US Aid to Jordan and Israel

Date: 97-05-19

Forwarded by John Worrell

Clinton Looking At Shifting Aid To Jordan From Israel

(SNS News Service -Israel-5/18/97- Dow Jones)Eager to reward Jordan for its peacemaking in the Middle East, the Clinton administration is discussing with King Hussein - and also Israel - ways to boost American aid to the Arab kingdom.

One option under consideration, according to administration officials, is to shift some of the $3 billion in economic and military assistance Israel gets annually, to Jordan.

''We feel very strongly that aid to Jordan ought to be upgraded and ought to be filled out and expanded, and that's what we're working on,'' State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said Thursday. ''But it is not meant to signal any kind of problem with the government of Israel.''

While Israel supports increasing US aid to Jordan, it is unlikely to welcome carving the hike out of its own aid, which has remained steady despite Congressional criticism of foreign spending.

A recent attempt by Rep. Tom Campbell, R-Calif., to boost aid to some African countries by cutting a like amount of aid to Israel, was defeated soundly in the House.

Jordan is due to receive $40 million in US aid in the current fiscal year. The administration already has asked Congress for a $30 million boost - 75% - for fiscal 1998.

Overall, the administration is requesting more than $10 billion in foreign aid to countries around the world. The request is under pressure from budget cutters on Capitol Hill.

One official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the administration is considering taking up to $50 million out of Israel's $3 billion and devoting it instead to Jordan.

Aid to Jordan was canceled by Congress when the kingdom tilted to support Iraq in the Persian Gulf war. But Hussein's peace treaty with Israel in 1994 and his efforts to assist American mediators in trying to reopen Israeli-Palestinian negotiations has boosted his stock with the Clinton administration.

''We have, for some time, been talking with King Hussein about ways in which we can deepen and nurture the peace process that he has so ably advanced,'' White House spokesman Mike McCurry said Thursday.

''He has, in the opinion of the United States government, taken genuine risks in support of peace and has made some requests that are related to the risks he has taken for peace. We've been looking at ways that we might do that.''

The presidential spokesmen said there was no final decision, ''but we will continue to consult closely with the government of Israel and others in the region about how to be supportive ....''