House passes foreign aid package

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. House of Representatives approved foreign funding that included aid packages for Israel and the Palestinians.

Israel won $2.775 billion when the funds approved in the bill 2010 appropriations bill passed Thursday are added to those approved in an earlier supplemental funding bill, consistent with the memorandum of understanding signed two years ago that guarantees Israel $30 billion in defense assistance over 10 years. Israel also was allotted $25 million in refugee settlement assistance, the only remnant of U.S. assistance to Israel’s domestic economy.

Also approved was more than $500 million in assistance for the Palestinians, including up to $150 million that may be transferred directly to the Palestinian Authority and $100 million that will go to training P.A. security forces.

Egyptian and Jordanian funding also remained consistent: $1.3 billion in Egyptian defense assistance and $250 million in assistance for the Egyptian economy; and $300 million in defense assistance for Jordan as well as $363 million in economic assistance. The bill also would keep the U.S. Import-Export Bank from guaranteeing companies that have significant stakes in Iran’s energy sector.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee praised the bill’s passage.

"This year’s package holds heightened significance with the United States, the region and Israel facing renewed challenges from Iran’s drive to dominate the Middle East, acquire nuclear weapons and its support for Islamic terrorist movements, including Hezbollah and Hamas," said AIPAC’s president, David Victor. "Congress’ support for this year’s aid package sends the strong, unambiguous message that the United States stands firmly behind Israel and underscores the strength of the U.S.-Israel bond."

A number of amendments proposed by Republicans were rejected, including several that would have repeated existing restrictions aimed at keeping funds from reaching terrorist groups like Hamas; shifted funds from other areas to promote democracy in Iran; and expressed reassurances that Republicans support aid to Israel to the exclusion of other foreign aid. Pro-Israel groups have in the past targeted for criticism Congress members who vote against the overall aid package.

The overall $48.8 billion bill passed 318-106; of the 106 voting against, 97 were Republicans.

The U.S. Senate is considering a similar bill. Subsequent to its passage, both bills must be reconciled, subject to new votes and then sent to President Obama for his approval.

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