(January 2, 2023 / JNS) While spending New Year’s in St. Croix, President Joe Biden signed a $1.7 trillion government spending bill that keeps the government running through September 2023. The massive legislation was flown to where Biden was vacationing in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“Today, I signed the bipartisan omnibus bill, ending a year of historic progress,” posted President Biden’s Twitter account on Thursday. “It’ll invest in medical research, safety, veteran health care, disaster recovery, VAWA [Violence Against Women Act] funding—and gets crucial assistance to Ukraine.”
The bill includes $3.3 billion in security assistance for Israel, with an additional $500 million towards restocking its Iron Dome missile defense system following calls by members of Congress after a barrage of rockets fired by Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip in May 2021.
According to AIPAC, the security assistance includes $47.5 million for U.S.-Israel anti-tunnel cooperation. $25 million for U.S.-Israel counter-drone cooperation, $6 million for a new U.S.-Israel cybersecurity cooperation grant program and $2 million for U.S.-Israel homeland security cooperation.
Other pro-Israel legislation included in the bill consists of $3 million for U.S.-Israel healthcare cooperation, $6 million for U.S.-Israel energy and water cooperation, $8 million for Middle East peace cooperation, $2 million for U.S.-Israel agriculture cooperation and $2 million for U.S.-Israel international development cooperation.
$50 million for the “Nita M. Lowey Middle East Partnership for Peace” Act and $5 million to help the integration of Ukrainian and other refugees into Israel was also allocated. The legislation includes the “Masih Alinejad Hunt Act” that sanctions people who help the Iranian regime target Americans and human rights activists.
The Taylor Force Act
Because the Taylor Force Act prohibits funding the Palestinian Authority until it stops paying terrorist stipends, the Biden administration sidestepped that requirement by allocating $225 million to humanitarian projects. In addition, $75 million for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and $42 million for Israel-Palestinian security cooperation was also allocated.
The omnibus spending bill was applauded by Jewish groups such as the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations.
“We commend President Biden for signing the $1.7 trillion spending bill, passed by bipartisan majorities in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, to keep the U.S. federal government operating and particularly for the $3.3 billion in security assistance for Israel, including an additional $500 million to go towards restocking Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system,” said the Conference of Presidents Chair Dianne Lob and CEO William Daroff in a statement.
The Jewish Federations of North America and the Orthodox Union also praised the legislation for the inclusion of many of their key legislative priorities, including an increase in funding for nonprofit security. However, JFNA expressed disappointment that “critical priorities” such as the Afghan Adjustment Act were not included.
Criticism also came from Zionist Organization of America President Morton A. Klein for the bill’s allocation of funds to the United Nations, even though it contained “many good elements” that “increase American security by supporting our allies.”
“It is outrageous that America sends even a dime of taxpayer money to the U.N., an organization of nations who are only united by their animus towards Israel, the one and only Jewish state,” he said.
Klein’s statement came in the wake of the United Nations Security Council meeting on Dec. 19, when Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland referred to the Old City of Jerusalem—where the First and Second Jewish Temples stood—as “occupied East Jerusalem.”
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