After 2 stopgap funding measures provided financing for the federal government through 12/16/15 (see *H.R. 719 of 2/4/15 and *H.R. 2250 of 5/12/15), congressional leaders negotiated this $1.15 trillion omnibus appropriations bill to fund the government through 9/2016. It appropriated funds for all U.S. government departments and agencies, including the Defense Dept., the State Dept., and foreign operations through which military aid and other forms of support for international programs are channeled. Congressional leaders also added the full text of the Visa Waiver Program Improvement Act of 2015 (H.R. 158 of 1/6/15) after it passed in the House on 12/8/15, limiting entry to the U.S. for participants who hold dual citizenship with or have traveled to Iraq, Syria, or other countries deemed as potential threats. See that bill for a full summary.
The funding totals and justifications listed below are chiefly drawn from the text of the bill itself and the House Committee on Appropriations chair Hal Rogers’s (R-KY) explanatory statement (12/17/15).
Assistance to Israel
Military aid to Israel was consistent with previous years, in accordance with the 2007 U.S.-Israel MoU and the continued prevalence of support for Israel in Congress. Specifically, $3.1 b. would be disbursed to Israel in foreign military financing (FMF) within 30 days of this bill becoming law, of which Israel could spend $815.3 m. outside the U.S., including on Israeli-made weapons and military equipment. (This is a situation unique among all recipients of U.S. military aid, and is tantamount to a direct subsidy of Israel’s defense industry.)
A total of $487.595 m. was allotted to joint U.S.-Israeli programs, including $55 m. to the Iron Dome missile defense system, $282.526 m. to the Short Range Ballistic Missile Defense System, $89.55 m. to an upper-tier component of Israeli missile defense (known as Arrow 3), and $56.519 m. to the Arrow System Improvement Program.
The loan guarantee program was extended from 9/15/15 to 9/15/19. The current iteration of the program was established in 2003 to provide U.S. backing for up to $9 b. in Israeli loans (the Israeli government issued $4.1 b. worth of U.S.-backed bonds in 2003 and 2004), and the program was extended in 10/2012 through 9/15/15. Also, authority to stockpile reserves of some U.S. military equipment and materials in Israel was extended through 2017.
In a related provision carried over from the House’s initial draft of the Intelligence Authorization Act (H.R. 2596 of 6/1/15), the director of national intelligence was tasked with hiring an official ‘to manage the collection and analysis of intelligence regarding the tactical use of tunnels by state and non-state actors’ and to submit an annual report to Congress regarding trends in tunnel usage and the U.S.’s collaborative efforts to counter such operations. Although the provision did not explicitly mention Israel, Gaza tunnels were frequently cited in the surrounding debates.
As in previous years, interest and earnings accrued by the Israeli Arab Scholarship Program’s endowment were authorized for expenditure. According to Rogers’s explanatory statement, $13,000 would be authorized this year, down from $26,000 in FY 2015.
Matching the FY 2015 appropriation, $10 m. was designated for resettlement in Israel of emigrants from Eastern Europe.
In another provision carried over from previous years, the bill blocked U.S. funding of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) subject to Israel being removed from the council’s permanent agenda and U.S. participation in UNHRC becoming a national interest. Furthermore, the secretary of state was required to report to Congress on the resolutions considered in the UNHRC over the previous year and specifically, the steps taken to remove Israel from the permanent agenda.
Funding for the PA and Programs in the West Bank and Gaza
While funding was authorized to support the PA and U.S. programs in the Wes