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AIPAC-Sponsored Bill could Save Israel Aid

Designation of Israel as a “major strategic ally” would move the aid into the Pentagon budget.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 3/5/2013, 2:14 PM

Netanyahu at AIPAC conference (file)
Netanyahu at AIPAC conference (file)
Israel news photo: Flash 90

A Republican and a Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced legislation that would make Israel a "major strategic ally," a one of a kind designation, JTA has reported.

The bill, introduced Monday by Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), is timed for the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference (AIPAC), and 13,000 activists are expected to lobby for it and for Iran-related bills on Tuesday.

The "major strategic ally" bill codifies a number of existing facets of the relationship between the U.S. and Israel, including annual defense assistance and cooperation on missile defense, energy research and cyber security.

It also calls for Israel to join the program that waives pre-arranged visas for select nationals entering the United States.

The Iran-related bills AIPAC activists will champion would tighten sanctions aimed at forcing Tehran to suspend its nuclear weapons program and would call for the president to support Israel should it feel "compelled" to strike Iran.

Political analyst Robert Naiman told Russian channel RT that the AIPAC annual conference is focused on the congressional designation of Israel as a “major strategic ally” of the U.S.

According to lobbyists associated with AIPAC, said Naiman, "it has to do with the coming threat of budget cuts. Under this sequester… there’re supposed to be across-the-board cuts to the US budget. So that should mean that the US aid to Israel, which is substantial, billions of dollars a year, should also be cut – but the Israel lobby doesn’t want the aid to Israel to be cut. So their long game is that with this designation of ‘major strategic ally’ they would move things that are currently paid out of the US aid to Israel into the base Pentagon budget."