US Congress 390.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – A congressional subcommittee approved a foreign aid budget
tightening control over money to Egypt and the Palestinians Wednesday following
some members’ concern over developments in the region.
The House foreign
operations appropriations subcommittee passed by voice vote the $40.1 billion
foreign operations budget for 2013, which includes fully funding the $3.1b. US
commitment to Israeli military assistance as part of the 10-year Memorandum of
Understanding between the two countries.
However, the legislation cut
funding for UNESCO, after the UN body voted to recognize Palestine as a member
state. The Obama administration has been seeking a way to restore funding to the
organization, though the law in its current format prohibits American
contributions to any UN group that unilaterally recognizes the
The bill, which should be voted on by the entire
appropriations committee next week, also maintains $1.3b. in military aid
to Egypt as an ongoing commitment stemming from the Camp David
But following the Egyptian revolution and questions about its
new government that will take power, Congress imposed more conditions on the
military aid and $250m. in economic assistance.
Should Egypt break its
treaty with Israel, as some emerging political voices have threatened, the
assistance would automatically be cut. In addition, the US secretary of state
would need to certify that upcoming elections are free and policies respecting
civil rights are being implemented.
Though the secretary would have the
ability to waive the restriction based on the elections if providing the aid to
Egypt was declared in the national security interests of the United States,
there is no waiver provision if the peace treaty ruptures.
limitations stem in part from a desire by Congress to tighten control of
allocations after US President Barack Obama used a waiver to override a member’s
hold on funds to the Palestinian Authority last month, according to Capitol Hill
Congress has also been upset by the detention of American
pro-democracy NGO workers in Egypt, and has threatened aid to Egypt on this
account as well.
The Palestinians would see their funding withheld if
they made any agreement with Hamas and did not actively work to end incitement,
a tightening of the current language ruling out aid under a unity government
between Fatah and Hamas.
The bill cuts $2b. off last year’s budget and
billions more from Obama’s proposal unveiled in February.