Report: US Congress Mulls Aid for Middle East Peace Settlement
US and Israeli officials are consulting members of the US Congress about a multi-billion-dollar aid package to cement the Middle East peace process, the Washington Post reported Sunday.
According to the daily, the proposed funds would be used to relocate Israeli military bases and borders, enhance Israel's defenses, and compensate Palestinian refugees for the loss of their homes.
Leading the charge for the funding have been US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and David Ivry, Israel's ambassador to Washington.
According to one senior administration official, Albright has been generally encouraged by lawmakers' responses when she has raised the possibility of a new aid package in the context of discussions on the foreign spending bill now working its way through Congress, said the Washington Post.
"She's had a number of conversations relating to budget talks, and this has come up in the context of those conversations," the official said. "I think there's a general willingness to help, but we'll see what happens when we get to the numbers."
The Post reported that the proposed US aid package would be the largest since the 1978 Camp David accords between Israel and Egypt.
The details of the possible US aid package are still vague, and administration officials have told key members of Congress that it would be premature to provide specific figures or even estimates, said the paper.
The newspaper did not give a total figure for the proposed aid package, but quoted Palestinian officials who have suggested a figure of 40 billion dollars to compensate families “who lost their homes during Israel's founding in 1948,” as well as for water projects and other development aid.
Foreign aid remains unpopular with the Republican-led Congress, however.
"There is no doubt the US will provide assistance if there is a lasting agreement, but the devil is in the details and the dollar figures are outlandish," Republican Mitch Mcconnell told the daily.
Officials told the daily that US President Bill Clinton will raise the issue of Middle East aid to be provided by other countries when he attends the G-8 summit of seven leading industrial nations plus Russia later this week in Okinawa, Japan, said the daily - Albawaba.com
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