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House approves existing levels of Israel aid

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. House of Representatives approved current levels of defense assistance to Israel.

The omnibus foreign operations bill for 2010 approved Dec. 10 is the compromise bill after a House-Senate conference. It is assured of passage in the Senate and of President Obama’s signature.

Despite the recession, the $2.22 billion allocated by the bill to defense assistance for Israel, combined with the $555 million approved in an earlier supplemental spending measure, maintains the 2007-17 schedule established under the Bush administration that provides Israel with a total of $30 billion in defense assistance.

The only substantial non-military assistance to Israel in the bill is $25 million in refugee resettlement, money that has traditionally been earmarked for Jewish immigrants from Ethiopia and the former Soviet Union. The joint explanatory statement by the House and Senate explicitly prohibits such spending in settlements.

The foreign operations bill also provides $400 million in assistance to the Palestinians, including up to $150 million in direct assistance to the Palestinian Authority, in addition to $100 million for training Palestinian security forces. It also maintains much expanded levels of direct assistance to the Palestinian Authority established in the final years of the Bush administration, and reflects expanded trust in the leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

The bill and the earlier supplemental bill continue standard levels of defense assistance to Egypt at $1.3 billion and Jordan, at $300 million. The levels were established after both countries signed peace treaties with Israel.

The foreign operations bill incorporates another bill that bans the U.S. Export-Import Bank, a body that promotes international trade with the United States, from assisting entities that invest $20 million or more a year in Iran’s energy sector. The original bill was sparked by anger this year at revelations that an Indian company that benefited from the U.S. bank was heavily invested in Iran. The language in its strictest sense, however, applies only to new bank business.

This year’s foreign operations bill also requires the State Department to produce a report on resolutions by the U.N. Human Rights Council, a body that disproportionately singles out Israel for criticism.

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