President Donald Trump’s new budget cuts deep into several agencies, including the State Department, but he is asking Congress to boost US military spending and leave $3.1 billion in foreign aid to Israel intact.
On Thursday, Trump unveiled his budget proposal for fiscal year 2018, which outlines a massive increase in military spending, while slashing funding for many other agencies and funding for foreign aid in order to “free up funding for critical priorities here at home and put America first.”
The president is asking Congress to reduce funding for the Department of State and USAID by $10.1 billion, or 28 percent, while maintaining the current foreign aid levels to Israel.
The blueprint released by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) “provides $3.1 billion to meet the security assistance commitment to Israel, currently at an all-time high [sic]; ensuring that Israel has the ability to defend itself from threats and maintain its Qualitative Military Edge.”
Foreign aid to Israel was previously set under the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), an agreement signed by former President George W. Bush in 2007. That funding, which represents a 10-year commitment, is set to increase in 2019 after former President Barack Obama signed an MOU that will set funding to Israel at $3.8 billion.
Trump’s budget says he is looking to “prioritize the security and well-being of Americans, and to ask the rest of the world to step up and pay its fair share.”
Other foreign aid programs are not mentioned in the budget proposal, but will likely be released in the full budget plan expected in May. With Israel’s funding untouched, many other countries are worried that they will see major cuts in foreign aid.
“Our assistance to Israel is…guaranteed and that reflects obviously our strong commitment to one of our strongest partners and allies,” Mark Toner, a spokesman for the State Department said, according to Reuters.
“With respect to other assistance levels, foreign military assistance levels, those are still being evaluated and decisions are going to be made going forward,” he said.
Dan Shapiro, the former ambassador to Israel under the Obama administration, warned on Twitter that cutting aid to Jordan, Egypt, and other middle eastern countries could have negative consequences for Israel.
Trump originally wanted to slash as much as 37 percent of the funding for the State Department, according to the New York Times. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was given discretion in choosing where to make the cuts, with the exception of Israel, which the White House told him to leave unchanged.
“The president ran [his campaign] saying he would spend less money overseas and more money back home,” Mick Mulvaney, Office of Management and Budget Director said Wednesday, according to NPR. “When you go to implement that policy, you go to things like foreign aid, and those get reduced.”