American Israel Public Affairs Committee lobbyists line up outside of Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C.
“We’ll do everything that we can to make sure that Israel has the qualitative military edge,” said Florida Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa and an outspoken supporter of Israel. “This week, we’re going to do the CR to put back some money that will suffer as a result of the sequester. So it’s in the early stages. We’re going to see how everything shakes out.”
She was referring to the House proposal (HR 933) for a continuing resolution that would fund the government until the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. Unveiled Monday, the legislation includes new appropriations for the Pentagon, military construction and veterans affairs, while maintaining fiscal 2012 funding levels for the rest of the government.
The proposed appropriation for the Pentagon includes nearly $500 million for joint U.S.-Israeli missile defense programs, including the Iron Dome system, which successfully intercepted some 80 percent of short-range missiles fired at Israel by Hamas fighters in the Gaza Strip during a round of fighting in November.
But California Democrat Brad Sherman, a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, cautioned against seeking any broader exemption from the sequester for Israel aid.
“An exemption for Israel would raise questions,” he said. “If there’s one exemption, what other exemptions will there be?”
In the Senate last week, New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham, one of the party’s leading voices on defense, introduced a nonbinding Iran resolution in advance of the AIPAC lobbying effort. The measure “urges” the United States to provide Israel with military, diplomatic and economic support if it is “compelled to take military action in self-defense” against Iran.