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State Dept: Govt. shutdown threatens aid to Israel

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Oct. 3, 2013

The US Department of State has said a prolonged government shutdown would hinder military aid to Israel, the largest recipient of US foreign military aid.

“The State Department's ability to provide military assistance to Israel and other allies in the time frame that is expected and customary could be hindered, depending on the length of the shutdown,” State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf told a news briefing on Wednesday.

The US government shutdown entered its third day on Thursday as President Barack Obama and congressional leaders emerged far from a deal that could reopen the federal government after talks during a White House meeting on Wednesday.

As warnings about the adverse effects of the US government shutdown on a number of federal programs, including nutritional programs for women, infants and children, are falling on deaf ears, the Obama administration seems to have decided to play the Israel card in order to convince Republicans that the government should soon reopen.

The Obama administration had asked for $3.1 billion in annual aid for Israel for the 2014 fiscal year which started on Oct.1, the day a partisan battle led to the first government shutdown in the US over the past 17 years.

Under an existing aid agreement between Washington and Tel Aviv signed in 2007, $30 billion of American taxpayers’ money is currently flowing to Israel. The $30-billion military aid package covers the 2009-18 fiscal years.

However, Washington is considering a surge in its advanced military aid in its upcoming 10-year package aid which will cover the 2018-27 fiscal years.

The State Department’s concerns over the effects of the US government shutdown on military aid to Israel come a few days after US Vice President Joe Biden said Washington would have invented Israel if it did not exist already.

“If there were not an Israel, we would have to invent one to make sure our interests were preserved,” Biden said Monday during a speech at a pro-Israel lobbying organization called J Street in Washington, D.C. “America’s support for Israel’s security is unshakable, period, period, period.”