Congress Adjourns for Holidays after Passing Anti-Palestinian Foreign Aid Bill

Article excerpt

Shirl McArthur, a retired foreign service officer, is a consultant in the Washington, DC area.

Congress passed the conference report for the foreign aid appropriations bill (H.R. 2506) on Dec. 20, the day they adjourned until Jan. 23 for their holiday recess. As indicated in the previous issue of this magazine, the bill as passed included a modified version of H.R. 1795, the House bill that would impose sanctions on the PLO and the PA unless they comply with previous commitments. The only good news is that the modifications in the bill as passed all serve to soften the provisions' impact.

There were three major modifications. The first was the insertion of the word "substantially" in the sentence saying that the president shall determine whether the PLO or PA "has substantially complied with" its 1993 commitments to renounce the use of terrorism. This gives the president more latitude in determining whether there has been compliance.

The second major modification was to except development assistance from the possible sanction that would terminate U.S. assistance to the West Bank and Gaza, thus rendering the sanction essentially meaningless (humanitarian assistance was already excepted in the original bill). The third modification was the deletion from the list of possible sanctions the denial of visas to PLO and PA officials. As in the original bill, the section provides for a presidential waiver if he determines it is in "the national security interest of the U.S."

Except for a lower allocation for Tunisia, the money parts of the bill are the same as in the Senate version. The amounts earmarked are: to Israel, $2.04 billion in military grants and $720 million in economic grants, plus $60 million for refugee resettlement; to Egypt, $1.3 billion in military grants and $655 million in economic grants; to Lebanon, $35 million in economic grants; to Jordan, $150 million in economic aid and $75 million in military aid; and $3.5 million in military aid to Tunisia. In addition, $535 million of the military assistance for Israel may be spent in Israel.

As in previous years, the bill as passed includes several other Middle East-related provisions, such as the ones prohibiting direct or indirect funding to Iraq, Libya, Iran, Sudan, or Syria. It also includes the provision for a presidential waiver to the previously passed prohibitions on PLO official activities in the U.S.

Additionally, the Defense Department appropriations bill included $214.5 million for "U.S.-Israel cooperation programs," including $131.7 million for the Arrow missile program--$66 million more than the Bush administration had requested--$25 million for the Litening Targeting Pod, $20 million for Bradley Fighting Vehicle Reactive Armor, and $13 million for the Tactical High Energy Laser program. These programs are only thinly disguised handouts to Israel.

Anti-Saddam Sentiment Building

With the struggle against the al-Qaeda terrorist network apparently entering a less dramatic phase, there are voices within the administration and in Congress urging President George W. Bush to make the regime of Saddam Hussain in Iraq the next target in the war on terrorism. As described in the previous issue of the Washington Report, seven senators and three representatives wrote to Bush on Dec. 5 urging him to give military support and training to the Iraq National Congress to enable it to "directly confront Saddam." At the same time, Rep. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced a non-binding resolution, H.J.Res. 75, saying that Iraq's refusal to allow U.N. inspectors "immediate, unconditional, and unrestricted access" to facilities and documents "presents a mounting threat to the U. …