President Obama arrives in Israel on Wednesday for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with Iran, Syria, and the Middle East peace process topping the agenda. But even in Jerusalem, 5,900 miles from Washington, the president cannot escape the impact of the sequester.
There may not be a good Hebrew translation for sequestration, but it hasn't stopped Israelis from talking about it — and fearing its consequences.
Israel, one of the biggest single recipients of American foreign aid, will feel the sting of the looming cuts; the country is not immune, despite its protected status in Congress. Officials at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which closely monitors the aid levels, put the cuts at $155 million over the rest of the fiscal year. That is out of the total U.S. aid package for Israel of $3.1 billion a year, a figure included in the continuing resolution now moving through Congress.
The issue will also surface on the final leg of the trip in Jordan. But with so much more at stake in Israel, the concern has been greater there. "The Israelis are very concerned about cuts to aid because the aid is such an important part of how they build their defense programs and how they plan their defense spending and procurement over a long period of time," said Haim Malka, deputy director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "So the aid will be a question.... They're concerned about the impact of sequester."