Looming Sequestration Cuts Cause Split Among Israel Aid Advocates

AIPAC Pushes for Special Treatment, Others Fear Backlash

Sequester Split: The sequester cuts are threatening to undo a bipartisan consensus about aid to Israel. With major cuts looming, AIPAC, which just held its national conference, is pushing for Israel to be treated differently. But others worry about a backlash.
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Sequester Split: The sequester cuts are threatening to undo a bipartisan consensus about aid to Israel. With major cuts looming, AIPAC, which just held its national conference, is pushing for Israel to be treated differently. But others worry about a backlash.

By Nathan Guttman

Published March 13, 2013, issue of March 22, 2013.
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In an effort to save aid to Israel from mandatory, across-the-board cuts now being imposed on all discretionary federal programs, pro-Israel activists are opening the door on a dramatic course of action they have rejected repeatedly in the past.

Members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the largest pro-Israel lobby, are refusing to foreclose any option — including special legislation for Israel, if necessary — to keep aid to the country from being cut.

An official from the lobby explicitly refused to rule out pursuing such legislation, even if that would enable Israel alone to escape the cuts hitting every other foreign aid recipient, not to mention those hitting domestic programs.

AIPAC officials vehemently reject labeling anything they are considering as constituting an “exemption” for Israel. But the lobby’s shift signals a possible break with AIPAC’s years-long policy of firmly embedding aid to Israel, the largest recipient of American foreign assistance, within America’s broader foreign aid program.

And while it could spare Israel from facing at least $155 million in aid cuts this year, critics warn that it could damage the cause of aid to Israel greatly in the long run.

The uniform cuts to Israel and to all other discretionary programs are mandated by “sequestration,” Washington’s term for the forced deficit reduction regime that Congress agreed to in the Budget Control Act of 2011.

Under the provisions of that law, the failure of a bipartisan panel of lawmakers to come up with a measured program of government spending reductions by March 1 now requires across-the-board cuts.

Amounting initially to some $85.4 billion in fiscal year 2013, the cuts are split evenly between defense and nondefense categories. Some major entitlement programs, such as Social Security, Medicaid and veterans benefits, are exempted.


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