Israeli officials have reportedly asked the US Congress to add more than $300 million for the country’s missile defense programs in the fiscal year beginning October 1. The extra funds would be added to the $158 million proposed by the Pentagon in US President Barack Obama’s budget request and would be earmarked for production of the joint defense systems David’s Sling and Arrow III.
According to a report in Bloomberg Friday, Israel turned directly to Congress, bypassing the White House and the Pentagon this time given the current spat between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and the Obama administration over Netanyahu’s speech to congressional lawmakers on March 3, where he seeks to prevent what he considers a bad nuclear deal with Iran currently being negotiated by the US-led P5+1 world powers.
The head of Israel’s missile defense organization, Yair Ramati, “visited lawmakers and aides to the congressional defense committees on February 2 and 3 to outline the case for more money and thank them for past assistance,” persons familiar with the talks told Bloomberg.
According to the report, Ramati, during his visit to Capitol Hill, “distributed one-page sheets naming US contractors that would benefit from production funds for each of the missile defense systems,” including Chicago-based Boeing Co.; Waltham, Massachusetts-based Raytheon Co.; Arlington, Virginia-based Orbital ATK Inc.; and Falls Church, Virginia-based Northrop Grumman Corp.
Ramati’s $317 million proposal included a request for $250 million to start production for David’s Sling, a system designed to intercept medium- to long-range missiles, and some $35 million for Arrow III, an anti-ballistic missile system.
The US provides funds for Israel’s missile weapons systems separately from the annual $3.1 billion in military financing it gives Jerusalem to purchase weapons from the US.
In 2014, Congress increased US funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system to $351 million for the fiscal year 2015, from $235 million the previous year.
The Iron Dome missile defense system successfully intercepted hundreds of Hamas rockets during last summer’s war in Gaza. After the 2014 conflict, funding was bolstered by another $225 million to assist Israel in replenishing its Iron Dome missile stockpile.
Additionally, there was US funding for joint development of anti-missile systems Arrow III and David’s Sling.
In 2014 alone, according to the Congressional Research Service, the Arrow and Arrow II mid-altitude ballistic missile defense system projects — researched and jointly developed by Boeing and Israel Aerospace Industries — received $44.3 million, while $74.7 million went to aid research and development of the new Arrow III high-altitude anti-ballistic system. David’s Sling, was budgeted for $149.7 million.
In December 2014, Obama signed a bill deepening US-Israeli cooperation and said the legislation reinforces “critical defense and security programs.”
The US-Israel Strategic Partnership Act increases the value of emergency US weaponry kept in Israel by $200 million, to a total of $1.8 billion. It also offers a verbal guarantee of Israel maintaining a qualitative military edge over its neighbors.
AFP contributed to this report.