House passes bill that includes $705m. for US-Israel missile defense cooperation

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WASHINGTON — The US House of Representatives passed a massive $696 billion defense policy bill on Friday that designates $705 million for US-Israel missile defense cooperation.

The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, which passed 344 to 81, increases spending on these programs by $105 million more than in last year’s budget. The total figure also reflects a $558 million increase from US President Donald Trump’s original defense budget request, which asked for $603 billion in total funding.

Trump has vowed to slash spending on various governmental agencies and programs he deems unnecessary, while pumping more money into the military. Pushing forsweeping cuts in his budget blueprint, he specifically called for defense aid to Israel to remain untouched.

The document committed to honoring the $3.1 billion in foreign military funding granted to Israel in accordance with a 10-year Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries.

The aid to Israel expires in 2018, when the historic MOU struck between the Obama administration and Israel will go into effect.

That package, signed by the two parties in September 2016, will grant Israel $3.8 billion annually — up from the $3.1 billion pledged under the previous agreed-upon MOU — starting in 2018 and through 2028. That deal between Washington and Jerusalem is the United States’ largest defense aid package to any country in history.

Read More: Times of Israel

Fearing more terror attacks, Egypt churches suspend activities

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CAIRO, Egypt — Egypt’s Coptic and Evangelical churches have suspended some of their activities for security reasons after a spate of jihadist attacks, church officials said on Thursday.

Conferences and church-organized trips will be suspended for three weeks after security services warned of more attempted attacks, said the Reverend Andrea Zaki, head of the Egyptian Evangelical Church.

“We are talking about conferences and travel for religious events, for three weeks, because we have information in cooperation with the responsible agencies that attempts to attack have been detected,” he told AFP.

Church services will not be affected, he said.

Coptic Church spokesman Bolus Halim confirmed the moratorium on some activities.

Since December, Islamic State group suicide bombers have targeted three Coptic churches, killing dozens of people.

And in May, IS claimed responsibility for shooting dead at least 28 Copts as they traveled to a monastery.

Read more: Times of Israel

Mennonites’ resolution is ‘antisemitic and unwise,’ legal expert says

Mennonites' resolution is 'antisemitic and unwise,' legal expert says

The Mennonite Church USA’s decision to divest its holdings in companies profiting from Israel’s presence in the West Bank is antisemitic at its core, an evangelical litigation expert said.

“The resolution of the Mennonite Church USA is confusing and contradictory,” said Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel and president of Christians in Defense of Israel. Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom.

The church’s resolution, voted on last week in Orlando at the biennial national Mennonite convention, calls to speak out against antisemitism, cultivate relationships with Jewish communities in the US and to examine the role that the church played in the Holocaust. But the issue that has made the most noise is the directive to the Mennonite Church USA’s $3-billion Everence church fund to ensure that it avoids giving any economic support for “Israeli policies in the occupied territories.”

The Associated Press reported that the church had previously rejected a divestment proposal at the last national meeting two years ago, “amid fears that the resolution would be considered anti-Jewish.”

Yet Liberty Counsel’s Staver said that the Mennonite Church missed the mark.

“On the one hand, it purports to oppose antisemitism,” he said. “But on the other hand, it supports antisemitic divestment in what it erroneously calls ‘occupied territories.’ Israel is the only free and democratic country in the Middle East. Israel has more legitimate and historical right to its land than any country in the world. Israel is thousands of years old. Jews have lived in the land for millennia.”

Further, Staver said that the founder and leaders of the BDS movement, and of the churches that follow in its footsteps, are clear in their intent – they want to destroy Israel.

“The divestment resolution is both antisemitic and unwise. Israel is a leader in economy and a world leader in technology, business, agriculture and more,” he said. “Divesting in Israel will only harm those who divest.”

Read More: J Post

Decrying ‘Abominable’ PA ‘Martyr Payments’ Policy, Former US Officials Pledge Support for Taylor Force Act at Senate Hearing

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Former top US diplomatic official Elliott Abrams told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday that Washington should suspend payments that directly benefit the Palestinian Authority (PA) until it ends its policy of “martyr payments” to the families of convicted Palestinian terrorists — a practice deemed “abominable” by former US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro in remarks to the same panel.

Abrams — who served as an assistant secretary of state in the Reagan Administration, and later as special assistant to President George W. Bush — was giving testimony before the committee in support of the 2017 Taylor Force Act. Named for former US Army officer Taylor Force — the American fatality of a March 2016 Palestinian stabbing attack in Israel in which 11 other people were wounded — the act, if passed, would place severe restrictions on American aid money to the PA until it ends both incitement to terrorism and the “martyr payments” policy.

“Since the Hamas victory in (Palestinian) legislative elections in 2006, USAID has distinguished between assistance to the Palestinian Authority and aid to other recipients, such as NGOs and municipalities,” Abrams told the committee. “In my view, all the payments that give assistance to or directly benefit the PA itself should be stopped.”

Abrams said that such a move would cut US aid to the Palestinians “roughly in half.”

“Considering the very great pressure on the foreign assistance budget right now, how could we justify continuing all these programs and payments to the Palestinians, while they continue to use money to reward terror?” Abrams asked.

Read more: Algeminer