AntiWar.com & The Jewish Telegraphic Agency & Reuters and Voice of America – 2014-01-17 00:41:09
US Spending Bill Keeps
Full $3.1 Billion in Israeli Aid
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(January 16, 2014) — The $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill rolled back sequestration on a lot of fronts, mostly military. They also did so on subsidies to Israel, with $3.1 billion in aid kept intact without the mandated 8 percent across-the-board cuts.
Israel Lobby AIPAC loudly cheered the news, saying the US had kept its “commitment” to Israel’s security. Israeli officials had previously said they “understood” the need for sequestration and were fine with the 8 percent cuts.
Israel gets by far the most aid out of the foreign aid budget in the US, and the bill similarly kept Egypt’s $1.5 billion aid intact despite a military coup that legally obliged the US to halt all aid to that nation. Israel had lobbied heavily to keep funding for Egypt’s junta, and has praised the military since taking over the nation.
The bill also affirmed $400 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority, but adds new conditions to that aid, threatening to cut that funding if the Palestinians seek recognition internationally.
House Spending Bill Includes
Full $3.1 Billion for Israel
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
WASHINGTON (January 16, 2014) — Funding to Israel was restored to its pre-sequester levels in the spending bill passed by the US House of Representatives.
The bill keeps funding for Israel at $3.1 billion for 2014, the amount designated in a 10-year memorandum of understanding from 2007 that guaranteed Israel an average of $3 billion a year in assistance.
The $1.1 trillion measure passed Wednesday is the result of a deal brokered last month between Democrats and Republicans who have struggled for months to compromise on spending bills.
It restores about half the cuts mandated by the sequestration, the across-the-board 8 percent cuts that by law kicked in last March when Congress failed to agree on a budget.
Also in the bill is $268.7 million in funding for US-Israel cooperative anti-missile programs that is not considered assistance because Israel contributes to the programs.
The bill also links the approximately $400 million in assistance to the Palestinian Authority for programs against incitement and severs aid to the Palestinians should the P.A. take further steps to secure statehood recognition at international bodies.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee praised the passage.
“These funds fully meet America’s commitment in the US-Israel Memorandum of Understanding, helping our democratic ally meet critical defense needs during this period of heightened regional instability,” AIPAC said in a statement.
The Senate is due to consider the spending bill later this week.
(c) 2014 Jewish Telegraphic Agency All Rights Reserved.
Netanyahu Demands More
Palestinian Land in Peace Talks
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(January 16, 2014) — The West Bank — as the Palestinians see it — keeps getting smaller and smaller. The latest out of the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has added an entire new bloc of settlements to the list of territories he intends to keep in any peace deal.
The newest bloc is on the outskirts of Ramallah, the major Palestinian city that is the de facto capital of the Palestinian Authority. Netanyahu reportedly also told the Palestinians that he will not be offering 1:1 land swaps for the settlement and the surrounding area.
Netanyahu reportedly insists that the biblical book of Genesis is his justification for keeping the settlement bloc around Beit El, which makes it even less clear why he is all of a sudden issuing new demands.
With the new settlement blocs added, Israel now intends to annex a minimum of 13% of the West Bank, and is only considering giving the Palestinians a fraction of that amount in Israeli territory in exchange. The Palestinians have reportedly rejected the demand, but that doesn’t seem to have changed the Israeli perspective that Beit El is now “part of the deal.”
Netanyahu Hardens Settlement Demands in Peace Talks
Reuters and Voice of America
JERUSALEM (January 16, 2014) — Israel’s prime minister has increased the amount of occupied territory he wants to keep after any peace deal with the Palestinians, state media reported on Thursday, a move that could complicate US-backed efforts to reach an accord.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman declined to comment on the report he had added a bloc of Israeli-settled land near the Palestinian governmental seat in the occupied West Bank to a list of enclaves Israel intends to retain.
That would leave 13 percent of the West Bank in Israeli hands, Israel’s Army Radio said, a prospect likely to dismay Palestinians who want the area for a future state. There was no immediate comment from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Netanyahu had also departed from past peace blueprints that had envisaged an equal trade of land inside Israel for any West Bank areas it retained, the radio station said.
Instead, Netanyahu has offered to buy some of the settlement land from the Palestinians, but they had rejected such a deal, it added.
The station attributed its information to an anonymous source familiar with the details of five-month-old, US-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
According to the report, Netanyahu told US Secretary of State John Kerry that Israel intends to hold on to the Beit El settlement enclave in addition to the Etzion, Maale Adumim and Ariel blocs it has long said it would keep.
Beit El, north of Jerusalem, is next to the Palestinian city of Ramallah, where the Palestinian Authority run by Mahmoud Abbas is headquartered.
Army Radio said Netanyahu, in his talks with Kerry, cited a biblical connection to the Beit El area, noting its depiction in the Book of Genesis as the place where Jacob dreamt about a ladder to heaven. The future of settlements is a core issue in the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Palestinians fear Israeli enclaves will deny them a contiguous and viable country.
Israel, in tandem with the release of dozens of Palestinian prisoners as part of the current negotiations, has stoked Palestinian anger by announcing new housing construction plans in areas it has said will remain in its hands.
Palestinians seek a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital. Israel captured those areas in the 1967 war and pulled its troops out of the Gaza Strip, now run by Hamas Islamists opposed to the peace talks, in 2005.
More than 500,000 Israeli settlers live among 2.4 million Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Most countries consider the settlements illegal and Palestinians fear the enclaves will deny them a viable and contiguous state.
Kerry came under fire this week from Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, who was quoted in an Israeli newspaper as rejecting a US-proposed security plan and calling Kerry “messianic” in his quest for a peace deal.
America’s top diplomat, who has paid 10 visits to Jerusalem over the past year, said on Wednesday he would not be deterred by the criticism.
Netanyahu visited Jordan on Thursday to discuss the peace process with King Abdullah, Jordan’s official Petra news agency said. Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.