This bill provides regular appropriations, which allow federal agencies to draw funds from the U.S. Treasury, for the entire federal government, save for the depts. of defense, homeland security, and activities involving military construction and veterans affairs, for fiscal year 2009, which began on 1 October 2008. Prior to passage of this bill the government had been funded only through 6 March 2009 by a stop-gap funding measure called a continuing resolution, which did not provide new budget authority and prevented government agencies from spending funds on anything not approved for FY2008 (for more details on the continuing resolution see JPS 152). The bill, reflective of Democratic spending priorities, had already been negotiated and agreed to by key Democrats in the House and Senate prior to introduction and was eventually passed without formal committee review and with very limited debate. Relevant provisions of the bill provide funding for Israel and the West Bank and Gaza under the following spending accounts:
Foreign Military Financing (FMF): Grants Israel $2.38 b. to purchase U.S.-produced weapons, defense equipment, defense services, and military training, with the option of using $670.65 m. of these funds to purchase Israeli weapons and military equipment. (No other recipient of FMF is permitted to spend the funds on its own equipment.) The funds are to be disbursed in full within 30 days of passage of the bill into an interest bearing account with the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank. Early dispersal of the funds allows Israel to earn maximum interest on the funds it receives. (Other recipients of FMF typically receive it in installments throughout the fiscal year.) The interest accrued cannot be used to purchase Israeli equipment.
Allows FMF grants to Lebanon only to professionalize the Lebanese army, strengthen border security to prevent arms shipments, prevent the use of Lebanon as a safe haven for terrorist groups, and implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 war between Israel and Hizballah.
Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA): Provides $30 m. for assistance for refugees resettling in Israel. These funds are delivered through a grant to the United Israel Appeal, which in turn helps finance programs of the Jewish Agency for Israel to settle Russian, Eastern European, and more recently, Ethiopian Jews inside Israel.
Dept. of Energy’s International Renewable Energy Program: Provides $2 m. for U.S.-Israeli renewable energy programs. (For more details on these programs see H.R. 6 of 1/12/07 in JPS 147.)
Economic Support Funds (ESF): Provides $75 m. in funding for United States Agency for International Development (USAID) programs in the West Bank and Gaza, $3 m. of which is for local nongovernmental organizations to strengthen civil society and improve social services for the Palestinian people. Other projects include training judges and encouraging judicial independence; fostering economic growth through microloans and support for agricultural enterprises and microenterprises; and providing humanitarian assistance to refugees not served by UNRWA. $2 m. of these funds may be used for administrative expenses of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to carry out its programs there.
International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement: Provides $25 m. to train Palestinian security forces.
The bill also carries over several annual provisions and prohibitions:
• Funding for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is conditioned on the State Dept. certifying to Congress that Israel is “not being denied its right to participate in the activities” of the Agency.
• Section 7007 prohibits any funds made available in the bill from being used for assistance or reparations to the government of Syria.
• Section 7013 withholds a portion of future assistance to any country which collects taxes on U.S. assistance, specifically mention