Is AOC's deplorable Iron Dome move a shift for the Democrats? - opinion

AOC’s amendment gives a reason for concern: Where is the Democratic party heading?

 US REPRESENTATIVE Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) at a news conference in Washington this week. (photo credit: REUTERS/ELIZABETH FRANTZ)
US REPRESENTATIVE Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) at a news conference in Washington this week.
(photo credit: REUTERS/ELIZABETH FRANTZ)

This week, Democratic Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Betty McCollum pressured the Democratic party to remove $1 billion for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system from a bill to keep the US government-funded. This is a particularly sinister move. These funds were intended to replenish Israel’s stock of these defensive receptors that protect our civilian populations and were depleted when Hamas fired 5,000 missiles and rockets at our towns in May. (Democratic leadership announced later in the day it will bring to the House floor a stand-alone vote on $1 billion in emergency funding for Iron Dome.)

This move followed Ocasio-Cortez’s introduction last week of an amendment to the US defense budget bill which would suspend the transfer of $735 million worth of Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) to Israel. JDAMs are kits that convert unguided bombs into precision-guided munitions. 

Practically, even if the JDAM amendment is approved, it has no significance. Israel has precise air-to-ground munitions, produced by its own defense industry (Rafael’s SPICE, Elbit’s Rampage and more). These weapons, with all modesty, are not inferior to JDAM. If needed, we’ll manage without JDAM, not only in Gaza.

Morally, the basis for this amendment is dubious. The reason for AOC’s move, she explained in a tweet, was “over the bombing of Palestinian civilians [and] media centers” in Gaza by the Israel Air Force.

REP. ALEXANDRIA Ocasio-Cortez speaks during a ‘No Climate, No Deal’ demonstration outside the White House last month. (credit: EVELYN HOCKSTEIN/REUTERS)REP. ALEXANDRIA Ocasio-Cortez speaks during a ‘No Climate, No Deal’ demonstration outside the White House last month. (credit: EVELYN HOCKSTEIN/REUTERS)

She submitted it in the same week that the Pentagon admitted that 10 Afghani civilians were killed by a US drone. They had been mistakenly identified as a terrorist group. When terrorists are targeted, to our grave sorrow, innocent civilians can be killed and wounded. It can happen even when Americans are doing the bombing. The IDF makes an enormous, unparalleled effort to minimize damage to innocent civilians in air attacks. I personally am familiar with these efforts.

In our region, terrorists deploy stockpiles of missiles and their launchers in the middle of civilian population, near schools and hospitals (in Gaza), and in the basements of private homes (in Lebanon). Among other measures, before bombardment the IDF sends phone messages, warning inhabitants of buildings that host terrorist facilities and weapons. This happened before the flattening of the communications tower in Gaza that Ocasio-Cortez apparently referred to in her tweet. It housed the offices of the Associated Press and Al-Jazeera, and the electronic warfare facility of Hamas, which is designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the US. Not a single civilian was wounded in this bombing.

During last May’s military conflict between the IDF and Hamas, which controls Gaza, about 5,000 missiles, rockets and mortar bombs were launched toward Israeli towns and villages. No sovereign state can accept this. Does Ocasio-Cortez expect us to avoid targeting launchers of Hamas and Islamic Jihad deployed along our border?

The severe implication of the proposed JDAM embargo is political. It was submitted by a prominent and important  Democratic member of Congress, President Biden’s party.

It was the behavior of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that injected bad blood into the Democratic party–Israel relations. But today Israel has a new prime minister, Naftali Bennett. His views about the Palestinian problem don’t enjoy a majority in his coalition, but he works smoothly with ministers who do not share his ideology. His first meeting with President Biden gave a solid basis for the renewal of trust and friendship between the two governments. 

But AOC’s amendment gives a reason for concern: Where is the Democratic party heading? The bombardments in Gaza which made AOC so angry were acts of self-defense against terrorists motivated by the ideology of extremist Islam. 

Hamas in Gaza is not profoundly ideologically different than the Taliban, Boko Haram or al-Shabab in Somalia. The organizations in Gaza we in Israel are fighting are the enemies of progress and enlightenment. 

AOC’s initiative yesterday to pressure Democratic leaders to cancel support for the Iron Dome anti-missile system potentially is more deplorable than the proposed JDAM embargo, and would carry serious practical consequences for Israel. Iron Dome is strictly defensive and critical to protecting Israel’s towns from rockets attacks. Yesterday’s move exposes that the motive is hatred toward Israel, not only compassion for civilians in Gaza. 

Our children should not be protected, according to AOC and the “squad.”

The Democratic party has to distance itself from this amendment and initiative. That action would make it clear to America’s allies that it still sides with those who try to fend off radical religious extremism.

The writer, a retired IDF general and member of several Israeli cabinets, served as deputy minister of defense. He is currently chairman of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Strategic Dialogue.