Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Delays in promised American funding designed to facilitate the Israeli-Palestinian peace process could hamper negotiations between the parties, Israel says.
Prime Minister Ehud Barak told visiting Jewish leaders Wednesday that unless the U.S. provides the funds pledged at the signing of the Wye River Memorandum a year ago, progress in negotiations would be difficult.
As part of the Wye package, President Clinton pledged $1.9 billion to Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan. But in passing the Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill last week, Congress omitted $1.2 billion in funding for Middle East peace in 2000.
"Without such aid, it will be more difficult to move forward to the most critical stages of the peace process," Barak told leaders of North American Jewish communities at a Knesset dinner in Jerusalem.
He appealed to the leaders to intercede on Israel's behalf: "We have to make sure the American people understand that the aid that was pledged to Israel as part of the Wye River Memorandum is vital to the peace process."
"Without Wye aid and the sustained support of the American people for this process, I cannot guarantee that peace will be a reality soon enough," he added.
Israel was to get $1.2 billion in military aid over a three-year period, half of it in the first year. The Palestinians were promised $400 million in economic support funds, while $300 was pledged to Jordan for combined military and economic support.
Officials at the prime minister's office declined to comment on the absence of the funding, or say how it would affect Israel's security or the peace process.
Assistant Secretary of State Martin Indyk said earlier Israel's share of the package was to be used to fund "relocating military facilities [from territories it cedes to the Palestinians], providing security and constructing by-pass roads, meeting strategic military requirements, meeting counter terrorism requirements, and meeting other civilian needs [such as water]."
While Israel has been outspoken about its absolute need for the Wye funding, the Palestinian Authority has remained quiet about it.
CNSNews.com repeatedly contacted the PA information ministry and presidential spokesman's office Thursday but was unable to obtain an official view on the subject.
Indyk testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee last spring about Wye funding earmarked for the Palestinians, linking economic growth in the PA areas to America's political interests in the Middle East.
At least one Jewish American group will not lobby Congress to provide the funding. Helen Freedman from Americans for a Safe Israel told CNSNews.com the organization was "opposed to the Wye funding because [it is] opposed to the Wye accords."