Defense system has intercepted hundreds of rockets fired by Hamas toward residential neighborhoods in past month
BY REBECCA SHIMONI STOIL AND AP
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama signed a bill granting an additional $225 million in funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system.
The defense system has been highly effective in the current round of violence between Israel and Hamas, intercepting hundreds of rockets headed toward major population centers in Israel. Israeli officials say it has a success rate as high as 90 percent.
The US has provided hundreds of millions of dollars for Iron Dome in the past. The new package is intended to replenish Israel’s capabilities.
Congress approved the money last week before lawmakers left for their annual summer break. Obama signed the bill late Monday in the Oval Office with a handful of photographers present.
During a marathon session devoted largely to passing immigration legislation, the House of Representatives had voted late Friday night by a landslide majority to provide the funding.
“Israel is our friend and Israel’s enemies are our enemies,” House Speaker John Boeher tweeted shortly after the measure passed its final legislative hurdle by a vote of 395-8. Four Republicans and four Democrats voted against the funding, and an additional 29 did not vote.
No debate was held on the bill, which had passed the Senate earlier Friday with unanimous consent.
Israel requested the additional $225 million for the partially US-funded project, which is credited with saving dozens, possibly hundreds, of lives. The Iron Dome has intercepted hundreds of rockets during Operation Protective Edge, but is notable for its high operating costs which have heretofore largely been covered by the US.
After Israel requested more aid for the missile defense system, the Department of Defense approved the request.
Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL) said shortly after the resolution’s passage that the additional funding “is crucial to the defense of Israeli citizens from Hamas terrorism” as well as “a testament to the United States’ long standing and deep friendship with Israel.”
Iron Dome intercepts over the course of Operation Protective Edge have likely cost Israel tens of millions of dollars.
For much of the past week, it seemed as though the additional funding would be tied up in partisan bickering, but on Friday, senators agreed to support a standalone bill that did not tie the funding to other budgetary allocations.
A number of organizations which had pushed Congress to approve the additional funding before it left for a month-long recess greeted the bill’s passage with enthusiasm.
The American Jewish Committee expressed “heartfelt appreciation to the United States Congress for approving additional funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system.”
“Iron Dome has been a genuine life-saver for Israelis enduring round-the- clock barrages of Hamas rockets and missiles from Gaza,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris in a statement late Friday evening. “Thankfully, Congress, in the spirit of its long support for the U.S.-Israel relationship, recognizes the essence of the ruthless Hamas threat to Israelis of all ages. And Israel’s experience with this system will also no doubt prove invaluable to the U.S. and other democratic countries that may face the threat of violence from both state and non-state actors.”
Shortly after the resolution’s passage, AIPAC circulated an email to supporters suggesting that they launch a letter writing campaign to thank members of Congress individually for their support of Iron Dome.