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August 30, 2002 - Image 25

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-08-30

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

ROYAL OAK

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Washington Watch

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Bush wants Israel to get its $200 million,
but the budget deficit stands in the way.

JAMES D. BESSER

Washington Correspondent

resident George W. Bush is
assuring pro-Israel groups
that he is ready to press for
the $200 million in supple-
mentary aid for Israel that he killed
recently when he slapped Congress for
overspending.
But pro-Israel activists say that
promising the aid is one thing; finding
enough budget slack to make it hap-
pen is something very different. The
extra aid has followed a twisted route
to the current dead end.
Originally, Israel wanted an extra
$800 million to help with the costs of
the 2000 Lebanon pullout, but
Congress and the Clinton administra-
tion couldn't get together on a plan
and the aid request languished.
Then, pro-Israel forces tried to get a
smaller amount to help Israel meet the
astronomical costs of the ongoing
Palestinian uprising. That finally
passed Congress in July as part of a
$28 billion emergency supplemental
appropriation, but President Bush said
he would use a loophole in the law to
hold back $5.1 billion in spending —
which included Israel's extra funding.
The president's reason: the bill was
stuffed with pet spending projects that
he said would make the looming
budget crisis worse.
Next week, a congressional commit-
tee will mark up the foreign opera-
tions appropriations bill, and the
administration has promised to work
for inclusion of the extra Israel aid.
But with the deficit burgeoning and
homeland security and defense spend-
ing soaring, budget cuts, not new
spending, will be the order of the day.
"We have every reason to believe the
president really wants this to happen,"
said a pro-Israel activist. "But the
administration is also facing some
huge budget problems, and they are
telling Congress they have to hold the
line. So there are some big problems
ahead."

p

Mideast Overtones

.

Pro-Israel forces have already left their
mark on the 2002 congressional elec-
tions, with two anti-Israel House

members defeated in bruising primary
battles at least in part because of pro-
Israel campaign contributions going to
their foes.
Another race has galvanized the
attention of pro-Israel forces, although
it has not prompted the same kind of
campaign-finance outpouring.
Sen. Bob Smith, R-N.H., is in the
fight of his political life as he fends off
a tough primary challenge by three-
term Rep. John Sununu, also a
Republican. Sununu, son of the for-
mer White House chief of staff, is the
only Palestinian American in
Congress. Morris Amitay, treasurer of
the pro-Israel Washington PAC,
termed Sununu's House record on
Mideast issues "dismal." But pro-Israel
forces have not been heavily involved
in funding Smith — who was "unin-
terested" in Mideast issues early in his
Senate career, Amitay said, but who
has become a pro-Israel supporter.
The reason: while many pro-Israel
funders fear Sununu, they are not
overly impressed with Smith's chances
in the November general election,
when the winner of the primary will
face Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen
— an attractive, energetic campaigner
who has made strong overtures to pro-
Israel groups.
The Sununu-Smith face-off took on
a Mideast tinge last year when former
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu ventured into New
Hampshire to give the incumbent his
blessing. Whether because of Bibi or
not, Smith's standing began slipping,
and until recently, polls showed
Sununu with an edge.
But polls now show Smith narrow-
ing the gap; political prognosticators
say the Sept. 10 primary is too close to
call.
On another front, many Jewish
politicos are celebrating last week's pri-
mary defeat of Rep. Cynthia
McKinney, D-Ga., in a race that
turned into a showdown between pro-
Israel and pro-Arab and Muslim fun-
ders.
But one segment of the Jewish com-
munity was less than happy. Tikkun
magazine, whose activist founder
Rabbi Michael Lerner participated in a
"Jews for McKinney" petition drive,
WASHINGTON WATCH on page 26

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