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September 19, 2003 - Image 31

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-09-19

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Washington Watch

Money Woes

the credentials of any proposed Syrian
ambassador to the United States."

Jewish groups fret about the domestic impact of
a mounting federal deficit in future years.

Washington Correspondent


he Bush administration's
demand for $87 billion
more for stabilization and
reconstruction in Iraq is
one more piece of disastrous news for
Jewish groups that depend on govern-
ment grants to provide vital health
and social services.
Even without the massive new Iraq
appropriation — which
most observers say will
pass, despite Republican
grumbling and sharp
Democratic attacks — cuts
will be substantial in the
upcoming fiscal year, said
Hannah Rosenthal, execu-
tive director of the Jewish
Council for Public Affairs.
JCPA is mounting a nationwide
mobilization to protect programs serv-
ing vulnerable populations. And that's
only a faint foretaste of what's likely to
happen in the next few years as the
costs of rebuilding Iraq soar and the
deficit mounts, she said.
"We're very, very worried," she said.
"The only way Congress will find the
$87 billion, which they will give the
president, is through spending cuts.
And they'll happen on the backs of
our most vulnerable citizens."
On Sept. 18, the Senate Democratic
Steering Committee, with Sen. Hillary
Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., as chair,
was scheduled to meet with religious
leaders, including representatives of
Jewish groups, to urge action to pro-
tect vital programs.
Rosenthal said that while big cuts
are likely this year, "they'll be much
worse next year. Medicaid is our
biggest concern; cuts in Medicaid,
which will have a profound
impact on so many people,
won't happen this year but
are very likely in the next
JCPA is getting appeals
for help from dozens of
Jewish agencies around the
country that feel the devas-
tating combination of fed-
eral, state and local budget
cuts and declining philanthropy, she
said. California, with its imploding

state budget, may be the leading edge
of the Jewish communal crisis, she
said. Budget cuts have already forced
huge cuts in Jewish programs in Los
Angeles, with more in the works.
JCPA and other Jewish organiza-
tions are not opposing the $87 billion
appropriation for Iraq, but are franti-
cally arguing that social and health
service programs shouldn't be short-
changed in the process.
Rep. Ben Cardin, D-Md., a senior
member of the Jewish
delegation on Capitol
Hill and a tax and budg-
> et expert, said, "We're
getting numb to the dol-
lars, but this is a huge
- amount of money. And
there will be other
requests that could
exceed this one. We're
talking about a financial
commitment, in current
dollars, that is more than
we committed to earlier conflicts,
including World War 1."
Cardin said, "We are paying a very,
very heavy price for our failure to
internationalize the effort to win the
peace," and the price will be paid by
the future generations.
"It's not fair to future generations,
and it makes it impossible to meet the
needs of people today," he said.

Terrorist Syria

At the Sept. 16 hearings of the House
Middle East subcommittee, the Bush
administration took a hard line on
Syria, even hinting of military action
because of the Damascus government's
support for the terrorists who are
killing U.S. soldiers in Iraq.
But the tough talk didn't impress
some leading pro-Israel
members of Congress
who say the administra-
tion is all bluster on the
.f Syrian front. "The
administration came
down pretty hard on
Syria today, and we
(-7 came down hard on the
administration," said
Rep. Gary Ackerman,
D-N.Y., the commit-
tee's ranking Democrat.

The featured witness was John R.
Bolton, the under secretary of state for
arms control and international securi-
ty. He told the panel that "we have
seen Syria take a series of hostile
actions toward coalition forces in Iraq.
Syria permitted volunteers to pass into
Iraq to attack and kill our service
members during the war, and is still
doing so."
He cited continuing Syrian support
for Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic
Jihad, and repeated the administration
claim that the Damascus government
is continuing its weapons-of-mass-
destruction program.
Bolton said that Washington is con-
sidering "every tool" for dealing with
what he termed the region's "most
advanced chemical weapons capabili-
But Ackerman said the Syrian gov-
ernment is unlikely to be impressed.
"They talk a tough game, but the
nuance of that part of the world is
that if you just keep talking and talk-
ing and talking, people eventually fig-
ure out you're just talking," he said.
Ackerman said there was no sign the
administration is prepared to support
the Syrian Accountability and
Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act,
which has overwhelming support in
both houses of Congress but which
has been successfully derailed by
strong administration opposition.
"The administration is using the
Syria Accountability Act as the Sword
of Damascus — dangling it over the
Syrians and saying, 'Look, those crazy
guys in Congress are going
to do something tough,'
and using that as leverage.
But its not real leverage;
the administration already
has the executive power to
impose all kinds of sanc-
tions, which it has not
At Tuesday's hearing,
Ackerman called on the
administration to down-
grade diplomatic relations with Syria
in response to that country's contin-
ued support-for terrorism. The law-
maker said that until Syria changes its
behavior, "no United States ambassa-
dor should be sent to Damascus, and
the president should refuse to accept

Syrian Reality?

At Tuesday's House hearing on Syria,
President Bashar Assad was described
as a growing
danger to world
and regional
But Assad,
who took over
from his late
father in 2000,
got some spirit-
ed support
recently from
one of his
neighbors, Jordan's King
Abdullah. Abdullah was in
Washington last weekend
for extensive meetings with
the Bush administration and a bit of
presidential time at Camp David.
Abdullah met with a select group of
Jewish leaders on Monday and told
them that Assad is a sharp, articulate
man with some "good ideas" about the
region. But the king expressed concern
about whether Assad was really in
power in Damascus.
He said there appears to be a big
power struggle going on behind she
scenes," said one participant in the
meeting, which included representa-
tives of the American Jewish
Committee, the Anti-Defamation
League, Americans for Peace Now and
the American Israel Public Affairs
Asked if he would return Jordan's
ambassador to Israel, Abdullah made
some encouraging noises, but no spe-
cific promises, according to several
attendees. "I raised the issue of nor-
malization, which we've been talking
about for a long time," said Abraham
Foxman, national director of the Anti-
Defamation League.
"We know where his
heart is, but for all kinds
of regional reasons, it
hasn't been implement-
But Foxman praised
Abdullah for fighting
the "rejectionists" in his
own country and for
standing with
Washington in the war
on terrorism. "He's one
of the good guys in the neighbor-
hood," Foxman said. "It's always a
pleasant encounter; he listens, he
engages, he's responsive and he doesn't
play the majesty game." -11



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