Praise is due to a batch of Congress members who are supporting a hold on U.S. aid that was destined for the Lebanese army. They want to keep the money – $100 million – out of Hezbollah’s hands, where there is a very real possibility it will go and be used against Israel.
We’re glad also to see that, for a welcome change, this is not a one-sided issue; opponents of releasing the aid come from both sides of the aisle.
Rep. Steve Rothman (D-N.J.-9) explained the process to us on Wednesday as he was returning home from Washington.
Only two people in each chamber of Congress have the power to put a hold on such aid. In the House, they are the chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), and the chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.). Their Senate counterparts are the chairs of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and of the Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry (D-Mass.).
Berman, in fact, presciently placed a hold on the funds the day before a clash on the Lebanon-Israel border left four people dead.
Rothman, who sits on three appropriations subcommittees, further explained that the hold applies only to military aid and that most economic aid to Lebanon goes to universities there. However, he added, “in view of this latest incident, we are determined to provide new oversight” to ensure that “no money going to Lebanon will be going to Hezbollah or will be used to harm Israel.”
Also, he said, the $100 million should be held back until Congress and the administration are satisfied that the money allocated in previous years has not been misspent.
Similarly, Rep. Scott Garrett (R, N.J.-5) said in an e-mail that he “fully support[s] â€¦ efforts to place a hold on the planned $100 million assistance package to the Lebanese armed forces. We should not continue to fund the Lebanon government unless we can be assured that we are not inadvertently helping Hezbollah and putting Israel at risk.”
Asked whether he thinks Iran will step in with ready cash and bad intentions toward Israel, Rothman said, “There are a number of reasons why the Lebanese army would not wish to either alienate the United States or embrace Iran. I do not believe there will be any steps taken by the Lebanese armed forces toward Iran, at least in the near future – or probably ever.”
Let’s hope he’s right.