Trump administration okay with Israel keeping aid boost from Congress

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Trump administration will not stand in the way of defense assistance funding to Israel added by Congress and won’t hold Israel to its pledge to return such funds.

“The administration is committed to ensuring Israel receive the assistance that has been appropriated by Congress,” R.C. Hammond, a State Department spokesman, told Fox News on Monday. Hammond relayed the statement to other media after it was posted on Twitter by a Fox News reporter.

At issue is $75 million appropriated by Congress on top of the $3.1 billion due Israel under the current arrangement with the United States, which dates to 2007. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., led appropriation of the extra funding in part because he was furious at the terms of a memorandum of understanding negotiated by the Obama administration that governs the next decade of U.S assistance to Israel.

Under those terms, defense assistance was bumped up to an average of $3.8 billion, but Israel agreed not to lobby Congress for additional funds and agreed to return any additional funds.

Hammond was responding to reports in conservative media that the State Department was considering demanding that Israel return the money.

At the time of the signing — before the election and Donald Trump’s surprise victory — Israeli officials said they would return any additional funds appropriated by Congress.

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