AIPAC seeks tighter Iran sanctions

March 6, 2013 at 10:50 AM

WASHINGTON, March 6 (UPI) -- Pro-Israel advocates lobbied U.S. congressional members for tighter sanctions against Iran and protection of aid to Israel from the sequester's automatic cuts.

After the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee ended, more than 13,000 members of the pro-Israel lobby visited offices of all members of the House and Senate Tuesday to press their concerns, Roll Call reported.

AIPAC members discussed their support for House legislation that would extend sanctions against Iran's energy and financial transactions to a broader range of its business dealings.

The grassroots advocates also urged lawmakers to find a way to protect the $3.1 billion in annual U.S. aid to Israel from the automatic $85 billion across-the-board spending cuts -- known as the sequester -- that went into effect Friday, Roll Call said. Israel, the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid, could lose $155 million under the sequester.

"We believe Congress might be able to find a way to walk around the sequester with the foreign aid package," said Rabbi Jonathan Miller of Birmingham, Ala.

AIPAC lobbyists said they also were seeking lawmakers' support of a proposal that would designate Israel a "major strategic ally" of the United States, a relationship that no other nation enjoys, Roll Call said. The designation would mean closer cooperation between the two countries on missile defense, military technology and homeland security, and a possible way to protect the current level of aid from budget cuts.

Lawmakers from both parties expressed strong support for Israel but said it was too soon to say if they could shield aid to Israel from the sequester cuts.

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