House panel to increase funds for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system by $680 million (AP) Associated Press) WASHINGTON 04/20/12)
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WASHINGTON — A House panel is boosting money for Israel’s Iron Dome
missile defense system by $680 million amid an election-year fight
over whether President Barack Obama is doing enough for the longtime
The Republican-controlled Armed Services Committee, which begins
crafting a fiscal 2013 defense budget next week, plans millions more
for the system designed to intercept short-range rockets and mortars,
according to a congressional aide. The money would be in addition to
the $205 million that the Obama administration and Congress agreed to
in a special request in the 2011 budget and would cover several
years, through fiscal 2015.
The aide spoke on condition of anonymity in advance of the formal
announcement on the budget.
An increase in money for the program was expected as the Pentagon
said last month that it would work with Congress to steer more funds
to a system that has proven effective in intercepting rockets and
mortars fired by Palestinian militants from Gaza. The budget plan
also comes as the Obama administration tries to dissuade Israel from
launching a potential unilateral strike against Iran to stop its
disputed nuclear development program.
“Supporting the security of the state of Israel is a top priority of
President Obama and Secretary (Leon) Panetta,” the Pentagon said last
month. “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.”
In addition, since 1988 and the early days of U.S.-Israeli
cooperation on missile defense, presidents have proposed a specific
amount for the program knowing full well that Israel will contact
members of Congress and ask that they come up with more money.
Congress routinely complies.
Last year, lawmakers took the overall request of $106 million for
cooperative U.S.-Israeli missile defense programs and added millions
more, providing $216 million.
This year, Republicans see a political opening in the uneasy
relationship between Washington and Jerusalem over Israeli
settlements in the West Bank and the state of Mideast peace talks,
further complicated by the administration’s pressure on Israel to
hold off on a possible military strike against Iran.
The Iranian threat to Israel has stoked the bitter rhetoric both in
Washington and on the presidential campaign trail, where likely
nominee Mitt Romney has accused Obama of throwing Israel under a bus
and emboldening the Palestinians. The fierce talk reflects that
Jewish voters, who comprise only 2 percent of the electorate
nationwide, are a critical part of Obama’s base and could be the
difference in close battleground states such as Florida,
Pennsylvania, Ohio and Nevada.
Obama’s budget for next year calls for $3.1 billion in military
assistance for Israel, a slight increase over the current level and
the most for any foreign country. In February, Rep. Howard “Buck”
McKeon, R-Calif., the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee,
and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., who heads the Foreign Affairs
Committee, complained in a letter to Obama that his “record low”
budget request jeopardized Israel’s security. (© 2012 The Associated
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