House passes $1B for Israel's Iron Dome after progressive dustup

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The House on Thursday overwhelmingly passed a bill to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, just two days after it was pulled from a government funding package over objections from progressive lawmakers.

Moderate Democrats had pushed for a standalone vote on the Iron Dome funding, which totals $1 billion, amid an uproar over leadership’s decision to strip it from a stopgap spending bill aimed at averting a government shutdown at the end of the month.

The bill passed by a vote of 420-9, with eight Democrats and one Republican voting against it, plus two Democrats voting present. But for the majority party, the episode served to further expose the its internal strife over the U.S.-Israel relationship, with progressives demanding a policy doctrine that takes into account the plight of Palestinians and pushes back on Israel’s retaliatory offensives in Gaza.

Lawmakers who support the security funding sought to highlight the defensive nature of the Iron Dome system, which has proven to be effective in intercepting rockets that would otherwise harm civilians in Israel.

“Let me repeat: This funding, as the bill language clearly states, is limited to a system that is entirely defensive,” House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said. “The legislation before us ensures that Israel can fully defend all its citizens, a necessary condition for lasting peace.”

Israel views the Iron Dome as critical to its security. Terror groups like Hamas routinely fire rockets into Israel, and the Iron Dome destroys them mid-air. The missile defense system is developed jointly by U.S. defense contractor Raytheon Technologies and Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.

Over the summer, Israel found itself in a shooting war with Hamas militants in Gaza who were firing hundreds of rockets per day into Israel, prompting a series of retaliatory strikes by the Israeli government against Hamas positions in Gaza.

Progressives in the U.S. criticized the Israeli government for that offensive, noting that it was resulting in civilian casualties. They have since argued that U.S. military aid to Israel should be conditions-based, as it often is for other countries with whom the U.S. has a strategic relationship. Other Democrats have pushed for the U.S. to fund humanitarian assistance for Palestinians in tandem with the Iron Dome funding.

Ahead of the House vote, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, according to a readout from the Israeli government. Gantz “thanked Secretary Austin for the continued support of the U.S. administration and the Pentagon for the processes to equip Israel with the means necessary to defend itself and its citizens.”

Paul McLeary contributed to this report.

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