Israel’s ‘security assistance’ comes from the same pot of money as economic aid. With the White House promising cuts to that part of the federal budget, could we see a surprise reduction in Israel’s share?
Recent White House statements hint at a massive increase in U.S. military spending and a corresponding cut in the country’s foreign aid, a prospect that has prompted more than 120 top generals, among them former CIA director Gen. David Petraeus, to sign a letter urging members of Congress against the move.
At issue is the so-called 150 Account, the line item in the federal budget tied to “international affairs” — a $50 billion appropriation covering everything from consular services to disaster relief to funding for international organizations like UNICEF. (You can find the entire 2017 budget request here.)
Seldom mentioned in the debate over foreign assistance, however, is the last item in the 150 Account, “Foreign Military Financing,” which alone represents more than 10 percent of the account’s total. And of that, more than half — $3.1 billion — is set aside for Israel.
With all the talk of significant cuts to the 150 Account, some are wondering whether a proportional reduction in U.S. aid to Israel is also in the offing. Despite vows by lawmakers that dramatic cuts to the foreign assistance budget would be “dead on arrival,” The Jerusalem Post, in a December report, cited a senior Israeli military officer who expressed concern over whether the new U.S. administration could backtrack on earlier commitments.
The answer might come down to a legal distinction.
U.S. commitments to Israel, according to the budget’s notes, were set “in accordance with” a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2007, at the tail end of then-President George W. Bush’s second term. A similar 10-year agreement, inked last September by the outgoing administration of Barack Obama, is to take effect in 2018 and would boost the annual aid amount to $3.8 billion.
In both cases, the “understandings” do not rise to the level of law, and since the combined amount pledged by each prior president is to be allocated annually, the White House must “request” Israel’s allotment each year as part of the 150 Account (for more background on recent U.S. aid to Israel, see this Obama White House factsheet).
In other words, the current White House could conceivably propose cuts to that allotment.
The budget request...Read More