Israel asks Congress to be included in sequester cuts


WASHINGTON (JTA) — Israel has asked Congress not to exempt it from aid cuts under the sequestration.

Budget sequestration, a law passed in 2011 and triggered in March of this year when Congress and the administration failed to agree on a budget, mandates across-the-board cuts of about 8 percent. Israel has requested that any budget cuts apply equally to the defense assistance it receives annually from the U.S. government.

“The Israeli position is, as I understand it, we don’t want to be in the position if there is a percentage reduction that we will not be affected in the same way,” Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the minority whip in the U.S. House of Representatives, told JTA in an interview Thursday from Israel, where he is leading a delegation. “At the same time that we’re reducing expenditures, others might say we’re being hurt, Israel is being treated differently.”

Michael Oren, the Israel ambassador to Washington, confirmed the request.

“The American people are bearing the burden of sequestration and we will bear that burden with them,” he said in a statement to JTA.

In the coming fiscal year, Israel is due to receive $3.1 billion in defense assistance with an additional $607 million for its Iron Dome anti-missile system, which Israel says was instrumental in repelling rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip during last November’s war. Also potentially affected would be more than $450 million in American contributions to joint U.S.-Israel anti-missile programs.

Hoyer said he did not know which programs would be cut and by how much, noting that debate over the budget would begin in earnest after the August recess. Hoyer said the sequester was adversely affecting the U.S. defense posture.

“It’s going to have adverse effects not only on Iron Dome but on America’s own national defense investments,” he said.

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