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US government shutdown could be bad for Israel

The US government shutdown has continued for 18 days. Now defense contractors and lobbyists are starting to worry that it could be bad for Israel.

Published: January 9, 2019, 6:56 am

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    The US Senate had been ready to boost funding for Israel, reauthorize defense cooperation with Israeli neighbour Jordan, take up legislation to impose new sanctions on Syria, but the package that included military support for Israel and Jordan stalled on a vote of 56-44, not enough to clear the 60-vote hurdle.

    Senate Democrats had hoped to block Israeli aid on a procedural vote on Tuesday, arguing the chamber should not consider any bills until it votes on legislation to end the partial government shutdown.

    On Wednesday, Washington again failed to find compromise to end the shutdown after a meeting between congressional leaders and President Donald Trump, the Associated Press reported.

    Called the “Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act”, the bill promises huge funding for Israel as well as for American precision-guided munitions manufacturers. Essentially it is a series of four bills compiled into one that Democrats and Republicans supported in the last Congress.

    For Israel, the legislation authorizes the $3.3 billion in US funding for fresh US-Israel cooperation in anti-drone technologies, cybersecurity and space.

    The legislation also extended authorization for the US War Reserve Stockpile in Israel by five years, rubberstamping an additional $1 billion in weapons stocks, including precision-guided munitions.

    The bill authorizes a joint assessment of the quantity and type of precision-guided munitions necessary for Israel to “defend itself against Hezbollah” and supports rapid acquisition and deployment procedures for such munitions.

    The legislation moreover forces the Trump administration to expedite export licensing for Israel by adding it to the list of nations eligible for the Strategic Trade Authorization Exception, according to a summary published by American Israel Public Affairs Committee, AIPAC.

    The bill reauthorizes the US-Jordan Defense Cooperation Act of 2015 and imposes new sanctions on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government because of alleged “human rights violations”.

    According to the Washington Post, senior Democrats have been blocking the legislation because it contains a provision that grants state and local governments legal authority to boycott any US companies participating in a boycott against Israel.

    The legislation thus codifies $38 billion in defense assistance for Israel for the next 10 years, while protecting states that pass bills targeting Israel boycotters from being sued.

    Weapons sales and transfers to Israel have now been stalled as a result of the closure of the departments of State and Commerce, the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) said in statement. And meetings between the government and industry have been canceled or delayed.

    Research projects at NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are suspended, “setting back development of game changing technologies”, the AIA said.

    The AIA is a lobbying group that represents defense and commercial aviation companies. It warned that not only the 800 000 federal employees currently working without pay, will be impacted.

    “Every day the shutdown lasts, the impacts grow and become more difficult and more expensive to fix,” said AIA President and CEO Eric Fanning. “It’s time to get these dedicated public servants back to work.”

    The Chief Financial Officer of a government service and information technology firm SAIC, Charlie Mathis, said the government is already behind on payments by tens of millions of dollars.

    Companies are seeing a hit of about $10 million per week in revenue as the shutdown continues, and “if it continues, that number could increase,” Mathis explained. And the probability of an extended shutdown meanwhile appears to be rising.

    The government shutdown started on December 22 amid disagreements between President Donald Trump and Congress over funding for a border wall between the United States and Mexico.

    Because Democrats now control the US House of Representatives, a deal on funding for the border wall may take longer than the 21 days of the 1995 shutdown, according to CNN.

    Even if defense contractors eventually get paid back for their work during shut down, there could be long-standing consequences.

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