US House approves $1 billion for Israel's Iron Dome

US House approves $1 billion for Israel's Iron Dome
Despite opposition, US lawmakers approved $1 billion to resupply Israel's Iron Dome missile defence system on Thursday.
3 min read
23 September, 2021
The US will provide $1 billion to Israel for its Iron Dome [Getty]

US lawmakers green-lit $1 billion Thursday to resupply Israel's Iron Dome missile defence system after funding was controversially stripped from a separate bill following a revolt from the Democrats' left flank.

The money had originally been included in legislation addressing a looming government shutdown and a potential October debt crisis.

But a group of progressives in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives said they would tank that unless Iron Dome funding was yanked from the wording. 

“Today was an unprecedented victory for people who fight for Palestinian rights. This never could have happened two decades ago,” Raed Jarrar, advocacy director at Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), told The New Arab on Wednesday.

“The fact that we have enough political clout in Congress to get the language removed, for me and other staffers who pushed for this today, is a win. We were surprised.”

Israel had responded to the funding request removal by threatening to pull its ambassador from the US.

“There is a massive shift happening in the Democratic base,” Jarrar said. “What we’re seeing now is a manifestation of progressive Democrats not being OK with the blank checks policy to Israel.”

However, the cash transfer ultimately advanced from the House on a comfortable 420-9 vote.

"Passage of this bill reflects the great unity in Congress... for Israel's security," Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the House Democrats, said in a speech on the chamber floor. 

"Assistance to Israel is vital, because Israel's security is an imperative for America's security." 

Iron Dome has destroyed thousands of short-range rockets and shells launched by Hamas militants from Gaza before they were able to hit populated areas, Israeli officials say.

It has been backed by the United States since it was launched a decade ago to the tune of $1.6 billion, according to the Congressional Research Service. 

The progressive group's move had angered members of both parties, with House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy denouncing what he called a Democratic capitulation to "the anti-Semitic influence of their radical members."

Dean Phillips, a Democratic congressman from Minnesota, tweeted he was "incredulous" that colleagues would object to defending "one of our most important allies and only Jewish nation in the world" from Hamas rockets.

Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett thanked both parties for their commitment to the country's security and the American people for their "steadfast friendship."

The objections to the funding underlined however that progressives are becoming increasingly skeptical of no-strings-attached aid to Israel, three months after Naftali ousted hardline right-wing premier Benjamin Netanyahu.

Annually, the US gives Israel $3.8 billion in aid.

Israel requested the $1 billion in spring of this year for its Iron Dome missile defence system, which would be an addition to this annual aid.

Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, the first Muslim US congresswomen, have both tweeted their disapproval of the funding, citing human rights violations against Palestinians and illegal settlement expansion. 

"I will not support a standalone supplemental bill of $1 billion to replenish the bombs Israel used to commit war crimes in Gaza," Tlaib said.