The Trump administration’s plan to make “fairly dramatic” cuts in the State Department budget and foreign aid spending could create problems for Israel whether its own assistance package is touched or not.
Israel is scheduled to get $3.8 billion this year under an agreement negotiated in 2016 with the Obama administration. That is more military assistance than goes to the rest of the world combined. Currently Israel gets $3.1 billion out of the approximately $6 billion global military assistance program.
Leaving Israel untouched amid the expected slashing, particularly for hunger and other humanitarian needs, will only heighten resentment toward the Jewish state, with its strong economy and high standard of living, at the expense of needier and more vulnerable countries.
Trump’s plans to slash foreign aid by about one third has been condemned by 121 retired generals and admirals as a blow to American security. They sent a letter to Congress calling the aid “critical to preventing conflict and reducing the need to put our men and women in uniform in harm’s way.”
The entire State Department and foreign aid budget is less than one percent of the federal budget. Trump says the money – about $50 billion – is needed to pay for a $54 billion increase in defense spending, which is already around $600 billion a year.
His OMB director, Mick Mulvaney, said, “Less money spent on folks overseas, [means] more money spent on folks back home.”
Details are expected later this week. The funds go to operate and protect diplomatic missions around the world, provide military aid to friendly nations, and provide developmental funding, crisis help and humanitarian assistance.
The Trump cuts could be bad news for some 20 million people who are nearing starvation across Africa and the Middle East, according to the United Nations.
The United States is the world’s largest donor of humanitarian aid, although per capital it is one of the stingiest.
Trump’s plan for deep cuts may run into strong opposition on both sides of the aisles on Capitol Hill.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who chairs the subcommittee that writes that spending bill, called the proposal “a disaster” that “shows a lack of understanding of what it takes to win the war.” He predicted it will be “dead on arrival” in Congress. Similar messages are coming from Republican Senators Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, and Sen. Marco Rubio.
One of cuts expected is elimination of special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism.