The multimillion-dollar “Star Wars” research that Israel is supposed to conduct for the United States may be in jeopardy, if the second highest-ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee has his way.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is trying to thwart a proposed amendment, introduced by Rep. Charles Bennett (D-Fla.), that would pare the Star Wars program from $3.5 billion to $2.8 billion.
The Pentagon’s Strategic Defense Initiative Organization threatened this month to cancel U.S.-Israeli joint research if its 1990 fiscal year budget is lower than the $3.2 billion, a congressional source said.
An official in the pro-Israel lobbying community predicted Wednesday that the amendment has enough votes to pass. The Defense Authorization Bill for the 1990 fiscal year comes up for a vote in the House of Representatives at the end of the month.
NO PROBLEM WITH FOREIGN AID
The Star Wars program is the “centerpiece of strategic cooperation” between Israel and the United States, the official said.
Under a three-year package to be renegotiated this year, Israel received $158 million to conduct research to build the so-called Arrow anti-tactical ballistic missile.
Under a cost-sharing formula, Israel finances 20 percent and the United States funds 80 percent of the research effort.
By contrast, few glitches have emerged so far for pro-Israel lobbyists in securing $3 billion in foreign aid for Israel for the 1990 fiscal year. That is the same amount of military and economic assistance that Israel has received for the last several fiscal years.
The House has approved the 1990-1991 Foreign Aid Authorization Bill, and the Senate Appropriations Committee is now considering the bill.
Pro-Israel lobbyists predict that, in the end, Congress will save the Arrow program. But the congressional source said cuts in Star Wars threaten the “long-term viability” of the Arrow program, including its research and production schedule.
SENATE BACKS PROGRAM
Cuts will lead to “a continual shortage of funds, and the ability of Congress to find quick and easy fixes” will diminish, the source said.
The Senate appears to back the program strongly. So pro-Israel lobbyists are trying to secure a much higher funding level in the Senate’s version of the bill, around $4 billion, to offset the possibility of a lower figure in the House bill.
But this threat to the Arrow program is being taken more seriously than another made by Defense Secretary Richard Cheney last month.
Cheney said he would cut the Arrow program if the House approved a proposed amendment to transfer $822 million from the Star Wars program to fight the spread of drugs.
While that move was purely political, pro-Israel lobbyists said, the latest threat may represent “serious policy.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.