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100th Congress Approved Billions for Israel, Other Jewish Causes

January 22, 1988
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The term “milking” is often used pejoratively when referring to congressional appropriations. But Holocaust studies in Poland will actually get a boost this year from sales of U.S. dairy products.

This is happening because in 1987 — a year of unprecedented U.S. congressional support of Israel and Jews — Congress voted to give surplus milk and cheese to Poland, so long as $500,000 of the money the Polish government earns from the sale is used for Holocaust studies at Polish universities.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee termed the first session of the 100th Congress “a benchmark in legislative activity strengthening the U.S.-Israeli relationship.” It had called the 99th Congress two years of “unprecedented cooperation” between the two countries.

Congress will have another chance to deal with policies on Israel and other Jewish issues when it convenes Monday for the second session of the 100th Congress.

The first session assured Israel will continue to receive $3 billion annually in military and economic grants in 1988 and 1989, meaning no effect so far from the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit-reduction law.

Additional congressional measures benefitting the Jewish state, beyond the $3 billion, include:

A debt refinancing plan for foreign aid recipients that will save Israel an estimated $2 billion over 20 years. The plan, approved late in 1987, is expected to be worth $150 million to Israel in 1988 by converting high-interest loans to low-interest loans.

$34 million to construct a Voice of America transmitter in the Negev.

$25 million for refugee settlement in Israel.

$4 million for joint Middle East regional development programs involving Egypt and Israel. In previous years, $5 million had gone for that purpose, but Congress is giving the remaining $1 million as scholarships for Israeli students studying in Arab countries and Arab students studying in Israel.

Military measures include:

Requiring the Pentagon to buy $38 million of remotely piloted vehicles (drones) from Israel.

Permitting Israel to spend $400 million of the $1.8 billion in military aid for projects inside Israel.

Providing the U.S. Air Force with $8 million to continue testing Israel’s Popeye air-to-ground missile. The Strategic Air Command is thinking of mounting the Popeyes on its B-52 bombers.

Funding a U.S. Army study to evaluate Israeli tank munitions, which could lead to U.S. purchases of that equipment from Israel.

Continuing U.S. payments for multinational peacekeeping forces in the Sinai and Lebanon.

Prohibiting aid to countries supporting terrorism, including Syria, Iran, Libya and South Yemen.

Nonmonetary measures passed by Congress relating to Jewish issues include:

Closing a loophole in a previous measure requiring the United States to suspend participation in any United Nations entity that excludes Israel from membership, except for the International Atomic Energy Agency’s safeguards program and the U.N. Security Council.

Expressing opposition to the 1975 U.N. General Assembly resolution equating Zionism with racism and calling on the administration to seek repeal of the measure.

Renewing the prohibition against U.S. diplomats negotiating with the Palestine Liberation Organization and prohibiting funding to U.N. functions benefitting the PLO, such as the U.N.’s Palestine Day.

Expressing its sentiment that the Soviet Union should not be allowed to participate in an international Middle East peace conference so long as it fails to renew relations with Israel.

Allowing U.S. Jewish military personnel to wear skullcaps.

On another front of interest to Jews, Congress approved nearly 150,000 tons of food aid to Ethiopia in 1987, 115,000 of which was in emergency aid. Unresolved is the fate of a bill that would impose sanctions on Ethiopia for its human rights violations.

But 1987 also saw some legislative and administrative actions that were not wholeheartedly endorsed by the Jewish community, such as the cancellation of Israel’s Lavi jet fighter.

The State Department and Congress ordered the closing of the PLO’s Washington office, but a fight is brewing over the status of its U.N. observer mission. Congress ordered it closed, but the Reagan administration is worried about the diplomatic results if it should close it.

A New York-based Jewish organization, Ozar Hatorah, received $8 million to build yeshivas for Sephardic Jews who are refugees now living in Paris and its suburbs. The allocation came from the U.S. refugee aid budget even though it is questionable how poor the beneficiaries really are. Jewish newspapers including The Washington Jewish Week and the New York Jewish Week have written editorials criticizing the designation.

The State Department, as Congress was about to adjourn, unsuccessfully sought $23 million to upgrade conditions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Jordan did receive $18 million in aid, most of which is to be used on the West Bank.

Saudi Arabia received $1 billion in arms, although only after Congress forced President Reagan to eliminate 1,600 Maverick air-to-ground missiles from the package. The modified deal provided the Saudis with 12 new F-15 warplanes, as well as upgraded electronics and tank parts.

Bahrain received 70 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles. That sale was approved by the Senate even though its Appropriations Committee earlier voted against it.

On the domestic agenda, action has not yet occurred on a bill that would impose criminal penalties for damage to religious property and injury to persons in the free exercise of their religious beliefs. That measure, known as the Hate Crimes bill, passed the House and is now in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

A bill that would require the Justice Department to gather statistics on hate crimes is also pending.

Other major domestic issues of special interest to Jews, expected to arise in the next few months, are the Senate’s vote on Judge Anthony Kennedy’s nomination to the Supreme Court, its consideration of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and legislation on child care, health care, housing, welfare reform, immigration and sanctions against South Africa.

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