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Jewish groups, democrats speak out against Trump's cuts to foreign aid

President Trump's budget proposal calls for a cut in US funding to the UN, and says Washington "would not contribute more than 25 percent for UN peacekeeping costs."
AFP/File
Various groups argued that the decreased funding increase threats to the US' national security interests

Despite assurances from the Trump administration that US funding to Israel would be immune to proposed budget cuts, various Jewish groups are expressing their swift disapproval of the White House's decision to drastically decrease funding for foreign aid.

The nearly two month old administration has assured Israel that the $3.1 billion defense assistance allotted to Israel is a “cutout” and would not be affected by the budget changes, highlighting the importance of the United States’ relationship with the middle eastern country.

“Our assistance to Israel is, if I could say, a cutout on the budget, and that’s guaranteed," State Department spokesman Marc Toner said Thursday in a call with reporters.

"And that reflects, obviously, our strong commitment to one of our strongest partners and allies,” he said.  

The statement came as a response to outcries from several Jewish groups and Jewish Democratic lawmakers over the proposition of cutting 31 percent of current foreign spending, fearing that the budget slashes would undercut influence of the United States abroad, and noting that the aid currently accounts for just one percent of the budget, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA).

“Our consistent position has been that, along with security assistance to Israel, we have always supported a robust overall foreign aid budget in order to ensure America’s strong leadership position in the world,” an official of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) told JTA via email.

Other democratic officials insisted that foreign aid is essential in diffusing security threats to the United States and unrest abroad.

“I wish the president would spend more time talking to the generals because they would tell you that pencils can be as persuasive as cannons and food can be as powerful as a tank,” said Rep. Lois Frenkel, D-Fla., at a news conference on Thursday.

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) was also among the groups opposed to the budget cuts, arguing that the cost would also be a threat to national security interests.

“The proposed draconian cuts in areas vital to executing U.S. foreign policy could adversely affect our national security interests by potentially creating more pressure on the American military while essential diplomacy is being undermined,” said David Harris, the CEO of AJC, in a statement.

Officials from the Trump administration have argued that the programs affected by the cuts have not effectively proven their efficiency or value.

However, top democrat of the House Appropriations Committee Rep. Nita Lowey stated, following an in-depth analysis, that the programs the administration plans to decrease funding to, citing International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement as one of six examples, according to JTA,  would “severely impact” counter-drug activities, combating transnational crime, terrorism and other illicit enterprises.

Ultimately, she stated in her report, putting this global program at risk would “increase the flow of drugs to the United States.”

Other Jewish groups that spoke out against the cuts were the American Jewish World Service, B’nai B’rith International, and Reform’s Religious Action Center.

The budget’s “drastic reduction in funding for critical human needs, environmental protection and international aid programs abdicate the federal government’s responsibility to the American people it serves and others worldwide who depend on U.S. leadership,” the latter said in a statement.

“We call on members of the U.S. Congress to oppose this budget, and we call on American Jews and all Americans who are guided by the value of upholding the dignity of every person to oppose President Trump’s proposed radical cuts to the budget,” said Bank, the CEO of the American Jewish World Service and an advocate for human rights and anti-poverty.


 

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