House appropriations bill would sustain Egypt funding

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. House of Representatives foreign operations appropriations bill now under consideration does not stop assistance to Egypt despite the recent coup, in part because of considerations of Israeli security.

“Everyone is closely watching the situation in Egypt, and the relationship between the United States and Egypt has never been more critical,” Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), the chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee’s foreign operations subcommittee, said Friday in introducing debate within the subcommittee toward advancing it to the full committee. “For that reason, this bill continues funding if certain conditions are met.

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“First and foremost, we see the Egyptian military continuing to uphold security arrangements, including the peace treaty with Israel, even while they address many competing priorities at home,” Granger said. “We expect the strong military-to-military relationship that Egypt has with Israel, and with the United States, to continue. We also make it clear in our conditions that we want Egypt to embrace democracy, not just democratic elections. We remain hopeful for the Egyptian people as they continue to go through this very difficult transition.”

A number of lawmakers, chief among them Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Granger’s Senate counterpart, have said that under U.S. law, the Egyptian military’s preeminent role this month in removing from power Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood-backed president, mandates a cut-off in assistance.

Leahy also said he would further examine the issue.

The Obama administration has gone to great lengths not to call the upheaval, occasioned by massive demonstrations by Egyptians unhappy with Morsi, a “coup” because it wants to preserve its relations with Egypt and its military.

Granger, in her remarks, also said that funding for Israel would not be affected by cuts otherwise mandated by the sequester, the formula which legislated across-the-board cuts of about 8 percent if Congress did not agree on a budget by March of this year.

“This bill continues to support our key strategic partner Israel by fully funding the Memorandum of Understanding,” Granger said, referring to the 2007 U.S. Israel agreement that set defense assistance to Israel at $30 billion over ten years. “This Subcommittee understands just how critical it is to support Israel. Whether it is the ongoing threat from Iran trying to pursue a nuclear weapon – or the instability that continues in the region – Israel’s security faces serious threats and the support from Congress has never been stronger.”

Granger also said that any further successes by the Palestinian Authority in achieving statehood recognition at U.N. bodies and any affiliation it might forge with Hamas would result in a cut-off in funding.

“Our economic assistance will stop if the Palestinian Authority achieves statehood or equivalent status at United Nations agencies, if they pursue actions at the International Criminal Court, or if they form a unity government with Hamas,” she said. Hamas controls the Gaza Strip, while the Palestinian Authority is based in the West Bank.

She noted that Congress cut funds to UNESCO, the U.N.’s scientific and cultural arm, because of its decision last year to grant the Palestinians statehood status.