US House approves $ 1 billion for Israel’s iron dome after outcry

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Washington DC – The US House of Representatives has approved additional $ 1 billion in funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system after days of controversy surrounding the push.
Lawmakers passed the bill Thursday by 420 to nine votes to nine, paving the way for a significant increase in U.S. support for the system.

The bill will now go to the Senate, where it should pass easily before being signed into law by President Joe Biden, who has previously signaled his support for the Extra Aid.

The move came amid an intensifying debate over US support for Israel and as a growing number of progressive voices in Congress call on Biden to condition US aid to Israel on the country’s rights record. humans.

Earlier this week, the inclusion – and subsequent exclusion – of Iron Dome funding of a different bill created an uproar in Washington.

The $ 1 billion provision first appeared on Tuesday morning in the House of Representatives bill to provide short-term emergency funding to the U.S. government to avoid a shutdown. But by the afternoon, he had been withdrawn without explanation.

While various U.S. media have reported that progressive lawmakers are responsible for excluding funding for Israel from Tuesday’s bill, no lawmaker has taken credit for the move.

Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Peace in the Middle East (FMEP), said it was “strange” to include $ 1 billion in aid to Israel in a generic bill intended to fund the government American to “keep the lights on”.

Democratic leaders, she said, wanted to “bypass” the discussions and debates that accompany this typical legislative process by including aid to Israel in the short-term funding bill.

“It strikes me as a remarkable goal on the part of the leaders, because if they somehow thought that this would prevent members from speaking out and allow them to do so without controversy, they were wrong. Friedman told Al Jazeera earlier this week.

While the $ 1 billion is in addition to usual U.S. funding for the Iron Dome, pro-Israel Republicans and Democrats have expressed anger over the possible removal of the provision.

A significant increase

Supporters of the additional funding say it aims to “replenish” the Iron Dome batteries after the recent fighting in Gaza, but the billion dollars approved by the House on Thursday represents a significant increase in US funding for the program.

Israel receives $ 3.8 billion in US military aid per year, codified by a 10-year memorandum of understanding signed by President Barack Obama in 2016. Of this amount, $ 500 million is spent annually on missile defense.

Last year, Congress allocated $ 73 million for the Iron Dome in particular, one of several missile defense programs.

“A missile defense system (ie Iron Dome) protects civilians against missiles. Hence the name. Only in a morally inverted universe would this be considered a “controversy,” “Ritchie Torres, a New York Democrat for the first term, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham called the initial decision to withdraw Israeli funding for the larger bill from the House “despicable”.

“I hope the American people watch and understand that funding for the Iron Dome missile defense system is essential to the survival of the State of Israel, America’s most trusted ally in a troubled and dangerous region. Graham tweeted on Tuesday.

There seemed to be a lot of confusion around the nature of the help. Many lawmakers on Tuesday introduced the removal of the Iron Dome funding provision as the end of US aid to the missile defense program.

In fact, Iron Dome’s regular aid of $ 108 million this year, which is part of the annual aid mandated by the MoU, is included in the Defense Appropriations Bill that was debated almost simultaneously with Tuesday’s resolution.

The MoU states that Israel cannot seek additional funding from the United States for missile defense beyond the $ 500 million allocation “except in exceptional circumstances.”

The bill approved by the House on Thursday said that “funds will be provided to meet emerging needs in support of Operation Guardian of the Walls,” referring to Israel’s offensive on Gaza which has ended. months ago.

“More help”

Pro-Israel lawmakers have been pushing for additional funding for Israel since the fighting between the IDF and Palestinian groups in Gaza ended in May. The war has killed at least 253 Palestinians, including 66 children, in Gaza and 12 people in Israel.

“There will be a demand for $ 1 billion at the Pentagon this week from the [Israeli] Minister of Defense to replenish the Iron Dome and a few other things, to improve the system, ”Senator Graham told reporters in Jerusalem during a visit shortly after the ceasefire.

He told Fox News on the same trip: “Anytime someone tries to destroy Israel, our response is going to be more help. Graham’s office did not respond to Al Jazeera’s request for comment on Thursday at the time of publication.

The Biden administration had signaled its support for Israel’s request for additional funding for Iron Dome.

The impending increase in US military aid to Israel comes as Palestinian solidarity activists and some progressive members of the Democratic Party call for restricting or conditioning aid to pressure Israel to respect the human rights of Palestinians.

Some Palestinian rights groups have welcomed the exclusion of Iron Dome aid from the government funding resolution earlier this week, arguing it signals a shift from the traditionally steadfast support Israel enjoys. in Congress, in particular with regard to security assistance.

Beth Miller, senior director of government affairs at Jewish Voice for Peace Action, a Palestinian rights group, accused House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of trying to “cover up” the extra aid to Israel through the financing bill.

“There was a time when no one in Washington blinked an eye at increased military funding for Israel, but progressives in Congress have just shown that the time to unconditionally endorse unconditional support for Israel is past,” Miller said in a statement Tuesday. “This is an unprecedented victory for the struggle for Palestinian rights. “

But if there has been a victory for Palestinian rights defenders thanks to the hubbub, it appears to have been short-lived, with the House approving the funding on Thursday.

Congresswoman Rashid Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat of Palestinian descent who was one of the few members to vote against the bill, criticized her colleagues for neglecting the security needs of Palestinians, who she said , live under a “violent apartheid system”.

“We should also talk about the Palestinian need for security against Israeli attacks, we have to be consistent in our commitment to human life, period. Everyone deserves to be safe there, ”she said in an impassioned speech before the vote.



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