US congressman introduces bill to cut off Lebanon aid

Rep. Howard Berman forms an unlikely alliance with three Lebanese-American colleagues in bid to stop US funding to Hezbollah government.

By JTA
June 19, 2011 17:29
1 minute read.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah

Hezbollah's Hassan Nasrallah 311 (R). (photo credit: Reuters)

 
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LOS ANGELES - A Jewish congressman has joined with three Lebanese-American colleagues to sponsor a bill to cut off American aid to Lebanon, as long as Hezbollah remains part of the ruling coalition government.

The unusual alliance, cutting across ethnic and political lines, was initiated by Democratic Rep. Howard Berman of Los Angeles and includes Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Charles Boustany (R-La.) and Nick Rahall (D-W. Va.).

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Designated as the Hezbollah Anti-Terrorism Act, or HATA, the bill seeks legislation “to make certain that no US taxpayer funds benefit the terrorist organization Hezbollah or any party that allies itself with Hezbollah,” Berman said in a phone interview Friday from his Washington office.

Berman drafted and introduced HATA a few days after the formation of a new Lebanese government “forged by Hezbollah and led by a Hezbollah-designated prime minister [Najib Mikati],” Berman said.

The California legislator, formerly the chairman and now the ranking democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, termed his alliance with the three Lebanese-American congressmen as “very unusual.”

He attributed the support by his three colleagues to their deep concern over Hezbollah’s threat to freedom and democracy in their ancestral homeland, overriding any differences with Berman on Israeli-Palestinian issues.

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Issa commented that “Hezbollah is a terrorist group and a cancer on Lebanon. This bill surgically targets this cancer.”

Currently, Lebanon annually receives $200 million in aid from the United States, of which $105 million goes for security assistance. The new bill specifically provides for continued support for humanitarian, educational and democratic institutions in Lebanon.

Berman said that the White House and State Department “knew generally” about the contents of HATA, before he introduced the bill.

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