NEAR EAST REPORT AIPAC'S BIWEEKLY ON AMERICAN MIDDLE EAST POLICY
An IDF officer walks in front of a few of the thousands of rockets that have been fired at Israel from Gaza.
An Ironclad Commitment
Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system successfully completed its final round of tests in July, paving the way for its deployment in November. The test comes in the wake of the Obama administration’s request of $205 million to support Israel’s acquisition of the system.
President Obama’s request, which the House approved overwhelmingly in May (H.R. 5327) and now awaits Senate authorization, will help protect Israeli civilians living in cities such as Sderot, which has endured more than 7,000 indiscriminate rocket and mortar attacks from the nearby Gaza Strip.
The Iron Dome funding, which is in addition to Israel’s annual security assistance, will enable the Jewish state to produce sufficient quantities of the system and establish an effective defense against short-range missiles, rockets and mortars.
The system, produced by the Israeli Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, uses small radar-guided missiles to blow up incoming Katyusha-style rockets midair.
“With nearly every square inch of Israel at risk from rocket and missile attacks, we must ensure that our most important ally in the region has the tools to defend itself,” said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) in a statement after the House approved the funding by a 410-4 vote.
“The looming threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, and the persistent threat posed by Iran’s allies Hamas and Hizballah, only serve to reinforce our long-standing commitment to Israel’s security,” Berman added. “The president’s unprecedented request and the House’s quick approval speak for themselves—both President Obama and the Congress are actively and unshakably committed to Israel’s security.”
Ranking Member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) also affirmed the importance of the system. “Make no mistake: Those who threaten Israel and seek its destruction have the United States in their murderous crosshairs, as well,” she said in a statement. “And, the necessary struggle to root out those dangerous extremists is not just Israel’s—it is also our own.”
The funding marks the first time that the United States will invest in the Iron Dome and comes after U.S. officials observed tests of the system last year. “This funding will expand what they can produce and deploy, and how quickly they're able to do it,” said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman.
The newly allocated funding also reflects the importance of the U.S.-Israel strategic relationship and, particularly, the missile defense programs that constitute a key part of that alliance.
The strong cooperation in this arena between the two countries manifests itself in the Juniper Cobra exercise, in which the two sides practice cooperative missile defense tactics. The exercise is held every two years and was last conducted in November 2009.
“We’re extremely proud of that exercise. We had over 2,000 U.S. and allied forces involved in that. It was a very complex missile defense exercise that married up the Israeli systems, the Arrow and Iron Dome system, with our own Aegis sea-based system, as well as some of our land-based systems,” said Admiral James Stavridis, commander of the U.S. European Command.
“I would say that we need to build on that exercise and continue to have that level of dialogue and engagement and actual operational activities with our Israeli friends,” he added. “And, I believe that we can learn from them, and we can learn from their technical systems—just as they can marry up and learn from ours.”
In approving the Iron Dome funding, President Obama is bringing to fruition his promise to help ensure the safety of the people of Sderot and other Israeli communities. When he visited Sderot before the 2008 presidential election, then-Senator Obama said, “I will work from the moment that I return to America, to tell the story of Sderot and to make sure that the good people who live here are enjoying a future of peace and security and hope.”
He added, “If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that. And, I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.” BACK TO TOP