House lawmakers call on Pentagon to support replenishment of Israel’s Iron Dome defense system
A bipartisan group of House lawmakers is calling on the Pentagon to support the replenishment of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system following the 11-day conflict between the U.S. ally and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
The 55 lawmakers, led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), wrote in a Wednesday letter addressed to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin that the U.S. should “continue urgently engaging with Israel” on the administration’s “ironclad commitment to Israel’s safety and security, including replenishing Israel’s stock of interceptors for the Iron Dome missile defense system and other important matters.”
The letter, first reported by Punchbowl News, noted that while “lives were tragically lost” in the fighting between Israel and Hamas, which the U.S. considers a terrorist organization, “the Iron Dome was extremely effective overall,” intercepting “approximately 90 percent of the incoming rockets, saving countless civilians in Israel, as well as those in Gaza.”
“Even though the attacks from Gaza have halted, we remain clear eyed about the threats Israel continues to face, not only from Gaza, but also along its northern border,” the lawmakers continued.
“We must ensure that the Iron Dome remains able to protect Israel without running the risk that its stockpile of interceptors becomes depleted,” they added. “Israel must always have the resources it needs to defend itself from incoming rockets when it is targeted again.”
The House members noted that in the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, Congress put in place the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Resolution, providing $225 million to replenish Israel’s defense system.
“Under the current U.S.-Israel Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on military aid, the United States pledged to provide $3.8 billion a year in military assistance to Israel from fiscal year 2019 to 2028, including $500 million annually in missile defense,” the lawmakers noted, adding that the memorandum also specifies that the U.S. and Israel may agree on additional support should Israel become involved in a major armed conflict.
“Please know that Congress stands with the Administration in its commitment to ensuring Israel’s security and capability to defend itself from any attack,” they added.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was due to meet with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Thursday for his counterpart’s first in person visit at the Pentagon.
Asked on Wednesday whether the two would discuss the Iron Dome restock, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said he wouldn’t get ahead of discussions between Austin and Gantz.
“I’m certainly aware of press reporting out there about their desires for resupply,” Kirby said of Israel. “The only thing I’d add is . . . that we take very seriously our commitment to Israel’s qualitative military edge and our commitment to assisting the Israeli government in its self-defense of its citizens and its sovereign territory.”
President Biden has already pledged to replenish Israel’s supply of Iron Dome rockets, though some Democrats have pushed for reevaluating U.S. military aid to Israel over human rights abuse allegations and Israel’s actions in the May fighting.
The violence led to the deaths of 243 Palestinians, including 66 children, with a dozen Israelis, including two children, also killed.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, is participating in a tour of Israel this week following the Egypt-brokered cease-fire between the Israel Defense Forces and Hamas.
Graham said on Tuesday after meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz that Israel would request $1 billion to replenish its Iron Dome system.
–Ellen Mitchell contributed to this report, which was updated at 3:45 p.m.