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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

House Appropriations Subcommittee conditions aid to 'Palestinians,' Egypt, Lebanon

On Wednesday, the US House Appropriations Subcommittee for Foreign Operations is scheduled to review the foreign operations budget for fiscal 2012. The budget provides over $3 billion in aid to Israel, but establishes conditions for aid to the 'Palestinians,' Egypt and Lebanon.
It also contains $513 million for the Palestinian Authority, though in order to receive any of the money dedicated for security assistance, the secretary of state must certify that the PA “is not attempting to establish or seek recognition at the United Nations of a Palestinian state outside of an agreement negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians.”

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In addition, the Palestinians would forfeit the American economic assistance should “any power-sharing government of which Hamas is a member or that results from an agreement with Hamas” come to power.

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Other limitations on the Palestinians include a commitment working with the Israeli security authorities and stamping out terrorism and terror financing, though the president can waive the limitations if he determines providing the assistance is necessary for US national security.

The president does not have waiver authority when it comes to Lebanon and Egypt, however, which ratchets the language of this bill higher than that approved last week by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The latter bill is meant to establish guidelines over foreign aid that the appropriations bill – which actually allocates specific dollar amounts – must follow.

The appropriations bill rules out military aid to Lebanon entirely if members of Hezbollah participate in the government. While $100m. in military funding has been given to Lebanon in years past, the current bill doesn’t designate any money even if the secretary of state certifies Hezbollah is not in the government.

However, the current government in Lebanon, which just came into office this year and is headed by a prime minister backed by Hezbollah, would be unable to qualify for the assistance.

Egypt, for its part, is due to receive $1.55b., roughly consistent with allocations in previous years, but that money is conditioned on its keeping its peace treaty with Israel, among other measures. The $250m. in economic assistance that comprises that funding would be additionally put on condition that no foreign terrorist organization heads the government.

Though whether the Muslim Brotherhood qualifies as a terrorist organization is a matter of debate.

Subcommittee chairwoman Kay Granger (R-Texas) told The Jerusalem Post that language would apply to a parliament in which the brotherhood held the majority. She said the description was vague at this point because elections had yet to be held in Egypt.

Granger said the fact that the Israel aid was fully funded, according to the terms of the memorandum of understanding, and was not conditioned was a sign of the key relationship between the two countries.

“It’s a priority because Israel’s important to the United States,” she said, adding the large amount of aid for Israel was warranted under the dictate that US assistance first and foremost had to preserve Israel’s national security.

Though most of the Middle East aid was similar to previous years, the overall spending package put out by Granger, at $39.6b., is less than the approximately $50b. in foreign operations requested by the White House, and 18 percent less than what was allocated for 2011.
Of course, the problem is that when this goes to the Senate, they are likely to put in provisions giving Obama discretion to waive all the provisions that restrict aid to the 'Palestinians,' Egypt and Lebanon.

What could go wrong?

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