The great Congressional Quarterly reporter Jonathan Broder has gotten AIPAC to go on the record with its plans to exempt Israel from sequestration. (I can’t provide link as CQ is by subscription only.)
He writes of the “battalions” of AIPACers who descended on Congress today to demand “tighter sanctions against Iran, relief for Israel aid from automatic spending cuts, and a new designation of the Jewish state as a ‘major strategic ally,’ a status that would help insulate Israel from any further aid cuts.
At the top of their agenda is convincing lawmakers to support a new Iran bill (HR 850) from House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., and supported by ranking Democrat Eliot L. Engel of New York, that would extend existing sanctions targeting Iran’s energy and financial transactions to include an even broader range of its commerce with the rest of the world. Several senators are working on a measure which is expected to be even more expansive.
The grassroots lobbyists also asked lawmakers to find some way to shield the $3.1 billion in annual U.S. aid to Israel from the automatic across-the-board spending cuts that took effect on March 1. Under the sequester, Israel stands to lose $155 million. Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid.
Broder quotes an AIPAC official who says, “We are saying that an alternative should be found to sequestration because it is bad policy. We believe it is essential for American and Israel security interests that the assistance be maintained and not reduced.”
Broder quotes House Foreign Affairs Committee chair. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, as seeking ways to exempt Israel but notes (here is a shocker) Brad Sherman (D-CA) disagrees: “An exemption for Israel would raise questions. If there’s one exemption, what other exemptions will there be?”
So AIPAC is demanding an exemption for Israel. And Brad Sherman thinks such an exemption would raise questions. (Knowing Brad, he is probably too busy plotting war with Iran to care about this issue).
What does it all mean? There will be an exemption for Israel if it can be pulled off in the dark. Don’t count the lobby out. This is their specialty.