On Friday, the US House of Representatives Appropriations Committee approved the 2007 house foreign aid bill, which includes $2.46 billion for Israel. $2.34 billion of this amount will be military aid, and $120 million will be civilian aid.
US aid for Israel is calculated according to a formula set in the late 1990s by then-Minister of Finance Yaakov Neeman and then Israel Economic Minister to Washington Ohad Marani to gradually eliminate US civilian aid to Israel, and which was adopted by the US administration. The feeling in Israel at the time was Congress would not support civilian aid for long to a country with a developed economy like Israel’s.
Under the formula, US civilian aid for Israel is cut by $120 million a year, until it’s elimination in the 2009 US fiscal year. At the same time, US military aid for Israel would increase by $60 million a year to a ceiling of $2.4 billion a year, beginning in 2009. Israel will receive its last $60 million of US civilian aid in the 2008 US fiscal year.
The House appropriations bill must now go to a House plenum vote. The US Senate is now preparing its own appropriations bill. When approved, the two bills will go to a joint appropriations committee, which will reach a compromise between the House and Senate bills.
Under the House bill, US foreign aid will total $23.1 billion in 2007. As in every year, Israel is the largest recipient of US foreign aid, followed by Egypt ($1.7 billion, including $1.3 billion in military aid).
Efforts by the Egyptian government to strangle emerging signs of democracy in the country have roused the ire of Congress, and caused Congressman David Obey (Dem.-Wisconsin), the ranking Democratic on the House Appropriations Committee, to initiate a proposal to freeze some aid to Egypt until democratic reforms are instituted. However, the Bush administration made it clear that it opposed the initiative. US government officials and other legislators said Egypt was an important US ally in the war on terrorism. Nevertheless, even supporters of US aid for Egypt expressed concern about its poor human rights record.
Members of Congress are most incensed over the Egyptian government’s persecution of opposition activist and MP Iman Noor, sentenced to five years in prison by a Cairo court. Critics claim the charges were bogus. Congressman Obey’s amendment to the House foreign aid bill failed to pass the committee, but he and Congressman Tom Lantos (Dem.-California) have initiated a second, much tougher, amendment than the one that failed in committee.
The House foreign aid bill includes $3.4 billion to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria; $522 million for stabilization efforts in Iraq; and $962 million for Afghanistan.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes.co.il - on May 28, 2006
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