US President Barack Obama has signed a defense spending bill that includes $202 million in funds for Israel's missile defense programs, the White House announced Monday.
The 2010 defense appropriation, however, does not contain funding for the F-22, which would have extended the program. Israel had long wanted to purchase the stealth jets, but current law prevents their export. With the program now slated to end, Israel will focus on the F-35, an even more advanced plane that doesn't have the same restrictions but which will take many more years to become operational.
The Obama administration had opposed further funding for the F-22 and several other pet projects of Congressional appropriators on the grounds that they were too costly and not necessary given the asymmetrical military challenges the country faces. Though the bomber was originally included in the bill - sparking a veto threat - the final version cut the allocation in a political victory for Obama.
Congress was ultimately successful, though, in increasing the amount of money given to Israeli missile defense projects developed in coordination with the United States.
The Arrow-3, a controversial program that initially faced push-back from US Pentagon officials, will now get $50m. as opposed to the $37m. originally requested by the administration.
In addition, the short-range ballistic missile defense program will get $80m., with the balance for the existing long-range program. The total is some $25m. more than was approved last year.
"We are tremendously pleased with the ongoing cooperation between the United States and the State of Israel in the area of missile defense," an Israeli official said after Obama signed the bill this weekend.
He noted that cooperation to deal with mutual threats has gone on for the past decade, and that "we're very pleased with the continuing commitment, as has been demonstrated in the allocation for 2010."
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