U.S. eyes funding boost for Israel's "Iron Dome" shield

WASHINGTON Thu May 17, 2012 10:04pm EDT

1 of 2. An Iron Dome launcher fires an interceptor rocket near the southern city of Ashdod March 11, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Baz Ratner

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon will seek to provide Israel with an additional $70 million in the coming months for its short-range rocket shield, known as the "Iron Dome," Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said after a meeting with his Israeli counterpart on Thursday.

So far, the United States has provided $205 million to support the Iron Dome, manufactured by Israel's state-owned Raphael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. The system uses small radar-guided missiles to blow up in midair Katyusha-style rockets with ranges of 3 miles to 45 miles, as well as mortar bombs.

But top Republicans have criticized President Barack Obama for what they described as inadequate funding of U.S.-Israeli missile defense cooperation in his 2013 budget request released in February amid deficit-reduction requirements.

Legislation moving through the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives would give Israel additional $680 million for the Iron Dome system through 2015, and some House lawmakers are seeking a deal with Israel to share production of the Iron Dome system with U.S. weapons manufacturers.

Obama's fiscal 2013 budget request calls for $3.1 billion in security assistance to Israel, part of a 10-year, $30 billion U.S. commitment, none of which was scheduled to fund Iron Dome.

On Thursday, Panetta said the Pentagon would seek additional funding for the Iron Dome program over the next three years "based on an annual assessment of Israeli security requirements."

"My goal is to ensure Israel has the funding it needs each year to produce these batteries that can protect its citizens," Panetta said.

He said the $70 million would be provided this fiscal year, which ends in September.

"This is assistance that, provided Congress concurs, we can move quickly, to ensure no shortage in this important system," Panetta said in a statement after meeting Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak at the Pentagon.

The pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC welcomed Panetta's decision, saying it would help Israel better protect its citizens against some 60,000 missiles and rockets amassed at its borders by Hamas and Hezbollah Islamist militants.

As of April, Israel had deployed three operating units of the system, which helped thwart Palestinian rocket salvos during a flare-up in fighting around the Gaza Strip in March. It has spoken of needing a total of 13 or 14 units to protect various fronts.

The system intercepted more than 80 percent of the targets it engaged in March when nearly 300 rockets and mortars were fired at southern Israel, saving many lives, a U.S. Defense Department spokesman said on March 27.

(Reporting By Phil Stewart and Jim Wolf; editing by Xavier Briand)

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Comments (4)
EastinWest wrote:
“2013 budget request calls for $3.1 billion in security assistance to Israel, part of a 10-year, $30 billion U.S. commitment to Israel.”

I hope they left some for the failing school systems and highway infrastructures back home in the US…

May 17, 2012 10:34pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
operations wrote:
I Love our Isreali brethren, yet, in America we have needs for our own under-served people. People of natural orgin and basic need. The people of Isreal deserve much from there Gov’t. While the Wealthy in the US deny the very basic needs of our own people who have less than any Isreali born.
Seems if the basic needs of all people were made equal, what need an Iron Shield any case be made. As safety no single race or religion can or should be made. The vast and often moneys, seem so sadly mis-placed!

May 17, 2012 12:12am EDT  --  Report as abuse
avista wrote:
I wonder where the Republicans are getting the money to fund this increase in spending? Maybe out of their own pockets??

May 18, 2012 10:30am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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