WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama signed a stop-gap budget measure
Wednesday for the next three months, that does not include hundreds of millions
of dollars for Israeli defense that he pledged earlier in the year.
bill does not provide $205 million in what would have been first-time American
funds for the short-range Iron Dome missile defense project, nor does it contain
the increases in medium- and long-range missile defense for 2011 approved
earlier in the year by the House of Representatives.
Democrats up in arms over hints of reduced aid for Israel
In addition, the
bill keeps general military aid for Israel at the same level as 2010 – as it
does for almost all other funding – even though it was supposed to increase from
$2.775 billion to $3b., according to a Memorandum of Understanding signed
between the US and Israel.
Once this temporary measure – passed to keep
the government from shutting down – expires in March, Congress will have a
chance to restore that funding. The White House indicated it would push for its
commitments to Israel to be filled at that time.
“The administration will
continue to work with the Congress to enact the president’s FY 2011 request
going forward, including full support for requested assistance programs for
Israel,” a senior administration official told The Jerusalem Post.
administration had made progress in House and Senate bills on getting the Iron
Dome project funded as well as full funding for Israel military assistance,” the
official said. “Unfortunately, those items were dropped, along with other
administration priorities, when the Senate couldn’t get past procedural
Several Republicans said that they expected Israel funds to be
considered favorably when the trimmed-down measure that was passed by the Senate
on Tuesday and signed by Obama on Wednesday ends in March.
lashed out at the GOP for including the aid to Israel in demands to hold
spending at 2010 levels for now.
“It is unfortunate that Senate
Republicans’ decision to block an Omnibus funding bill or year-long Continuing
Resolution means our ally Israel is left wondering whether the United States
will meet our commitment under the MOU,” Nita Lowey, the New York Democrat who
chairs the House subcommittee on foreign operations appropriations, told the
Post, referring to two other bills backed by Democrats that would have given
Israel the additional funds.
“The incoming Republican leadership has sent
disturbing signals about the future of aid to Israel,” California Democrat Henry
Waxman said, highlighting the MOU and Iron Dome funding.
are now at risk for the coming year. All who support US aid to Israel should
have reason to be concerned.”
But Republicans countered that Democrats in
both the Senate and House hadapproved the measure and charged they were playing politics with a bill that had
“They all voted for this bill. I would take
this with a grain of salt,” said Don Stewart, spokesman for Senate Minority
Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky).
He stressed that the bill “isn’t a
declaration of policy” and that senators would reconsider all the measures in
March, including maintaining their strong support of Israel aid.
doesn’t mean that it isn’t going to happen,” he said.
“It’s just a
Florida Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, incoming
chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that the GOP remained
highly committed to Israel but wanted to have the room to consider whether other
foreign aid allocations made sense.
“Republicans will not use security
assistance to Israel as a political tool to excuse separate, unsubstantiated
increases in US development aid across the board,” she said. “Security
assistance to Israel advances our national security priorities, and the return
on our investment in this critical US ally is clear, unlike many other of our
overseas programs and operations.”
“Senate Republicans and Democrats will
work together to ensure that assistance to Israel meets the Memorandum of
Understanding and ensure that security needs are met next year,” said a GOP
Senate staffer, noting that the full MOU amount for 2011 could be given to
He added that Republicans wanted to get through a
bill with as little extra spending beyond 2010 as possible for a short amount of
time so that the party would have more leverage on the budget once GOP members
took over the US House and bolstered their numbers in the Senate in
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), who worked with
McConnell on the details of the version of the budget bill that was signed into
law Wednesday, referred questions to the Senate Appropriations
Requests for comment by the chairman of the committee, Daniel
Inouye (D-Hawaii), went unanswered.
Obama had touted the special funding
he requested for the Iron Dome in May and was backed by congressional Democrats
in a high-profile fast-track effort to highlight their commitment to the