U.S. approves $1bn in aid to Israel to bolster its missile defence system

Israel's Iron Dome missile defence system

The U.S. House of Representatives has approved $1 billion in funding for Israel to bolster its “Iron Dome” missile defence system. 

The bill was passed by 420 votes to 9 with only eight Democrats and one Republican opposing the measure to shore up a system which intercepts rockets fired towards Israel.

The billion dollar funding aims to replace missile interceptors that Israel used to block rockets and missiles during the May conflict in which Israeli airstrikes killed 253 Palestinians, including 66 children in Gaza. Twelve Israelis were also killed during the fighting.

The bill has not yet become law and will go to the Senate where legislators have not yet given a timeline for a vote.

Ahead of the vote on Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said: “The passage of this bill reflects the great unity in Congress on a bipartisan and bicameral basis for Israel. Security assistance to Israel is vital, because Israel’s security is an imperative for America’s security.”

Earlier, some Democrats objected citing Israel’s human rights abuses of Palestinians.

U.S. Congress. Editorial credit: mark reinstein / Shutterstock.com

Palestinian-American Congresswoman, Rashida Tlaib, said: “We cannot be talking only about Israeli’s need for safety at a time when Palestinians are living under a violent apartheid system. We should also be talking about Palestinian need for security from Israeli attacks. We must be consistent in our commitment to human life, period.”

But Congressman Ted Deutch of Florida, a fellow Democrat, accused Tlaib of advancing a view that is antisemitic. “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, this caucus, this body, 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,” he added.

According to a Congressional Research Service report last year, the United States has backed the Iron Dome programme since its inception a decade ago to the tune of $1.6 billion.

Showing her displeasure for the funding, Democratic representative Ilhan Omar tweeted: “Given the human rights violations in Gaza, Sheikh Jarrah, and ever-growing settlement expansion, we should not be ramming through a last-minute $1 billion increase in military funding for Israel without any accountability.”

“The Democratic Party has come under an extraordinary, bizarre influence of a group of antisemites who also hate the state of Israel,” said South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson, the top Republican on the Middle East, North Africa, and Global Counterterrorism subcommittee.

A 10 year Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2016 by then President Barak Obama approved $3.8 billion in military assistance to Israel annually, out of which $500 million is spent on the missile defence system.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett thanked both parties for their support in passing the funding.

“Those who try to challenge this support, received a resounding response today. The people of Israel thank the American people and their representatives for their strong friendship,” he said in a statement.

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