US pledges additional $70M for Israel's Iron Dome missile defense

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta pledged Thursday for the United States to provide an additional $70 million to Israel in the coming months for its Iron Dome missile defense system.

Panetta said that President Obama supported sending the funds to Israel, which would need to be approved by Congress, after Israel had requested them on top of the $210 million the United States has already provided this fiscal year.

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The announcement came after Panetta met with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak at the Pentagon on Thursday.

“My goal is to ensure Israel has the funding it needs each year to produce these batteries that can protect its citizens,” Panetta said in a statement. “That is why going forward over the next three years, we intend to request additional funding for Iron Dome, based on an annual assessment of Israeli security requirements against an evolving threat.”

The additional funding is sure to have support in Congress, where supporting Israel is politically popular and increased funds are already being pledged for next year’s budget.

Both the House Armed Services Committee and the House Appropriations Committee have approved Defense bills that include $680 million for Israel’s Iron Dome system.

“At every turn — Democrats and Republicans, this Administration and the Netanyahu government — we all have walked in lockstep to achieve these results together,” Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement Thursday.

The Iron Dome missile system is designed to protect Israel’s borders from rocket fire.

Obama has been criticized by Republicans for not providing enough support for Israel, particularly as its leaders have hinted they may take unilateral military action against Iran’s nuclear program, a move Obama has opposed.

But Panetta pointed to Iron Dome as evidence that “the level of security cooperation between the United States and Israel has never been stronger.”