WASHINGTON – Despite recent tensions between the US and Egypt and a new
Palestinian Authority government set to include Hamas, the Obama administration
budget unveiled Monday maintains nearly the same level of funding for both in
Egypt, which has arrested several US citizens who work for NGOs
promoting democracy, is slated to receive $1.3 billion for military assistance
under the plan and $250 million for economic assistance, as was also approved
“Our goal is to provide the necessary funds. It’s obviously
clear to all of us that we have issues we need to work through, and we’re
working very aggressively to do so,” said Deputy Secretary of State Tom Nides
after the budget plan was released. “But this budget reflects our commitment and
our desire to fully fund this initiative.”
He said the administration
would be consulting with Congress, several members of which have said the
detentions could cause the US to withhold money from Cairo.
Palestinians will see a slight roll back in economic aid from $395m. in 2012 to
$370m. in 2013 as well as cut back in police training from $150m. to
An administration official explained the first reduction as
stemming from an improved economic situation in the Palestinian territories and
the second as due to the curtailment of US provision of equipment for police
officers as those supplies have already been delivered.
He said when it
comes to the role of Hamas, a US-designated terrorist organization, and its role
in the Palestinian government, the administration would revisit the issue in
2013 when the money was actually due to be allocated.
“When we get to
2013 and we have to work with Congress on the allocations we have to assess
where that is a year from now... and the make-up of the government,” he
The budget plan also fully funds US military assistance to Israel
as agreed under the 10-year Memorandum of Understanding signed between the two
countries, and includes a $770m. “Middle East and North Africa Incentive
The allocation, of which officials said $700m. was new money, is
aimed at allowing the US “to quickly respond to dramatic changes in the region
and incentivize reforms,” according to a State Department budget fact
“We’re in a new world. The Arab Spring has come. We need to make
sure we have the tools and the flexibility to fund these initiatives,” Nides
While much of the funding appears fluid, an administration official
said it was important the money would be available to help encourage the
emergence of governments in the region that worked with the United States and so
that the country could rapidly respond to new challenges, for example dealing
with the fallout from the volatile situation in Syria.
officials stressed that the $56.1 billion budget was only one percent of the
overall federal budget, and the new Middle East funding was mostly off-set by
cuts to regions including Europe and Asia.
But the budget total still
grew from 2012 and could face resistance on Capitol Hill both because of
members’ concerns over the behavior of Middle East countries such as Egypt and
because of policy differences with countries like Egypt but also because of
Republican concern over deficits.
Despite the GOP’s interest in cuts,
since Republicans have gained control of the House, Israel has been able to
maintain the modest growth in aid dictated by the 10-year
Israel, which is due to get $3.075 billion in 2012, would get
$3.1 billion in 2013 should the plan be approved.