The Obama administration plans to ask Congress to fund additions to Israel’s Iron Dome defense system.
“The Department of Defense has been in conversations with the government of Israel about U.S. support for the acquisition of additional Iron Dome systems and intends to request an appropriate level of funding from Congress to support such acquisitions based on Israeli requirements and production capacity,” U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in a statement on March 27.
The short-range anti-missile system, funded in part by a $205 million U.S. grant, helped stop as many as 80 percent of missiles launched from the Gaza Strip toward heavily populated areas during recent tensions on that border.
Republicans in Congress have slammed Obama for what they say is underfunding of Israel’s missile defense, although he has doubled the spending for this period projected by his predecessor, President George W. Bush.
Top congressional Democrats praised the announcement and said they would back the funding through bipartisan legislation already under consideration in the U.S. House of Representatives. Rep. Steve Rothman (D-N.J.), a member of the House Appropriations Defense subcommittee, said in a statement that he would work “to robustly fund Iron Dome.”
Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee who introduced the most recent legislation with Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the committee chair, called Panetta’s statement a “further step in the right direction.”
Meanwhile, an Iron Dome battery was deployed March 26 in the Gush Dan area of central Israel as part of an exercise to test the system’s ability to protect Tel Aviv from rockets and missiles.