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$1 billion in Iron Dome funding introduced in Congress as separate bill

After sum removed from larger spending bill due to progressive pressure, House Appropriations chair says ‘commitment to the security of our friend and ally Israel is ironclad’

Rockets from Gaza, on right, are seen in the night sky fired toward Israel from Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip on May 14, 2021, while Iron Dome interceptor missiles, on left, rise to meet them. (Anas Baba/AFP)
Rockets from Gaza, on right, are seen in the night sky fired toward Israel from Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip on May 14, 2021, while Iron Dome interceptor missiles, on left, rise to meet them. (Anas Baba/AFP)

US Democrats introduced standalone legislation late Wednesday to provide Israel with $1 billion for its Iron Dome missile defense system after the funding was struck off a government spending bill amid pressure from progressive lawmakers.

“The United States’ commitment to the security of our friend and ally Israel is ironclad. Replenishing interceptors used to protect Israel from attacks is our legal and moral responsibility,” House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro, the Connecticut Democrat who introduced the bill, said in a statement Wednesday.

“While this funding would ordinarily be included in a year-end spending package, we are advancing this legislation now to demonstrate Congress’ bipartisan commitment to Israel’s security as part of a Middle East with lasting peace,” she said.

The clause approving the huge sum to restock Israel’s Iron Dome interceptors — which are crucial to protecting Israeli towns from rocket attacks and whose stocks were depleted somewhat during May’s Gaza war — had caused a hangup in the House of Representatives: Democratic leaders sought to push forward a bill to raise the debt ceiling while progressives in the party, who are critical of Israel, said they wouldn’t vote for it if it included the Iron Dome funding.

After the funding was struck from the spending bill, US House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Tuesday that it would be brought for a separate vote this week. His announcement came amid pressure from pro-Israel Democratic Reps. Ted Deutch, Kathy Manning, Josh Gottheimer, Ritchie Torres, Brad Schneider and others, who were livid over the decision.

The move to strike the funding off the spending bill also drew criticism from some US Jewish groups. Israel, however, downplayed the development.

House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., fields questions about the politics of the federal debt in front of the House Rules Committee at the Capitol in Washington, September 21, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Hoyer’s announcement came after he spoke to Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Tuesday night. During the phone call, Lapid was reassured that the move was a “technical delay” related to discussions over the US debt ceiling and that the defense funding would be approved at a later date, the foreign minister said in a statement.

Hoyer underlined his commitment to Israel’s security, emphasizing that it was a view shared by the White House and Democrat House and Senate leaders, while pledging that the Iron Dome funding would soon be allocated, the Foreign Ministry said.

“Minister Lapid thanked Majority Leader Hoyer for his commitment and stressed the need to approve the request as quickly as possible to ensure Israel’s security needs,” his office said.

Israeli officials, speaking to Axios on condition of anonymity, blamed the development on previous Israeli governments led by Benjamin Netanyahu, accusing the former prime minister of harming American bipartisan support for Israel.

On Tuesday night, after removing the Iron Dome provision, the House voted to fund the government into early December, suspend the federal debt limit and provide disaster and refugee aid, setting up a high-stakes showdown with Republicans who oppose the package despite the prospects of a looming fiscal crisis.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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