Republican Presidential candidate Texas Governor Rick Perry’s recent proposal to zero out the foreign aid budget—along with his specific inclusion of aid to Israel—irked many in the pro-Israel community. A number of pro-Israel leaders were concerned about Perry’s proposal because it omitted the overwhelming benefits received by the United States and Israel through the foreign aid program, in addition to the 2007 Memorandum of Understanding that provides Israel with additional military assistance for the next 10 years.
JTA’s Ron Kampeas reported:
‘Starting from zero,’ the foreign assistance plan touted by leading Republican candidates at a debate, is getting low marks, and not just from Democrats and the foreign policy community. Pro-Israel activists and fellow Republicans also have concerns….
The proposal of such a radical change raised concerns in the pro-Israel community.
‘Hacking away at the international affairs budget of the U.S. government is inefficient and counterproductive, and will not advance U.S. fiscal interests,’ said Jason Isaacson, the American Jewish Committee’s director of international affairs. ‘There’s too little money and it’s too vital to put on the chopping block.’
Josh Block, a Democratic consultant, referred to this policy as another “oops” moment for Perry:
‘Even appearing to question our commitment to Israel certainly falls in that category,’ Block said. ‘Foreign aid is one of the best investments we can make, and it represents 1 percent of our budget. Israel is special, and our aid to them is a direct investment in our own economy.’
Kampeas continued with his analysis, highlighting key facts of U.S. aid to Israel clearly overlooked by many top Republican candidates, including former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney:
At least three-quarters of the $3 billion in military assistance that Israel receives from the United States each year must be spent stateside. Overall, the U.S. spends about $50 billion annually in foreign assistance, less than 1 percent of the overall budget.
Israel and the United States signed the 10-year memorandum of understanding in 2007; its long-term assurances are aimed at providing Israel with both financial assurances and political support….
In fact, immediately following the debate, Romney’s spokesmen said he would exempt Israel from the policy—but that didn’t do much to assuage pro-Israel concerns. Pro-Israel figures for years have emphasized that they prefer to see Israel wrapped into an overall foreign policy package and not tweaked apart, as some Republicans have proposed.
Gingrich raised pro-Israel eyebrows when he proposed starting Egypt at zero, in part because of rising Muslim-Christian tensions in that country in the wake of the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak. Israel has made clear that it wants U.S. assistance to continue as long as the Egyptian government maintains the peace treaty with Israel….
The most recent debate was not the first time that Republican front-runners called for a change in American foreign aid policies. In a debate last month, Romney suggested that he favored eliminating American foreign aid that goes for humanitarian purposes.
‘I happen to think it doesn’t make a lot of sense for us to borrow money from the Chinese to go give to another country for humanitarian aid,’ Romney said at the Oct. 18 debate. ‘We ought to get the Chinese to take care of the people that are taking that borrowed money today.’
Click here to read the full JTA article.
On Monday, the National Jewish Democratic Council organized a petition to send a clear message to the Republican Party that zeroing out aid to Israel is unacceptable. Click here to learn more and sign the petition.
Click here to read how the White House and prominent Democrats reacted to this proposal.
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