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House Foreign Aid Bill Preserves Current Levels for Israel, Egypt

Despite a budget-cutting climate on Capitol Hill, foreign aid for Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority will be kept intact if the House of Representatives has its way.

The House passed a $12 billion foreign aid package on Tuesday.

Known as the Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 1996, the legislation is 11 percent below current foreign aid levels and 20 percent less than what the Clinton administration had proposed.

The House passage was applauded by several Jewish groups, though some expressed concern about the overall reduction in foreign assistance.

The Senate is expected to take up the bill in the next few weeks. The legislation will then to go to a Senate-House conference committee for final retooling.

The bill, which actually sets spending for the next fiscal year, includes $3 billion for Israel, $2.1 billion for Egypt and $100 million for the Palestinians.

Of the $3 billion designated for Israel, $1.2 billion is for economic assistance and $1.8 billion is for security measures.

The bill includes a provision, also included in last year’s foreign aid package, that stipulates that the Palestinians cannot receive the designated aid unless the president certifies that they are complying with their peace accords with Israel.

The measure also contains $595 million in aid to the 12 former Soviet Union republics, most of which will go to Russia. The figure represents a significant drop from the current $842 million in aid and $2.2 billion from 1994.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the pro-Israel lobby, one of whose main issues is foreign aid, was “extremely pleased” with the House’s strong bipartisan vote, said Neal Sher, AIPAC’s executive director.

“Full funding for Israel is particularly significant in light of the budget- cutting climate on the Hill,” he said in a statement.

The aid for Israel and Egypt alone comprises about 40 percent of the $12 billion package.

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, also lauded the bill’s passage.

“We’re very pleased that it passed. It contains many provisions which are of great importance to Israel and the peace process,” he said.

Other Jewish organizational officials welcomed the legislation, which passed 333-89, but were not fully satisfied with the overall reduction in foreign aid. Some officials said they had particularly hoped for further assistance to Africa. The House bill includes $528 million for African projects, down from $802 million in the last bill.

This was the “bare minimum necessary” to meet America’s obligations overseas, said Jason Isaacson, government and international affairs director at the American Jewish Committee.

But a trimmed aid budget is better than no appropriations bill at all, he added.

AJCommittee had launched a media campaign to muster support for foreign aid.

“American leadership in world affairs is expensive. Until you consider the alternative,” read an advertisement sponsored by AJCommittee that has run in major newspaper and magazines over the past month.

Others were particularly pleased that financial and technical assistance will continue to flow to the former Soviet Union.

The aid is important as those nations “continue their long march toward democratic societies, which we believe is the best protection for Jews in those countries,” said Mark Levin, executive director of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry.

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