Israel's Bennett thanks Biden after US House approves $1bn for Iron Dome
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett thanked US President Joe Biden on Thursday after the House of Representatives approved $1bn to support Israel's Iron Dome missile defence system.
The supplemental funding was included in a $1.5 trillion Omnibus Appropriations Agreement that was passed by the House on Wednesday, agreed by lawmakers scrambling to avert a government shutdown.
The massive 2,741-page appropriations agreement also gave Israel $3.8bn in annual defence assistance in keeping with a 10 year Memorandum of Understanding between the two allies.
"Thank you to the U.S. Congress for your overwhelming commitment to Israel’s security & for passing the critical security package," Bennett said in a tweet on Thursday.
Benny Gantz, Israel's defence minister, also thanked Biden and House majority leader Steny Hoyer for helping maintain what he called Israel's "military superiority in the region".
"The strategic connection between us and the US, which is based on an alliance of interests and values, is crucial for Israel's security and for maintaining its military superiority in the region, and we will do everything to strengthen and safeguard it," Gantz wrote.
Hoyer tweeted: "Proud to support robust funding to replenish and enhance Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system in the omnibus passed by the House tonight, a critical tool for Israel to defend its people against terrorist rocket attacks."
Meanwhile, AIPAC, a bipartisan organisation aiming to maintain support for Israel from across the US political spectrum, said "a strong Israel makes America more secure".
The large spending bill will likely take several days to move through the Senate.
'Should be paid for'
Last September, a handful of progressive House Democrats, who accused Israel of human rights abuses against Palestinians, objected to a provision that would include the $1bn in Iron Dome funding in the government funding bill.
Despite successfully stopping the money from being included within the stopgap funding bill, the House approved a stand-alone bill to provide Israel with $1bn for replenishing the anti-missile system. The vote passed with an overwhelming majority, with 420 members voting in favour and only nine against.
At the time, the stand-alone bill was criticised by several lawmakers and progressive groups, including Jewish Voice for Peace Action which said "it is long past time for the US to end the bloated blank check that funds and enables Israel's human rights abuses".
But Republican Senator Rand Paul has repeatedly blocked four requests by Democrats to pass the legislation in the Senate, insisting it "should be paid for" and reallocated from proposed US assistance to Afghanistan.
The Iron Dome is a short-range anti-rocket system that uses targeting systems and radar to detect projectiles. Once located, it then fires Tamir interceptor missiles at the projectiles.
It has has been used by Israel to intercept projectiles from Hamas's armed wing and other groups in the Gaza Strip, and Hezbollah forces in Lebanon.