Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is starting to prepare for US help in purchasing additional Iron Dome anti-missile batteries, bringing the issue up on Wednesday during a meeting with three key Democratic congressmen.

Netanyahu, who met with Reps. Gary Ackerman and Nita Lowey of New York, and Henry Waxman of California, said the Iron Dome will play an important role in peace, since it will make an agreement with the Palestinians possible.

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The three representatives participated this week in the World Jewish Congress’s International Consultation of Jewish Parliamentarians taking place in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu, according to a government official, spoke of two critical security aspects of any agreement with the Palestinians. The first being a long-term Israeli military presence on the Jordan River to combat the smuggling of arms and terrorists into the West Bank from Jordan. The second being the deployment of Iron Dome batteries along the border of a future Palestinian state to prevent missile attacks from the West Bank on Israeli cities.

The prime minister told the delegation that Israel would pay for the batteries, but would also need American assistance.

Netanyahu said the Iron Dome benefits America as well because it is a system that can be used to protect American bases abroad.

Israel currently has two Iron Dome systems in operation, and a third to be delivered by the end of the year.

US President Barack Obama’s approval earlier this year of $205 million in the 2011 budget for the system will allow Israel to buy four more.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak has said that by the middle of the decade Israel hoped to have 13 to 15 of these batteries, which provide protection against rockets and artillery shells with a 70-kilometer range.

The Iron Dome is one part of a three-tiered anti-missile umbrella that includes the Arrow, which is already operable and defends against long-range ballistic missiles, and the David’s Sling, still in development, which will protect against medium-range cruise missiles.

Netanyahu told the congressman the Iron Dome was important to create a security envelope within the context of a peace agreement.

On another issue, Netanyahu told Ackerman – who is going to Egypt from Israel – that US economic support for Egypt was important for stabilizing the democratic process there.

He also said it was important for the congressional delegation to articulate its expectation that the Egyptian government maintain the peace agreement with Israel.

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