Congress triples Obama’s request on defense cooperation with Israel

WASHINGTON (JTA) – The final version of the congressional defense budget triples the Obama administration’s request for funding for joint U.S.-Israel defense cooperation.

The $284 million in the budget released jointly on Dec. 10 by the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate budget committees – up from the $96 million requested by the Obama administration – includes funding for the Arrow long-range anti-missile system and the David’s Sling and Iron Dome missile defense systems.

The full National Defense Authorization Act for 2014 is virtually assured passage.

Defense cooperation funding, to which Israel contributes, is separate from the $3.1 billion Israel receives in defense assistance as part of a 10-year package.

Separately, the House on Wednesday passed a bill by a 399-0 vote that would enhance the U.S. commitment to Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region. The bill, initiated by Reps. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Brad Schneider (D-Ill.), increases the frequency that the president must report to Congress on the maintenance of Israel’s advantage from every four years to every two years. It also adds requests for reports on cyber security and asymmetric warfare.

Additionally, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved legislation that would create a strategic energy partnership between Israel and the United States.

The measure, referred to the full House on Dec. 10, amends the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 and is designed to strengthen collaboration between Israel and the United States on energy development.

Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) led the charge for the countries to develop ways for long-term, strategic cooperation on energy matters.

The bill calls for the creation of a U.S.-Israel Center of Excellence to promote the development of advanced energy technologies.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is working to have this bill adopted by the full House of Representatives.

Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) have introduced a similar bill in the Senate.

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