Senate OKs aid to Palestinians

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Israel and the Palestinian Authority are one step closer to receiving U.S. foreign aid.

The Senate passed the $12.3 billion foreign operations appropriations bill Thursday of last week by a near-record margin, 91-9.

Known widely as the foreign aid bill, the measure includes $3 billion for Israel, $2.1 billion for Egypt, $100 million in military assistance for Jordan and $75 million for the Palestinian Authority.

The legislation also extends for 12 months the Middle East Peace Facilitation Act, which allows U.S. aid to flow to the Palestinians.

A House and Senate conference committee will meet in the coming weeks to hammer out differences between each chamber's version of the bill.

The Senate passed a number of amendments offered by Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.). The amendments, approved unanimously by a voice vote, were designed to strengthen the Middle East Peace Facilitation Act.

One of the amendments requires the Palestinian Authority to close Orient House and 10 other Palestinian organizations in eastern Jerusalem within six months in order to continue receiving U.S. financial aid.

Another amendment requires the PLO to "nullify" its covenant calling for the destruction of Israel.

The measure also would cut off aid to Russia if it follows through on a deal to sell nuclear reactors to Iran.