Monday, March 8, 2010

Obama Administration raising again option of reducing US aid to Israel

(worldtribune).The United States has raised the prospect of a reduction in aid to Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

A senior member of Congress close to President Barack Obama said Washington was upset over the lack of progress toward the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank. The senator said the Obama administration could reduce aid to both Israel and the PA over the next year.

"The consequences might be that you really don't receive our support — for a while you're on your own," Sen. Richard Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said. "Take it or leave it."

Lugar, who represents Indiana, has been regarded as a leading ally of the Obama administration. Many of his statements were said to reflect the positions of the White House and State Department.

"The consequences of a failure to move ahead have to be evident at some point," Lugar said in a committee hearing on March 4. "Somebody has to worry about this."

Israel has been the leading recipient of U.S. aid, receiving more than $2.4 billion in military assistance. The PA has received about $160 million in security and related assistance from Washington.

The senator's warning came as the administration has expressed increasing frustration over the failure of Israel and the PA to realize a U.S. plan for a Palestinian state in the West Bank by 2012. Officials said many in the leadership of the Democratic-controlled Congress as well as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were warning that this could undermine U.S. credibility as it sought to withdraw from Iraq and stabilize Afghanistan.

"Obviously there's disappointment," Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Sen. John Kerry, who met Israeli leaders in March, said. "It's almost pre-Madrid [1992 indirect Israeli-Palestinian efforts] in terms of having proximity talks."