“As we’ve seen recently, the threats to houses of worship and other religious community sites are increasing, and we must do everything we can to protect them,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio).
The U.S. Senate passed a $1.37 trillion spending bill on Thursday that included the annual $3.3 billion in security assistance to Israel. It also addressed other Jewish and Israel-related priorities.
The final tally, also the last one of the decade, was 81-11.
The legislation now goes to U.S. President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it into law.
A whopping $500 million was allocated towards U.S.-Israel missile-defense cooperation. The bill also extended the U.S. Defense Department’s authority to stockpile weapons in Israel for two years.
It also indicated backing for use of the Strategic Defense Acquisition Fund “to transfer precision guided munitions and related defense articles and services to reserve stocks for Israel.”
The legislation allows the president to withhold 5 percent of U.S. assistance towards any U.N. agency that acts against the interests of the United States or a U.S. ally, including Israel.
It included new reporting requirements related to the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and expressed concern regarding Hezbollah’s violations of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701.
No U.S. funding will go to the Palestinian Authority. Since the United States cut aid to the P.A. in March 2018 and under the Taylor Force Act, the P.A.’s program of rewarding terrorists and their families is not being supported.
However, the bill included a bipartisan agreement on the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act (ATCA) that will allow the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to resume its operations in the West Bank and Gaza. USAID ceased projects in those areas earlier this year in accordance with ATCA, which provides protections for American victims of international terrorism.
Moreover, $75 million each was allocated for Palestinian security services and civilian and humanitarian assistance.
Up to $30 million was allocated to boost reconciliation programs for Israelis and Palestinians.
Not included was U.S. funding for the U.N. Human Rights Council, which the United States withdrew from in June 2018.
The legislation also did not include the $175 million requested by the Trump administration for economic assistance to the Palestinians as part of its Mideast peace plan, the economic part which was introduced at the Bahrain summit in June. The rejection was solely due to budgetary considerations, reported Haaretz, citing a source close to the budget negotiations.
The bill consisted of $90 million for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) that seeks to protect nonprofit institutions, including synagogues. This is a 50 percent increase over last year’s $60 million funding.
‘Resources to secure their facilities’
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) pushed this part of the measure.
“I am pleased that the Senate passed the final FY 2020 funding bill, which includes $90 million for nonprofit security grants so that synagogues, religious and cultural facilities, and other nonprofits across our country that are at a high risk of a terrorist attack have access to the resources they need to secure their facilities,” he said in a statement. “As we’ve seen recently, the threats to houses of worship and other religious community sites are increasing, and we must do everything we can to protect them in Ohio and across our country.”
The NSGP provides grants of up to $100,000 each to nonprofits at risk of terrorist attacks so they may improve building security by acquiring and installing items ranging from fences, lighting and video surveillance to metal detectors and blast-resistant doors, locks and windows. Funding may also be used to train staff and pay for contracted security personnel.
The NSGP has become more critical for the Jewish community in the aftermath of the Oct. 27, 2018 mass shooting at the Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha Synagogue in Pittsburgh, where 11 Jewish worshippers were killed, and six months later, the April 27 shooting at Chabad of Poway in Southern California, where one woman was killed and three others injured.
The bill expressed support for collaboration between Israel, Greece and Cyprus, especially in the energy sector. The East-Med pipeline will connect Israel and the European Union. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been involved in the talks between the three allies, meeting with the leaders of the three countries back in March.
Finally, around $60.39 million was allocated for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum through 2022.
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