Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Monday praised the US Congress for approving a $705 million funding package for Israel’s missile defense systems, the highest ever American contribution to the program, which is developed jointly by Israel’s Rafael and America’s Raytheon defense contractors.
US President Donald Trump signed off on the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill Friday that included the missile defense funding, after it was earlier approved by Congress.
The budget allocates $558 million more than the initial Israeli request. The defense minister said the funds will be used to stockpile anti-missile rockets for the country’s three-tier missile defense system as well as develop future technologies.
“I am happy and excited to relay that the US Congress approved a record sum for the Israeli missile defense program: $705 million in the year 2018,” Liberman said in a statement Monday. “That is the highest aid budget ever. We will use the money for mass production of the Iron Dome, Magic Wand, and Arrow 3 interceptors and to continue to develop the multi-layer defense system against future threats.”
“I thank our great friend the United States of America, which until now has invested $6.5 billion in protecting the skies of Israel,” Liberman continued. “We are grateful for the aid and the uncompromising commitment by the administration and Congress to Israel’s security.”
Liberman noted that on Tuesday he will meet with a delegation of Democrats from the US Congress headed by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, at which time he will offer his personal gratitude for the aid.
Israel considers ballistic missiles, specifically precision-guided ones, to be one of the most significant threats facing the Jewish state, in the form of the Hezbollah terrorist group’s massive arsenal of short- and medium-range rockets as well as the intercontinental ballistic missiles that Iran is working to develop.
The multi-layer defense structure, built to fend off missiles of various sizes and ranges, comprises the Iron Dome, David’s Sling, and the Arrow systems.
Iron Dome is capable of intercepting short-range rockets, small unmanned aerial vehicles and some mortar shells like those that have been fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip or from southern Lebanon. David’s Sling, with a reported range of 40-190 miles (70-300 kilometers), makes up the middle layer, and at the top are the Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 systems, which are intended to engage long-range ballistic missiles.
Last week, Israel and the US completed the biennial Juniper Cobra joint missile defense exercises. The exercise, which began on March 4, simulated a massive ballistic missile attack on Israel, with American and Israeli troops working together to defend the country.