WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Obama administration authorized $205 million to allow Israel to complete its Iron Dome short-range missile defense system.
"As the president has repeatedly said, our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakable and our defense relationship is stronger than ever," a statement from the White House said. "The United States and our ally Israel share many of the same security challenges, from combating terrorism to confronting the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear-weapons program. The President recognizes the threat missiles and rockets fired by Hamas and Hezbollah pose to Israelis, and has therefore decided to seek funding from Congress to support the production of Israel’s short range rocket defense system called Iron Dome."
A senior administration official set the figure at $205 million and said it was over and above the $3 billion that the United States annually allocates to Israel in defense assistance.
"Our team went out there to do the assessments in September and were very impressed," the official said. "It addresses an immediately existing threat to each Israeli citizen," the official said, referring to threat of renewed conflicts on the Lebanese and Gaza Strip borders.
The Obama administration is sustaining and in some cases enhancing defense assistance to Israel partly as a means to encourage Israel to advance peace talks with the Palestinians.
"It can be an important part of addressing Israel’s needs in two state solution," the official said, "where there are legitimate concerns about a Palestinian state being used as a launching pad" for rocket attacks against Israel.
Israel’s Defense Ministry reportedly has been seeking outside funding for the system because its budget is stretched developing offensive systems.
The $205 million will allow Israel to build two Iron Dome batteries, according to H’aretz.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee praised the White House announcement.
"This important step, which will reduce the threat from Hamas and Hezbollah rocket attacks, is a tribute to America’s commitment to Israel’s defense and underscores our fundamental security cooperation with Israel, an island of democracy surrounded by a sea of hostile terrorist and totalitarian threats," AIPAC said in a statement. "In approving this funding, President Obama is bringing to fruition his promise to help ensure safety for the people of Sderot and other Israeli communities."
Sderot is a town on the Gaza Strip border that was hard hit by rocket fire during and before the 2009 Gaza war.