WASHINGTON – During a marathon session devoted largely to passing immigration legislation, the House of Representatives voted late Friday night by a landslide majority to provide Israel with an additional $225 million in funding for the Iron Dome missile defense system.
“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 passed the Senate earlier Friday with unanimous consent.
Israel requested an additional $225 million for the partially US-funded project, which is credited with saving dozens, possibly hundreds, of lives. The Iron Dome has intercepted some 500 missiles since June, 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, putting the ball into Congress’ court. Now, after the measure passed both houses of Congress, it requires US President Barack Obama’s signature – which it is likely to receive.
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.”
Israeli defense sources did not give Congress a specific time frame regarding the urgency of the additional allocation, but 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.