The Republican-controlled Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday swept aside strong administration objections and approved $475 million more than President Reagan wants in direct military and economic aid to Israel for the current fiscal year.
No member even presented the administration's case as the committee approved, by voice vote, an $11.5 billion foreign aid appropriations bill that includes $2.6 billion for Israel, reflecting an increase of $125 million in economic aid and a transfer of $350 million from military loans to military grants.
The action came in the face of a major lobbying effort by the administration to hold the line on aid to Israel, including long-distance phone calls to Republican committee members from national security adviser William P. Clark, who was with the president in Latin America.
In a letter to Committee Chairman Mark O. Hatfield (R-Ore.), deputy Secretary of State Kenneth W. Dam said the increase would leave the United States "in a very precarious position" that could jeopardize relations with other countries and "imperil the strenuous effort we are making to find a settlement in Lebanon and to make progress in the broader peace process."
Added Dam: "By appearing to endorse and reward Israel's policies, it could strengthen the hand of those who are content with the status quo, while calling into question among others the U.S. commitment to an equitable outcome."
Hatfield, who objected to the increased aid when it was approved by a subcommittee on Tuesday, made no attempt to strike it out yesterday, apparently because he lacked the votes.
Instead he dismissed the committee's action as "meaningless . . . an exercise in futility," on grounds that the bill will not be enacted because the House has no intention of approving a foreign aid money bill before the end of the 97th Congress this month.
Failure to act would mean that foreign aid would be wrapped into an omnibus continuing resolution for programs that have not been funded by regular appropriations bills, and Hatfield said the House, in drafting the resolution, will ignore the Senate committee's spending levels.
Nonetheless, the committee's vote amounts to the only official action by Congress on foreign aid appropriations this year: a defeat for the administration and a victory for Israel.
In his letter, however, Dam questioned whether Israel would benefit if the United States "falter(s) in its effort to improve our strategic position and thus counter the Soviet threat in Southwest Asia through lack of assistance funding to threatened countries." He said the added money for Israel would come "at the expense of other U.S. friends and allies, including Spain, Portugal, Turkey and Pakistan."