WASHINGTON – The US Senate approved late on Thursday funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system and for security at houses of worship as part of an omnibus bill that would fund the federal government until September.
The $1.5 trillion package comprises all 12 fiscal year 2022 appropriations bills and a supplemental $14 billion to support Ukraine. The bill will now head to President Joe Biden’s desk for a signature.
Jewish groups and Israeli officials welcomed the passage of the new bill that included $1 billion for Iron Dome replenishment and $250 million for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP), which permits houses of worship and other threatened nonprofits to apply for grants of up to $150,000 each.
“AIPAC applauds the US Congress for providing historic funding for Israel’s security and other key provisions in the omnibus funding bill for Fiscal Year 2022,” the group said in a statement.
“A strong Israel makes America more secure,” AIPAC wrote. “This critical assistance helps ensure our ally has the resources needed to defend itself against growing threats. Iron Dome has saved countless Israeli and Palestinian lives and helps prevent war.”
Christians United for Israel welcomed the new bill as well. “From core support enabling Israel to defend itself against tyrants that seek its destruction, to the vital resupply of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, we welcome Congress including critical aid to Israel within the omnibus bill, which now heads to the president’s desk,” said CUFI founder and chairman Pastor John Hagee.
“It is our duty and obligation as Jews to do all we can to ensure that we safeguard our community in America and around the world in this time of great need,” Orthodox Union president Mark (Moishe) Bane said in a statement.
“The provisions in this federal legislation will go a long way toward protecting our communities in the United States and in Israel and will provide relief to those suffering in Ukraine,” he said. “We thank our elected leaders for this important work on behalf of so many, and we urge all parties to bring these measures to fruition without delay.”
EARLIER ON Thursday, Israeli officials thanked the House of Representatives for passing the bill. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz praised the decision on Twitter and in statements to the media.
“Thank you to the US Congress for your overwhelming commitment to Israel’s security [and] for passing the critical security package, including the replenishment of the life-saving Iron Dome,” Bennett wrote.
He specifically mentioned US President Joe Biden’s efforts. “Thank you for your leadership [and] friendship. Together, we are stronger.”
Gantz also thanked Biden, Congress and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, as well as Democratic politicians House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Stanley Hoyer.
“The strategic connection between us and the US, which is based on an alliance of interests and values, is crucial for Israel’s security and for maintaining its military superiority in the region, and we will do everything to strengthen and safeguard it,” Gantz wrote.
The Iron Dome funding had been stalled for six months. Last September, the House approved a stand-alone bill to provide Israel with $1b. for replenishing the anti-missile system. The vote passed with an overwhelming majority: 420 members voted in favor of the bill, and only nine voted against it.
In the Senate, however, Republican Sen. Rand Paul from Kentucky blocked several attempts to fast-track the bill by unanimous consent. Paul said that while he supports the Iron Dome, he thinks “it should be paid for.”
The NSGP has been a major agenda item for many Jewish organizations as well. Since the terrorist attack on Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, many Jewish organizations have urged Congress to double its budget. The program permits houses of worship and other threatened nonprofits to apply for grants of up to $150,000 each.
The money can be used for security measures such as fences, cameras, more secure doors and hiring of personnel. The bill would establish a dedicated NSGP office at the Department of Homeland Security, providing support mechanisms to eligible nonprofit organizations, as well as simplifying and streamlining the application process. It would also increase congressional oversight of the program.