Secretary Rex Tillerson's State Department is pushing the administration of President Donald Trump to force Israel to return $75 million in U.S. aid dollars, The Washington Free Beacon reported Friday.
Last year, Congress awarded Israel the $75 million that was part of a $38 billion total aid package. However, the administration of former President Barack Obama attempted to tie the extra funds to an agreement that restricts future lobbying efforts by Israel in return for greater funding for military projects.
The Obama administration drafted a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Israel that placed a cap on U.S aid dollars to the Jewish state — a move lawmakers objected to over claims the agreement limits the rights of Congress to allocate U.S. aid dollars.
Sources told the newspaper some members of Congress were willing to contest the move.
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., reportedly "strongly warned the State Department" last week "that such action would be unwise and invite unwanted conflict with Israel," according to a congressional aide.
Cotton and other lawmakers fear the move would hinder relations with Israel.
"This is a transparent attempt by career staffers in the State Department to **** with the Israelis and derail the efforts of Congressional Republicans and President Trump to rebuild the U.S.-Israel relationship," according to a congressional advisor. "There's no reason to push for the Israelis to return the money, unless you're trying to drive a wedge between Israel and Congress, which is exactly what this is. It won't work."
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., objected to the restrictions saying in a statement, "Congress is not a party to this agreement nor is this agreement binding on future Congresses."
"Congress has an independent duty to make a decision about the proper level of support for Israel or our other allies. To suggest this (agreement) will bind future presidents and Congresses for the next decade is constitutionally flawed and impractical," Graham added.
Sources told the newspaper the State Department was in "open war" with the White House over policy on Israel and Iran as well as other issues.
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