House of Representatives approves $1b. for Iron Dome by landslide

The new Iron Dome funding bill passed its first hurdle at the US House of Representatives and is now on its way to the Senate.

THE IRON Dome anti-missile system intercepts a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip toward Israel, as seen from Ashkelon last month. (photo credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)
THE IRON Dome anti-missile system intercepts a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip toward Israel, as seen from Ashkelon last month.
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)

WASHINGTON – The US House of Representatives on Thursday approved a stand-alone bill to provide Israel with $1 billion for replenishing the Iron Dome missile-defense system, following two days of contentious debate within the Democratic Party. The vote passed with an overwhelming 420-9 majority, with two Democrats, Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Hank Johnson, effectively abstaining by voting “present.”

Eight Democrats — Reps. Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Cori Bush, Andre Carson, Marie Newman, Jesus Garcia, Raul Grivalva — and one Republican, Rep. Tom Massie, voted against.

The bill is now headed to the Senate, which will need to approve it as well.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett thanked members of Congress from both parties for their “overwhelming support of Israel and commitment to its security.

“Whoever tries to challenge that support got their answer today,” he added. “The people of Israel thank the American people and their representatives for their strong friendship.”

On Tuesday, the Democratic leadership had to remove the $1b. provision from a continuing resolution amid pushback from progressives. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced that he would bring a suspension bill, which requires support from two-third of members, to approve the provision with support of members from both parties.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut), chair of the House Appropriations Committee, introduced the bill on the House floor.

“I rise in support the Iron Dome Supplemental Appropriations Act,” she said. “In May, during the latest period of increased violence between Israel and Hamas, more than 4,000 rockets were launched from Gaza. Using radar technology and missiles to track and destroy incoming rockets, the Iron Dome intercepted over 90% of the rockets that would have landed in civilian populated areas. This system, with help from Congress’s funding, saved thousands of lives in that month alone.

“This funding, as the bill language clearly states, is limited to a system that is entirely defensive,” said DeLauro. “This bill demonstrates Congress’s commitment to our friend and ally Israel is bipartisan and ironclad. It fulfills our moral imperative to protect the lives of innocent civilians and helps build the foundations for peace. I urge my colleagues to support this bill.”

“This funding is critical and time-sensitive,” said Kay Granger (R-Texas), the Appropriations Committee ranking member. “We must ensure Israel has what it needs to defend itself in the face of real and growing threats,” she said. “Providing this funding sends an important message to Israel and those who wish them harm that the United States stands with Israel and against terrorists. We must reassure our allies that America will never turn its back on the great State of Israel.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said, “Iron Dome is a purely defensive system designed to safeguard all civilians living in Israel.

“The system was co-developed by the United States and Israel, and has saved thousands of lives,” she said. “Passage of this bill reflects a great unity in Congress on a bipartisan and bicameral basis for Israel’s security. Assistance to Israel is vital because Israel’s security is imperative for America’s security. I urge a strong bipartisan vote for the security of the people of Israel and for this legislation.”

An Israeli soldier walks next to an Iron Dome missile interceptor battery after it is being positioned on the outskirts of Jerusalem, September 8, 2013.  (credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)An Israeli soldier walks next to an Iron Dome missile interceptor battery after it is being positioned on the outskirts of Jerusalem, September 8, 2013. (credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) called the Israeli government an “apartheid regime,” and announced she would oppose the bill. “I will not support an effort to enable and support war crimes, human rights abuses and violence. We cannot be talking only about Israelis’ need for safety at a time when Palestinians are living under a violent apartheid system,” she said.

Israel’s Ambassador to the US and the UN Gilad Erdan rejected Tlaib’s remarks and tweeted, “You know the truth but chose to ignore it. The Iron Dome defends Israel from Hamas’s war crimes, including firing rockets toward civilian population.

“The US recognizes Hamas as a terror organization. Your actions help to protect terrorists,” Erdan added.

Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tennessee) slammed Tlaib’s remarks.

“We heard right now from my colleague across the aisle a shocking statement. She opposes this because they have a vocal minority in the majority party that is anti-Israel. That is antisemitic, and as Americans, we can never stand for that.

“I reach out to the majority and I say, condemn what we just heard on the floor, condemn terrorism. This is a defensive weapon system. Stop playing your procedural games,” Fleischmann added.

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Florida) rejected Tlaib’s comments, as well.

“I cannot allow one of my colleagues to stand on the floor of the House of Representatives and label the Jewish democratic state of Israel an apartheid state. I reject it,” he said. “Today, the House of Representatives will overwhelmingly stand with our ally, the State of Israel in replenishing this defensive system. If you believe in human rights, if you believe in saving lives, Israeli lives and Palestinian lives, I say to my colleague who just besmirched our ally, then you will support this legislation.

“We could have an opportunity to debate lots of issues on the House floor, but to falsely characterize the State of Israel is consistent with those who advocate for the dismantling of the one Jewish state in the world. And when there is no place on the map for one Jewish state, that’s the antisemitism. And I reject that,” Deutch continued. “I stand in support of this important legislation.”

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said the bill’s authorization is “further proof that with precise diplomatic work, we can bring results, even quickly.”

Lapid thanked the leaders of both major parties for supporting Israel’s security.

“Israel has no better friend than the US,” he stated.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) released a statement, saying it appreciates the Democratic and Republican leadership for ensuring passage of this critical funding.

“We applaud the House of Representatives for this action, enabling Israel to replenish its defenses in the face of ongoing terrorist threats,” AIPAC said in a statement.

“Not only does this vote reinforce the fact that there is a solid bipartisan consensus in support of Israel’s security; it also repudiates efforts by those in Congress who are pursuing a dangerous agenda to undermine the US-Israel relationship, weaken Israel’s security and place Israeli and Palestinian lives at even greater risk,” the statement continued.

“Now that the House has resoundingly adopted this funding, we urge the Senate to quickly approve this critical measure. It is imperative that Israel has the necessary resources to defend its citizens against terrorism.”

Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.