US House approves $1 billion in funding for Israel’s Iron Dome

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(CNN) — The US House of Representatives on Thursday easily approved a bill to provide funding for Israel’s Iron Dome after removing it from a separate bill to prevent a government shutdown and suspend the state’s borrowing limit.

The $1 billion earmarked for the Israeli air defense system was initially included in the legislation to pass, which was considered by the House of Representatives earlier in the week, but the clause was omitted from the final version to appease a group of progressive lawmakers.

The bill went to the Senate, while it is not clear when he will vote on it.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer introduced a separate bill for presentation Thursday, meaning it bypassed the normal rules required to pass the law.

The final vote was 420-9 with two in attendance. Eight Democrats and one Republican voted against the bill.

The Iron Dome air defense system is designed to intercept missiles — by targeting them and launching interceptor missiles to destroy them — before they can kill civilians living in Israel. It was initially developed by Israeli defense technology company Rafael, but the system has since been largely sponsored by the United States.

As of November 2020, the United States has provided $1.6 billion to Israel for Iron Dome batteries, interceptor missiles, joint production costs and general maintenance, according to the Congressional Research Service.

The legislation would specifically provide funding to replace the interceptor missiles that were used during the heavy fighting with Hamas in May.

According to a press release about the legislation, the funding is “in accordance with the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and Israel, which commits the United States to provide additional assistance to renovate Iron Dome after periods of hostilities to allow Israel to continue to defend itself from attack.”

Democratic Representative Rashida Tlaib tweeted her disapproval of the funding ahead of the vote, saying on Wednesday: “I plan to vote No. We must stop enabling Israel to abuse human rights and the apartheid regime.”

Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar expressed her disapproval of the funding in a Thursday tweet, saying, “Given the human rights violations in Gaza, Sheikh Jarrah, and ever-increasing settlement expansion, we should not interfere at the last minute with a $1 billion increase in military funding to Israel from without any accountability.

Omar and Tlaib are the first two Muslim women in Congress, and Tlaib is the first Palestinian-American woman in the House of Representatives.

But some Democrats were frustrated when this provision was withdrawn from the original bill.

“I’m skeptical now,” Representative Dean Phillips, a Democratic Jew from Minnesota, told CNN.

Democratic Representative Elisa Slotkin, a member of the Armed Services Committee, called her party’s opposition to the funding “free of substance and irresponsible.”

House Appropriations Officer Rosa DeLoro voiced support for the funding, saying in a statement: “The United States’ commitment to the security of our friend and ally Israel is resolute. Renewing the interceptors used to protect Israel from attack is our legal and moral responsibility.”

When Tlaib took to the room to express her opposition to the bill, she called the funding “ridiculous and unjustified” and referred to Israel as an “apartheid regime,” noting that it was not her words but the words of Human Rights Watch.

“I firmly believe that our country should oppose the sale of arms to anyone, anywhere without complying with human rights law,” Tlaib said.

Democratic Representative Ted Deutch of Florida, who is Jewish, abandoned his letter prepared to respond to Tlaib.

“I cannot allow one of my colleagues to stand on the floor of the House of Representatives and describe the Jewish democratic state of Israel as an apartheid state,” Deutsch said. “I reject that. If you believe in saving lives and the lives of Israelis and Palestinians, I say to my colleague who has slandered our ally, you will support this legislation.”

Given the narrow bipartisan margins in the House of Representatives, Democrats cannot afford to lose three votes unless this bill comes to a partisan vote. But since many Republicans opposed the Democrats’ decision to withdraw the item from the House bill earlier in the week, Democrats may not need full support within their party to pass the bill.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid spoke with Hoyer on Tuesday evening, after funds for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system were withdrawn from a US government funding bill at the last minute.

In a statement, Lapid said the conversation with Hoyer revealed that it was a “technical delay as a result of the debate in Congress about the US budget deficit ceiling.”

Before Hoyer announced that he would introduce a separate bill earmarked to pass this funding, a spokesperson for the Appropriations Committee told CNN that the Iron Dome funding would be included in the 2022 defense bill. But after Hoyer’s announcement, the spokesperson said that if emergency funding for the Iron Dome missile refurbishment passes Interceptor, the program will not need additional pumping for this later in the year.





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