces.
In the current climate of economic shortages, supporters of Israel here had worried that Congress might not look favorably on a continuation of hefty aid packages to countries like Israel, the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid.
The congressional votes followed a House-Senate conference committee meeting on Sept. 27.
Aside from the $3 billion, the foreign aid legislation calls for Israel to receive an additional $80 million to absorb refugees from Ethiopia and the republics of the former Soviet Union.
The bill also calls for Israel to receive its aid no later than Oct. 31.
Other provisions state that the United States would consider a country’s participation in the Arab boycott against Israel before selling it arms, and that the United States should urge Syria to allow its Jewish community to emigrate freely.
The bill also stipulates that U.S. funds to international organizations should not support terrorist groups.
But in a sign of changing times, the bill modifies some previously existing restrictions on U.S. funds to international groups assisting the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Since the historic agreement was signed Sept. 13 between Israel and the PLO, the Clinton administration has sought to modify some restrictions on U.S. ties to the PLO.
The PLO, long considered a terrorist group, has been the subject of various congressionally mandated prohibitions over the years.
The new bill calls for one-year waivers on some of the financial restrictions, provided that President Clinton certifies to Congress that the PLO is abiding by its agreement to recognize Israel and renounce violence.
Under the $12.9 billion bill, the Palestinians will receive $25 million, the former Soviet republics $2.5 billion and Egypt $2.1 billion.