This annual bill approves the budgets of the State Dept., Foreign Operations, and related programs. Along with the State and Foreign Operations Authorizations Act (H.R. 6018 of 6/26/12), it is the main tool used by Congress to influence foreign policy. Though the bill did not pass, it was the subject of foreign aid debates throughout 2012, and therefore gives a sense of Congress’s funding priorities in the second session.
For the most part, aid to Israel remains unchanged from previous years. There are many continuing programs for which the support is maintained and 1 new program, which was introduced this year in reaction to the dynamic political environment in the region.
Neither this bill, nor its companion (H.R. 5857), was brought to a vote, but the Senate and House Appropriations Cmtes. each passed a version. Funding totals listed below were identical in both bills unless otherwise noted.
The programs and subjects relevant to Israel, the Palestinians, and neighboring states are as follows:
Middle East and North Africa Incentive Fund
In the funding request for State and Foreign Operations for FY 2013, Pres. Obama requested $1 b. for this new program set up in response to political turmoil in the Middle East, specifically to provide funds for supporting transition, political reform, and economic growth in the region. The House cmte. did not meet the request for this program, but instead appropriated $175 m. for the Middle East Response Fund and added $25 m. under the foreign military financing (FMF) section expressly to contribute to programs facilitating political transitions in the region. The Senate cmte. appropriated the full $1 b. requested by the president for this program, designating $70 m. for the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), which carries out programs in the West Bank and Gaza that create change and build capacity; $15 m. of MEPI’s funding would go toward scholarships for students at nonprofit universities.
Aid for Israel
A total of $3.1 b. would be appropriated in FMF aid for Israel, an increase from $3.075 b. in FY 2012, in keeping with a 2007 Memorandum of Understanding signed by the U.S. and Israel. The funds were to be made available to Israel less than 30 days after the appropriations bill was signed into law (in contrast to the minimum of 90 days for all other aid recipients). The House bill makes $815.3 m. available for the procurement in Israel of advanced weapons systems, including research and development. Both the House and Senate versions extend the loan guarantee program (which eventually passed in *H.R. 4133).
A total of $374,000 would go to the Israeli Arab Scholarship Fund, which helps Israeli Arab students attend higher education institutions in the U.S.; $15 m. was appropriated for refugee resettlement in Israel through the Migration and Refugee Assistance account.
Of the $26 m. appropriated for reconciliation programs internationally, $10 m. was directed to people-to-people programs in the Middle East meant to foster Arab and Israeli reconciliation.
Aid for the West Bank and Gaza
A total of $370 m. would be appropriated for the PA, a decrease of $15.7 m. relative to FY 2012. Of the $370 m., $150 m. would be direct budgetary assistance. The other $220 m.—disbursed through USAID—would be for governance ($22.5 m.), health and education ($88 m.), economic development ($78.7 m.), and humanitarian assistance ($30.8 m.).
Secy. of State Hillary Clinton stated that the purpose of this aid program was ‘to strengthen the Palestinian Authority and Palestinians as credible partners in Middle East peace while responding to humanitarian needs in Gaza. Assistance will provide significant resources to help build and maintain institutions and help support the economic development necessary for a future Palestinian state that can exist side-by-side with Israel in peace and security.’ One administration official said of the reduction, ‘We think the economic situat