US to give Egypt $1.3 billion in military aid in ‘11

Israel slated for $3b.; Egypt will also receive economic aid "with the understanding that the gov't will undertake democratic reforms."

WASHINGTON – Despite the upheaval in Egypt and a Republican push for steep cuts to foreign aid, Egypt was slated Friday to receive its traditional $1.3 billion in military assistance from the US for 2011.
The foreign aid spending bill announced Friday also provides up to $250 million in economic assistance to Egypt “with the understanding that the government will undertake significant economic and democratic reforms,” according to a statement released by Texas Republican Kay Granger, chairwoman of the House appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations.
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Under the aid bill, Israel is also to be fully funded with the $3b. in military aid it is due in 2011 under a memorandum signed by the two countries, as well as with increases to missile defense programs proposed last year, totaling $415m. Of that, $205m. will be a first-time allocation to the Iron Dome short-range missile defense program, with the balance going to the Arrow long-range system and David’s Sling medium-range project.
In addition, the Palestinian Authority is set to receive $552m., despite questions from some GOP members, including House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, about the utility of that aid, and whether the current Palestinian leaders are committed to peace.
Military aid to Lebanon, however, would only be approved in the event that the secretary of state determines it is “in the national interest of the United States,” according to Granger’s statement.
“The spending priorities in the bill reflect the fluid and tenuous situation in the Middle East,” Granger said.
“Volatility in the region highlights the importance of reaffirming our strategic partnerships and commitments. The events in the Middle East have a direct impact on the safety and security of the United States and our allies.”
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The assistance package covers foreign aid funding through the end of the 2011 fiscal year, since Congress did not succeed in passing a bill last session to cover the whole year. The previous Congress did, however, pass a threemonth budget, due to expire on March 4, which continued 2010 funding levels and therefore did not include the new missile defense allocations or the memorandum’s increase in Israel aid from $2.77b. to $3b.
Some Democrats had expressed concern that Israel would not receive its full funding, and criticized more broadly the GOP push to cut the foreign aid budget.
The high funding levels of aid to Middle Eastern countries stand in contrast to many other aspects of the foreign operations budget, which was cut by 21 percent overall – or $11.7b. – from what the White House originally requested for 2011, according to Granger’s office. Altogether, it was reduced by $3.8b. from the 2010 level to $44.9b. this year.
The cuts include freezing State Department salaries, scaling back contributions to the United Nations and rescinding unspent appropriations, Granger’s office said.
The new proposal must be approved by the full House as well as by the Democrat-controlled Senate before being sent for US President Barack Obama’s signature.