A group of politicians from the Democratic Party in the US has pressured the party into removing finance for Israel's Iron Dome rocket defense system from a general funding bill for the US government. The finance, amounting to $1 billion, will instead be part of a later bill for funding the US Department of Defense. That bill is expected to receive bi-partisan support in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi can afford to lose not more than three Democrats, assuming that all the members of the Republican Party vote against the current funding bill.
Although some of the Democrats who objected to the funding for Iron Dome harshly criticized US policy towards Israel and Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, New York Representative Jamaal Bowman stated that the dispute was over the fact that the aid was added to the bill at the last minute, without discussion.
The delay is a clear warning sign, even if some members of Congress were not opposed to the aid as such, but only objected to the timing with which the section was added to the bill. The US administration promised the aid in June, to replenish stocks of interceptor missiles for the Iron Dome system that had run low following Operation Guardian of the Walls in May, during which thousands of rockets were launched at Israel from the Gaza Strip, and US President Joe Biden repeated the promise to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett when they met at the White House in August.
A Washington source said that appending the commitment to Israel to the current legislation was a mistake, as several members of the Democratic party opposed the bill in general, and adding the aid to Israel was a gift to the party's anti-Israel element, while the Republican Party naturally opposes the bill, which greatly expands the US government budget.
Biden has spent the past two weeks holding dozens of meetings with Democratic members of Congress, but he has not managed to persuade all of them to support the funding bill. The so-called progressives, some of whom oppose any US aid to Israel, and have even put forward legislation on the matter, hitched a ride on the situation. In order to remove their opposition to the bill, the White House had to remove the section on aid to Israel, and it will be brought before Congress separately within the next few weeks or months.
The finance for Iron Dome will probably be passed in the end, thanks to the Republicans who support it, but the significance of the postponement and the progressives' achievement is that US military aid to Israel, which amounts to some $3 billion annually, is no longer assured, nor is US policy towards Israel in general.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Yair Lapid spoke yesterday evening to Steny Hoyer, majority leader in the House of Representatives. Hoyer repeated his commitment, and that of the White House, Pelosi, and majority leader in the Senate Charles Schumer, that the aid for Iron Dome would be passed shortly.
"After years during which the previous government neglected the US Congress and the Democratic Party, and caused substantial damage to Israel-US relations, we are now rebuilding mutual trust with the Congress. I thank the administration and Congress for their robust support for Israel's security," Lapid said.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on September 22, 2021
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