After days of debate, the US House of Representatives has authorized USD 1 billion in additional financing for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. On Thursday, lawmakers cleared the bill by a vote of 420 to nine, opening the door for a substantial increase in US support for the system. The package will now be sent to the Senate, where it is likely to be easily passed before being decreed as law by President Joe Biden, who has previously indicated his support for the increased funding. The announcement comes as the discussion over the US backing Israel heats up, with an increased number of liberal leaders in Congress urging Biden to limit US aid to Israel on the nation’s human rights history.
The addition of Iron Dome funds earlier this week sparked outrage in Washington. The USD 1 billion provisions initially emerged in suggested House of Representatives legislation, intended at granting short-term emergency financing for the US administration to avert a closure on Tuesday morning. However, it was deleted without reason by the afternoon. While some US media sites stated that progressive members were responsible for leaving the additional funding to Israel out of Tuesday’s package, no politician has claimed responsibility for the decision. Democratic politicians, she said, sought to “avoid” the usual parliamentary procedure by inserting aid for Israel in the short-term financing package. “It strikes me as an impressive own-goal by leaders since if they assumed this would help stop representatives from speaking openly and allow them to get this through without criticism, they were wrong,” Friedman said earlier this week to Al Jazeera. Although the USD 1 billion is in addition to the usual US funding for the Iron Dome system, Republicans, as well as pro-Israel Democrats, were outraged when the provision was eventually dropped.
Israel gets USD 3.8 billion in military aid from the United States each year, as outlined in a 10-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by President Barack Obama in 2016. Every year, USD 500 million is allocated for missile defense. Last year, Congress appropriated USD 73 million for the Iron Dome, one of many missile defense systems. “A missile defense system (such as the Iron Dome) protects populations from incoming missile attacks. As such, the name. Only in a morally twisted universe can this be called a ‘controversy,'” Ritchie Torres, a first-term Democrat from New York, tweeted on Tuesday. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham slammed the decision to exclude Israel funds from the larger House measure as “despicable.” “I hope the American people are paying attention and see that financing for the Iron Dome missile defense system is critical to the security of the State of Israel, America’s most trustworthy partner in a turbulent and violent region,” Graham wrote on Tuesday. There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding about the nature of the assistance. On Tuesday, several legislators characterized the withdrawal of the provision on Iron Dome financing as the end of US aid to the missile defense program. In actuality, the regular Iron Dome support of USD 108 million this year, which is part of the MoU-mandated annual aid, is incorporated in the defense appropriations bill, which was debated practically concurrently with Tuesday’s vote.
The MoU states that Israel may not seek extra missile defense money from the US beyond the USD 500 million commitment “unless in extreme circumstances.” This measure, which was adopted by the House on Thursday, stated that “funds shall be allocated to address emergent necessities in support of Operation Guardian of the Walls,” alluding to Israel’s attack on Gaza, which concluded months ago. Since the conclusion of the fighting between the Israeli military and Palestinian militants in Gaza in May, pro-Israel politicians have been lobbying for more financing for Israel. In Gaza, the battle killed at least 253 Palestinians, including 66 children, and 12 Israelis.
The Biden government has expressed support for Israel’s demand for more Iron Dome financing. The impending increase in US military assistance to Israel comes as Palestine solidarity groups and certain progressive Democratic Party members urge for the funding to be limited or conditional in order to put pressure on Israel to respect Palestinian human rights. Several Palestinian rights groups celebrated the removal of the Iron Dome assistance from the government spending bill earlier this week, claiming that it marks a move away from Congress’s historically robust support for Israel, particularly in terms of security assistance. Congresswoman Rashid Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat of Palestinian heritage who voted against the bill, slammed her colleagues for ignoring the safety concerns of Palestinians, whom she described as suffering under a “hostile apartheid regime.” “We should also discuss the Palestinian need for security against Israeli attacks; we must be uncompromising in our respect to human life, period. “Everyone deserves to be protected there,” she said before the vote in an emotional statement.