US Senate backs defense bill, including pro-Israel provisions

Christians United for Israel welcomed the passage of the bill.

The US Senate Session Chamber (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The US Senate Session Chamber
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
WASHINGTON – The US Senate on Friday threw its weight behind the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a $740 billion bill setting policy for the Defense Department, passing the bill with a margin large enough to overcome President Donald Trump’s promised veto.
The vote in the Republican-controlled Senate was 84 to 13, far more than the two-thirds majority needed in the 100-member chamber to override a veto, a rare break between members of the president’s party in Congress and the White House.
The bill includes the $3.3b. annual security assistance to Israel, and $500 million for US-Israel missile defense cooperation, including for the Iron Dome, David’s Sling and Arrow missile defense systems.
According to AIPAC, the NDAA is lifting current limitations on the transfer of precision-guided munitions (PGMs) to Israel in an emergency situation, and authorizing the president to exceed the current limitation of $200m. on the transfer of PGMs in a non-emergency setting under certain conditions.
It also authorizes a total of $14m. for US-Israel cooperation in energy, water, agriculture and cyber, and $6m. over the next three years to finance cooperative projects among the United States, Israel and developing countries.
Some $12m. will be allocated over the next three years for an initiative to enhance partnerships between US and Israeli companies for COVID-19 research.
“AIPAC commends the US Congress for including significant pro-Israel provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2021,” the organization said in a statement. “These critical provisions will help Israel protect itself against continuing security threats.”
US senators Chris Coons (D-Delaware) and Marco Rubio (R-Florida) applauded the passage of their bipartisan United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act (S.3176), which was included in the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
“This bipartisan bill will strengthen the US-Israel strategic alliance by authorizing $3.3b. in annual security assistance consistent with the US-Israel Memorandum of Understanding, and ensure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself and address both conventional and emerging threats,” the two said in a statement.
“A strong US-Israel relationship remains a bipartisan priority. The $3.3b. in annual security assistance codified today was agreed to in a Memorandum of Understanding negotiated and signed by President Obama and Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu in 2016,” Coons said.
“Tensions in the region continue to threaten Israeli security, and I’m proud that Congress is deepening the strategic US-Israel alliance and bilateral non-security cooperation in the face of these challenges,” he said.
Rubio said that “the inclusion of this important and bipartisan bill in this year’s NDAA reaffirms our nation’s unwavering support to our strongest ally in the Middle East: the Jewish State of Israel. As Israel faces unprecedented threats from Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, and other malign actors, we must continue to advance initiatives that protect and support our mutual security interests.”
Reuters contributed to this report.