WASHINGTON -- The United States, in a significant policy shift, is asking its two biggest aid recipients -- Israel and Egypt -- to give up part of their U.S. aid to help their struggling neighbor, Jordan.
Officials declined to give the amounts being discussed. But one source who is involved with U.S. aid to Israel said Washington had asked Israel and Egypt to give up $50 million each.
Jordan is getting about $65 million this year, and the Clinton administration is asking Congress to give Jordan $100 million next year.
"There are a number of options being debated within our government and being discussed with countries, including Israel," said State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns.
"I don't want to go into those publicly. But I do want to put the accent mark on the following: Jordan deserves our support because of King Hussein's leadership. And we are actively trying to find ways to get that support."
An Israeli official, who declined to be identified, said the United States and Israel were engaged in a dialogue "to check the possibility of how to help Jordan."
Israel was understood to be willing to give up some of its aid, but wanted to make sure it was not construed as a sign of strain between the United States and Israel.
Dennis Ross, the U.S. special envoy to the Middle East, discussed the possible aid shift with Israeli officials during his trip there this week.
The issue is likely to come up today in meetings between Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy and Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger, the president's national security adviser.
Given the powerful congressional support for Israel, the Clinton administration is likely to want firm support from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before asking Congress to make the aid shift.
Israel receives $3 billion annually; Egypt gets $2 billion. Israel, and to a lesser extent Egypt, have experienced economic growth in the past few years.
Despite its strong support for the peace process, Jordan has not recouped the level of aid it enjoyed in the years before King Hussein aligned himself with Iraq in the 1991 Persian Gulf war.
Egypt joined Israel as a recipient of large amounts of U.S. aid after making peace with the Jewish state in 1979.
Pub Date: 5/16/97