WASHINGTON – Two leading Republicans chastised US President Barack Obama for
cutting missile defense funding to Israel in the 2013 budget, in a letter released on Wednesday.
“We are deeply concerned that
at a time of rising threats to our strongest ally in the Middle East, the
administration is requesting record-low support for this vital defense
cooperation program,” wrote Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, chairwoman of
the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Buck McKeon of California,
chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
The new White House
budget request reduces funding in this area from $106 million for this year to
$99m. in 2013. The authors noted that Congress ended up more than
doubling the 2012 administration request to $215m.
sources have told the Post
that they anticipate a similar congressional increase
in funding for 2013, wiping out any reduction.
The White House did not
immediately react to the letter, but referred the Post to a White House website
post by Jarrod Bernstein, director of Jewish outreach, in which he wrote,
“Informed by our ongoing high-level security dialogue with key Israeli defense
and intelligence officials, the president has requested unprecedented support
for Israel, even in a challenging fiscal climate.” Obama’s budget
includes a record-high $3.1 billion in military assistance to Israel in addition
to the missile defense spending.
“The fact is that the president
submitted to Congress on Monday the largest White House budget request for
foreign military assistance for Israel ever,” said National Jewish Democratic
Council President David Harris. “But it’s not just the largest for Israel. It’s
the largest foreign military assistance request for any country in
Harris described the White House request and the anticipated
congressional boosting for missile defense as consistent with the practice of
former president George W. Bush, a Republican.
“I’m aware that
there’s a $6m. piece of pain,” Harris said, but added, “This is only the first
step in the process and I’m confident that President Obama will ensure that
Israel gets every dollar it needs for missile defense.”