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Israel only country to escape proposed cuts to U.S. foreign aid

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, left, shown in Tokyo with Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe, said Thursday that the State Department could find more efficient ways to work with less money. (Associated Press)
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, left, shown in Tokyo with Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe, said Thursday that the State Department could find more efficient ways to work with less money. (Associated Press)

Israel would be the only country to escape the Trump administration's proposed deep cuts in foreign aid, the State Department said Thursday.

The budget plan from the White House calls for slashing the State Department's $50 billion budget by about 28%, cuts that would mostly target climate change, democracy promotion and health programs, and numerous foreign aid projects.

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 gets about $1.5 billion and has been one of the largest recipients of U.S. aid in an arrangement that has helped maintain peace between Egypt and Israel since the 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 oil giant Exxon Mobil, 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 State.

"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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