Israel asks Congress to be included in sequester cuts

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Israel has asked congressional leaders to make sure that its earmarks are cut according to standards set by the “sequestration.”

“The Israeli position is, as I understand it, ‘We don’t want to be in the position if there is a percentage reduction that we will not be affected in the same way’,” Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the minority whip in the U.S. House of Representatives, told JTA in an interview Thursday from Israel, where he is leading a delegation. “At the same time that we’re reducing expenditures, others might say ‘We’re being hurt, Israel is being treated differently.’”

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Michael Oren, the Israel ambassador to Washington, confirmed the request.

“The American people are bearing the burden of sequestration and we will bear that burden with them,” he said in a statement to JTA.

Budget sequestration, a law passed in 2011 and triggered in March of this year when Congress and the administration failed to agree on a budget, mandates across the board cuts of about 8 percent.

Democrats and Republicans are blaming one another for the impasse.

Hoyer said he did not know what programs would be cut by how much, noting that debate over the budget would begin in earnest after the August recess.

Israel is due in the coming fiscal year, beginning in October, to receive $3.1 billion in defense assistance with an additional $607 million for its Iron Dome short range anti-missile system, which Israel says was instrumental in repelling rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip during last November’s war.

Also affected would be over $450 million in American contributions to joint U.S.-Israel anti-missile programs.

Hoyer said the sequester was adversely affecting the U.S. defense posture.

“It’s going to have adverse effects not only on Iron Dome but on America’s own national defense investments,” he said.

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