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March 28, 2003 - Image 28

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-03-28

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

Washington Watch

Dollar Watch

Jewish groups and Israel look at long- and short-term effects of Iraq war.

JAMES D. BESSER
Washilwon Correspondent

l ewish lobbyists are watching
with growing concern as
Congress fasttracks the Bush
administration's package of tax
cuts, and at the same time starts allocat-
ing money for a war in Iraq that is look-
ing more expensive by the day.
Already, the process promises huge
cuts in health and human service pro-
grams; if the war drags on
longer than the Pentagon
optimists predict, that's
just the beginning of the
budgetary carnage,
according to many ana-
lysts.
But Jewish activists who Sen. Clinton
privately worry about the
repercussions of the
administration's economic policy are
silent in public, mostly because many
big donors to their organizations favor
the administration policies. The war in
Iraq and the desire to rally around an
embattled president may just increase
the likelihood of a budget train wreck,
analysts say.
"Because of the argument that you
shouldn't undercut the president at a
time of war, they're making decisions
that could put us in a budget sinkhole
for years to come," said an official with
a major Jewish group that has not taken
a position on the tax debate.
Last week, the House passed a 2004
budget blueprint that includes the $726
billion in tax cuts over 10 years request-
ed by President Bush. The Senate was
expected to finish its version of the
budget plan this week. On Tuesday, sen-
ators cut the proposed tax cut in half —
which analysts say will still have a huge
impact on human-service spending.
According to the Center on Budget
and Policy Priorities, the plan would
force lawmakers to cut at least $265 bil-
lion from "mandatory?' programs over
the next 10 years, including essential
domestic programs such as Medicaid,
veterans services, school lunches, child
care, food stamps and cash assistance for
the elderly and disabled poor.
That, in turn, promises big cuts to
Jewish organizations that provide servic-
es using both government and philan-
thropic resources.

il

3/28
2003

28

The nonpartisan Congressional
Budget Office this week predicted that
the tax cut proposals will result in at
least 10 years of deficits, to a total of
$1.8 trillion.
At the same time, the Bush adminis-
tration this week asked for $74.7 billion
in emergency spending to pay for the
first phases of the Iraq war. That
includes $63 billion for the Pentagon,
$8 billion for reconstruction efforts in
Iraq and $4 billion for homeland securi-
ty. The initial emergency spending pro-
posal will cover six months of combat,
humanitarian assistance and reconstruc-
tion in Iraq, administration officials say.
The proposed package also includes
$5 billion in aid to nations that have
supported the U.S. war effort, including
Pakistan, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey and
Israel.
The supplemental proposal prompted
complaints from some Democrats that
it slighted homeland security. Sen.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., said
that at least 10 percent of the total war
costs should be allocated to homeland
security, almost double the $4 billion
requested by the administration.
"We are in a two-front war," Sen.
Clinton said this week. "We are on the
offense in Iraq and we have to finish the
job, and we have to do it as smartly and
effectively with minimal loss of life as
possible. But also, we need our defense
here at home."

Aid For Israel

As expected, the president's $74.7 bil-
lion emergency spending request to
fund the Iraq war includes some of the
extra money requested by Israel.
The administration is requesting $9
billion in loan guarantees to help the
struggling Israeli economy and $1 bil-
lion in direct military aid. That's $1 bil-
lion more in guarantees than Israel had
requested — but $3 billion less in direct
aid.
Loan guarantees do not require tax-
payer funds, since they simply guarantee
private-sector loans to a creditworthy
Israel.
Israel was notified of the administra-
tion decision in a phone call from
National Security Adviser Condoleezza
Rice to Finance Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu last week. According to

reports in the Israeli press, Netanyahu
told a cabinet meeting that getting the
assistance package will still depend on
economic reforms in Israel — including
the big spending cuts he is proposing.
Israeli officials say they are more than
satisfied with the Bush administration
decision. "The U.S. government has
decided to give us $10 billion at a time
when there are great demands on the
budget," said an Israeli official. "We are
thankfuland we understand very well
the budgetary constraints
in Washington this year."
The American Israel
Public Affairs
Committee (AIPAC), the
pro-Israel lobby,
applauded the adminis-
tration action, saying it
Binyamin
will "help restore Israel's
Netanyahu
economy and ensure its
ability to defend against
ongoing terrorism." Now the action
shifts to Capitol Hill, where AIPAC and
other pro-Israel activists will press for
quick passage and no strings.
Arab and Muslim groups are mobiliz-
ing to fight the aid package, but there
appears to be little sympathy for their
arguments in the overwhelmingly pro-
Israel Congress.

Ducking The War

The war in Iraq will provide a challeng-
ing backdrop for this week's annual poli-
cy conference for AIPAC. Some 2,900
activists will gather to hear updates from
administration officials on their vision
of a new Middle East and to lobby on
the new aid package and other issues.
The dilemma for AIPAC: how to sig-
nal support for the administration's Iraq
efforts without creating the impression
that the pro-Israel lobby is really the
pro-Iraq war lobby.
"The last thing the pro-Israel commu-
nity, needs is to be seen as active cheer-
leaders for the war," said a longtime pro-
Israel activist. "It's a fine line: how do
you offer support for what the adminis-
tration is doing and for the troops with-
out creating the impression you're happy
about the war?"
One measure of how successfully the
group has navigated that line could
come Monday night when Senate
Minority Leader Torn Daschle, D-S.D.,

will address the crowd, along with
Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.
Recently Daschle infuriated Republican
leaders by harshly criticizing the Bush
administration's war policies; AIPAC
insiders say they hope that will not color
his reception.
AIPAC will also provide the venue for
Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom's first
appearance before an American Jewish
audience in his new capacity as Israel's
top diplomat. Shalom will appear on
Sunday night with Secretary of State
Colin Powell — a last-minute addition
to the AIPAC lineup.
Powell's reception could turn chilly if
he confirms that the Bush administra-
tion is ready to move forward with the
Israeli-Palestinian "road map," which
outlines plans for the creation of a pro-
visional Palestinian state by the end of
the year. Jewish peace groups are
applauding that effort, but many
AIPACers take a much harder line,
insisting that the Palestinians have yet to
show they have met the administration's
conditions for movement on statehood.

Latino Jewish

With the Hispanic population soaring
and its political influence on the rise,
Jewish-Hispanic coalition building is
suddenly the rage in Washington.
This week, politicians and activists
representing both communities came
together to create a Latino Jewish
Leadership Council, which backers say
will provide an ongoing forum for com-
munication between the two communi-
ties and the basis for coalition efforts.
The new project was the brainchild of
B'nai B'rith. It includes the American
Jewish Committee, the Anti-
Defamation League, the Jewish Council
for Public Affairs and the Religious
Action Center of Reform Judaism, as
well as several leading Hispanic groups.
"It's an outgrowth of a summit we
held two years ago with over 100 Latino
and Jewish representatives," said Dina
Siegel Vann, B'nai B'rith's director for
Latin American affairs. "We've met
informally since then, but it became evi-
dent there was a need to advance the
agenda at both the national and local
level, and to have some kind of institu-
tional framework."
On Thursday, the Council held its
first session, featuring almost a dozen
Jewish members of Congress and a
number of Hispanic counterparts. The
panel will work to identify areas of com-
mon interest in areas such as immigra-
tion, philanthropy and international
relations.
"There already are many efforts

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