A senior member of Congress has threatened to cut off all foreign aid to Egypt unless President Hosni Mubarak warms up to Israel and ends contact with Libya.
“I will lead the fight to terminate aid to Egypt if Mubarak continues the process of flirtation with [Libyan strongman Muammar] Gadhafi and if his increasingly hostile statements to Israel don’t come to an end,” said Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) at a gathering here of the American Jewish Committee’s national leadership last week.
Lantos, a longtime Israel supporter and a staunch advocate of aid to Israel and Egypt in the past, spoke at the AJCommittee gathering only hours after he expressed similar sentiments to Secretary of State Warren Christopher at a hearing of the House International Relations Committee.
“I’m asking you, Mr. Secretary, to convey in the strongest possible terms to the Egyptian government that the good will and financial support of the American Congress is directly related to the attitude Egypt takes both with respect to the peace process and with respect to terrorism,” Lantos said at the hearing.
Egypt has received an annual $2.1 billion in U.S. foreign aid since signing the Camp David accords in 1978. Those accords led to a peace treaty with Israel the following year. Only Israel receives more U.S. aid – $3 billion annually.
Israeli officials have expressed increasing alarm at hostile statements emanating from Cairo. Egypt has reportedly encouraged Arab countries to slow down their efforts to initiate ties with Israel until a deal with Syria is signed.
Egypt has also been pushing Israel to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which comes up for renewal this year.
Christopher responded to Lanto’s remarks, saying that Mubarak “deserves great credit for leadership in the Middle East peace process.”
But Christopher added: “But we simply don’t understand the [the Egyptians'] relationships with Gadhafi, and we have simply indicated that we think those are ill-advised.”
Also, during his address to the AJCommittee, Lantos threatened to cut aid to Russia and to end trading privileges extended to China if both countries continue to assist Iran in developing nuclear reactors.
U.S. officials have expressed concern that such aid could be used to make enriched fuel for nuclear weapons.
Lantos also said he plans to introduce legislation linking aid to an end to support for Iran.