As more Congressmen threaten to withhold money from a backsliding Egypt, do they understand what it could mean for Israel and the three-decade peace treaty?
U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dempsey meets with head of Egypt's ruling military council Field Marshal Tantawi in Cairo / Reuters
The indictment of 16 American NGO workers in Egypt last week has led a number of Congressmen to call for reexamining and possibly revoking the billions of dollars in annual U.S. aid to the country -- the fifth-greatest recipient of American funds in the world after Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Israel. "Not one more dollar should flow to the government of Egypt until the secretary of state can assure the American people that this issue is resolved," said Rep. Kay Granger, the chairwoman of the foreign operations subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee's subcommittee on the State Department and foreign operations, put it starkly: "We want to send a clear message to the Egyptian military that the days of blank checks are over." So did Senators John McCain, Joseph Lieberman, and Kelly Ayotte in a joint statement last week: "Congressional support for Egypt -- including continued financial assistance -- is in jeopardy."
In a joint letter, 40 members of Congress issued this threat directly to the head of Egypt's military, Mohamed Tantawi: "The absence of a quick and satisfactory resolution to this issue will make it increasingly difficult for congressional supporters of a strong U.S.-Egypt bilateral relationship to defend current levels of assistance to Egypt -- especially in this climate of budget cuts in Washington," they wrote. Anther letter to Tantawi last month, from 11 senators, had conveyed a similar sentiment. Senator Rand Paul is pushing for a floor vote this week on his amendment that would bar any aid for Egypt until the government there drops its prosecutions of the American workers.