The House overwhelming passed a bill Thursday to provide $1 billion for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system as Democrats moved to quash criticism from Republicans that their party is wavering in support of Israel.
Democrats initially sought to put the Iron Dome funding in legislation this week to fund the government past Sept. 30, but removed it after some members of the caucus objected. Leadership moved quickly to instead provide the aid in a separate, stand-alone bill. It passed by a vote of 420-9.
Before the vote, Republican Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis (NY-11) called on her Democrat colleagues to join Republicans in fully restoring Israel’s Iron Dome funding.
“With the National Defense Authorization Act being taken up today, it is imperative that Democrats and Republicans join together to restore funding to Israel’s Iron Dome, which just recently proved its importance and effectiveness after successfully stopping thousands of rockets from the terrorist group Hamas. Israel’s national security is critical to America’s national security and this is not something Congress should play around with.”
“This bill demonstrates Congress’s commitment to our friend and ally Israel is bipartisan and ironclad,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, the Democratic chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
When speaking on the floor before the vote, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) said, “I strongly support funding for the Iron Dome. The Iron Dome is a purely defensive system – one that has saved countless innocent lives. Its whole purpose is to save lives and pursue peace. I strongly support Israel’s right to defend herself. This should be a totally bipartisan effort.”
The U.S. began financially supporting Israel’s development of the Iron Dome system about a decade ago and has provided about $1.6 billion for its production and maintenance, according to the Congressional Research Service. The system is designed to intercept and destroy short-range rockets fired into Israel.
DeLauro said the U.S. committed in a 2016 memorandum of understanding with Israel to replenish the Iron Dome and that the money provided by the U.S. is “limited to a system that is entirely defensive.”
Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., had accused Democrats when stripping out the $1 billion from the earlier bill of sending a message around the world that they “no longer stand with the people of Israel in their mission to defend themselves from terrorist attacks.”
The Israel defense issue splits Democrats, but they pushed back forcefully on the GOP’s attempts to portray them as anti-Israel. “There are some few that won’t support this, but the overwhelming majority of this Congress — not in a partisan way but in an American way — will support defending the Democratic state of Israel,” said Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., a daughter of Palestinian immigrant parents, was the lone lawmaker to speak against the funding, saying that Congress should also be talking about the Palestinian need for security from Israeli attacks. She said the money represented an “absurd and unjustifiable” increase in funding for the Iron Dome.
Rep. Tlaib tweeted, “I will not support a standalone supplemental bill of $1 billion to replenish the bombs Israel used to commit war crimes in Gaza.”
To which Israeli Ambassador Gilad Erdan responded on Twitter, “You know the truth but choose to ignore it. The Iron Dome protects Israel against Hamas’ war crimes including its indiscriminate firing of rockets at civilians. The U.S. has declared Hamas a terror organization – your actions help to protect terrorists against a democracy!”
She also called Israel “an apartheid regime,” provoking strong condemnation from Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla. He rejected that description and said the characterization was “consistent with those who advocate for the dismantling of the one Jewish state in the world.”
Her criticism also gave an opening to Republicans. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., said “they have a vocal minority in the majority party that is anti-Israel, that is anti-Semitic and as Americans we can never stand for that.”
The bill would need to be approved by the Senate before it can be signed into law.
After his vote in favor of the bill, Congressman Tom Suozzi (D – Long Island, Queens) issued a statement saying, ““We must support the replenishment of funding for the Israeli defensive system – the Iron Dome. I have fought to fully find it, and today I proudly voted in support of the replenishment of funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system. Iron Dome saves civilian lives. I am and will always be an ardent supporter of Israel, and will stand against anyone, even members of my own party, in defense of our close ally.”
Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) issued a statement after passage of the Iron Dome Supplemental Appropriations Act (H.R. 5323) which said, “Peace happens when civilians are safe, and the Iron Dome is a critical tool in protecting the Israeli civilian population—Jews and Arabs alike—from Hamas attacks. All Israelis and Palestinians deserve peace, security and the right to self-determination, which will come only through a two-state solution.”
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett responded to the vote by saying, “”Thank you to the members of the US House of Representatives, Democrats and Republicans alike, for the overwhelming support for Israel and for the commitment to its security. Whoever tries to challenge this support received an unequivocal answer today. The people of Israel thank the American people and their representatives for their steadfast friendship.”
Defense Minister Benny Gantz said, “US support for our missile defense system on a bipartisan basis is critical for Israel’s defense against rocket attacks conducted by terrorist groups such as Hamas in Gaza. The Iron Dome is a system designed to protect and save lives. I thank the US government for recognizing the threats to civilian lives and for its steadfast support for the security of the State of Israel.”
Many Jewish organizations joined in the call to hail today’s vote in the House. Moishe Bane, President of the Orthodox Union, stated, “The U.S. House’s swift action to pass this legislation is in keeping with the United States’ strong commitment to Israel’s security and the Jewish State’s sovereign right to self-defense. Iron Dome has saved countless lives by intercepting rockets that Hamas and other terrorist groups fire upon innocent men, women and children and prevents them from achieving their stated goal of destroying the world’s only Jewish State.”
Updated Thursday, September 23, 2021 at 4:08 pm .
Updated Thursday, September 23, 2021 at 4:38 pm .