Chuck Spinney: Israel Seeks Exemption from US Sequester Cuts — Kerry Making the Deal?

 

Chuck Spinney

Chuck Spinney

Oren: Israel trying to guarantee US military aid

By GLOBES/RAN DAGONY

Jerusalem Post, 02/03/2013

In light of cuts in US gov’t spending, Israeli ambassador says J’lem will try to safeguard funding for Iron Dome, Arrow.

Jerusalem is working to salvage some of the military aid the US provides Israel, after US President Barack Obama was forced to approve $85 billion in automatic government budget cuts on Friday night.

These cuts are expected to shave off up to $729 million annually from American aid to Israel, as well as funding for missile-defense systems such as Iron Dome, Arrow and David’s Sling.

Obama formally ordered broad cuts in US government spending after he and congressional Republicans failed to reach a deal to avert automatic reductions that could dampen economic growth and curb military readiness.

“The Israeli Embassy still doesn’t know what will be the extent of the sequester,” Ambassador to the US Michael Oren told Globes on Friday. “The aid to Israel is included in the federal budget.

Just as this budget is cut, so can the aid to Israel.”

“As the United States’ closest ally in the Middle East, Israel understands the complex budgetary challenges the Americans face. We are ready to carry our share of the burden, while trying to maintain the same projects that are essential to the security of the State of Israel, among them the Iron Dome,” Oren added.

Oren said Israel “will continue to have discussions with the [American] administration and with Congress to maintain the extent of the aid to security systems such as Iron Dome.”

Oren did not specifically mention a possible cut in the annual military aid to Israel, which is provided separately from the funding for the missile- defense program. It is possible that Israel will focus its efforts on saving the funding for the Iron Dome and possibly Arrow systems, at the expense of the annual military aid.

Senior officials in the Foreign, Finance and Defense ministries are working on a strategy to deal with the expected cuts. It is possible that outgoing Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s quick February 13 visit to the US, shortly after returning from a previous Washington visit, had to do with the expected sequester.

The approved $85b. in automatic budget cuts known as “sequestration” will dig into the US government’s spending, a move that threatens to tip the country back into recession and send ripple effects throughout the world.

The cuts, written into law alongside planned tax hikes during a debt ceiling fight in 2011, were intended as an unpalatable enforcement measure that became known as the “fiscal cliff,” which would force Democrats and Republicans to hammer out a deficit reduction plan.

At the start of the year, the parties narrowly averted the cliff, settling on a tax plan, but kicking the cuts down the road for two months to give themselves time to find a solution. However, Obama and Congress failed to reach an agreement to avert the cuts on Friday.

This report was translated from Hebrew by Jerusalem Post staff.

Niv Elis and Reuters contributed to this report.

Phi Beta Iota:  At a time of grave domestic dislocation, the Secretary of State should not be making deals that are so obviously against the public interest — from the Keystone Pipeline to aid for Israel.