Congress, Bush keep Israel promise

Congress and President Bush kept their pledge to boost defense assistance for Israel despite deadlock on budget issues.

The final version of the supplemental appropriations bill passed last week in Congress includes an additional $170 million in defense assistance for Israel. Bush signed the bill Monday.

The sum will be added to $2.38 billion for Israel in a “continuing resolution” likely to be passed later this year, bringing defense assistance up to the $2.55 billion that President Bush promised last year.

“Continuing resolutions” are passed when Congress and the White House are deadlocked over budget matters, as they are this year. The resolutions maintain funding for domestic and foreign programs at existing levels.

Adding the $170 million means Congress and the White House are making an exception to the deadlock tradition of maintaining funding at existing levels. They are doing so to make good on their pledge to increase Israel’s defense assistance from an average of $2.4 billion annually over the last decade to an average of $3 billion over the next.

“The U.S. commitment to maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge is the cornerstone of American policy in the region,” the American Israel Public Affairs Committee said in a statement. “The effort to secure this vital increase in American aid to our ally Israel could not have happened without the active support of the bipartisan leadership of the House and Senate, and AIPAC applauds their effort.”

The supplemental package also includes nearly $200 million in assistance to the Palestinian Authority, a boost aimed at helping its moderate leadership confront extremists at a time of peace talks with Israel.

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