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Israel only country to escape proposed State Department budget cuts

Tribune Washington Bureau logoTribune Washington Bureau 3/17/2017 Tracy Wilkinson

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives at Haneda International Airport in Tokyo, Japan March 15, 2017. © REUTERS/Toru Hanai U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives at Haneda International Airport in Tokyo, Japan March 15, 2017. WASHINGTON — Israel would be the only country to escape the Trump administration's proposed deep cuts in foreign aid, the State Department said Thursday.

The proposed budget from the White House includes slashing the State Department budget by up to a third, cuts that would mostly target climate change, democracy promotion and health programs, and numerous foreign aid projects.

In all, $17.3 billion would be cut from the State Department budget, which is about $50 billion. Congress is highly unlikely to approve the White House proposal, however, so the impact is still unknown.

Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman, said U.S. aid to Israel, which totaled about $3.1 billion this year, would not be touched under the Trump plan. Israel gets more U.S. aid than any other nation.

Aid to every other country will come under review, he said.

Egypt is the largest second largest recipient of U.S. aid, a payment that has helped maintain peace between Egypt and Israel since the Jimmy Carter presidency.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, speaking Thursday in Tokyo, said he accepted the administration's budget plan and was confident the State Department could find more efficient ways to work with less money.

Tillerson said he thought overseas conflicts that the U.S. has been involved in would diminish, easing the demands on State.

Toner said Tillerson, the former CEO of the ExxonMobil oil giant, would use "resources the right way, and personnel the right way, in order to ensure that the mission is being accomplished."

Numerous members of Congress, along with advocacy organizations, spoke out Thursday against the proposed cuts to the State Department.

"Slashing our international engagement by even a fraction of (the amount proposed), at a time when we're facing serious challenges around the world, would be an absolute disaster," said Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

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