An Iron Dome launcher fires an interceptor rocket in southern Israel.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Obama administration on Tuesday opposed a call by US lawmakers to increase government funding for Israel's missile defense program by $455 million above the 2017 fiscal year budget request.
The White House’s Office of Management and Budget issued the rejection of the proposal made by the US House of Representatives in a Statement of Administration Policy on defense appropriations released Tuesday.
In May, the Senate Appropriations Committee recommended a major increase in spending on Israeli missile defense programs – quadrupling a budget line proposed by the Obama administration.
The increase, supported unanimously and across party lines in the committee, proposed $600 million in funding for fiscal year 2017 – an increase of $113 million from last year and $454 million over US President Barack Obama's request.
In response to the White House's statement Tuesday, the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC said it was "deeply disappointed" by the US administration's measure that "has criticized Congress for funding US-Israel missile defense cooperation."
"On a bipartisan basis, Congress has increased funding above administration requests this year, as it has done for well over a decade," said The American Israel Public Affairs Committee in a statement.
AIPAC lauded Congress for its support, and stressed that funding for Israel's missile defense program - which includes systems such as the Iron Dome, David's Sling and the Arrow - is vital to the country's defense against growing regional threats.
The increased aid proposal was primarily intended to "continue the modernization" of Israel's multi-tiered missile defense systems– already among the most advanced in the world– and funds are apportioned to specific programs. The Senate bill included a notable increase in support for the David's Sling medium-range program, Israel's newest tier of advanced missile defense.
Meanwhile, key voices inside the Israeli government have argued that it is in Israel’s interests to sign a Memorandum of Understanding to govern US military aid for the next decade while President Barack Obama is in office, as a way of locking in support for the deal from wider swaths of the American public.
According to this reasoning, Obama is a progressive president and, as such, if he signs the deal it would be tantamount to buy-in from a wider spectrum of Americans.Michael Wilner and Herb Keinon contributed to this report.