Leahy may be pivotal in Israeli funding

Democrats raced to voice public outrage after Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives voted two weeks ago against a foreign operations bill with money for Israel.

In private, however, some Democrats are worrying that the next challenge to such funding measures could come from their own ranks. About 80 percent of House Republicans were part of the failed attempt to defeat the $34 billion foreign operations bill, citing objections to funding organizations that provide abortion services overseas, not the $2.4 billion for Israel.

Democrats are concerned that the precedent of bloc voting against such funding measures could embolden members of their own party to take similar steps.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the committee’s foreign operations subcommittee, proposed across-the-board cuts and other subtle changes that could have hurt Israel’s funding packages, sources say.

Democrats who spoke off the record said Leahy is among several lawmakers in their party who generally support Israel, but is not necessarily as committed to funding for the Jewish state as pro-Israel groups, led by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Leahy also managed to put into the Senate bill a provision ending a 13-year-old ban on U.S. diplomats meeting Palestinians in Jerusalem, once considered a critical bulwark against recognizing Palestinian claims to the city. — jta