$225 million bill passes for Israel's Iron Dome

Posted: August 2, 2014 at 3:41 a.m.

WASHINGTON -- Congress approved a $225 million package to replenish Israel's missile defenses in lawmakers' last order of business before a five-week recess.

The House's 395-8 vote late Friday followed Senate adoption of the legislation by voice vote earlier in the day. The four representatives from Arkansas, all Republicans, voted for the measure.

The money will go to restocking Israel's Iron Dome, which has been credited with shooting down dozens of rockets fired by Palestinian militants over three and a half weeks of war. The vote came two days after the Pentagon announced ammunition deliveries to the Jewish state.

Efforts in the Senate to approve the money had stalled Thursday night after Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma sought cuts elsewhere in the budget to pay for the aid.

Earlier, senators attempted to lump the Israel money into a broader spending bill that included border security and wildfire assistance money. That bill failed to get the necessary 60 votes in the Senate on Thursday, and the House had little interest in it. Friday's separate Israel bill passed by voice vote.

At a White House news conference Friday, President Barack Obama reiterated his support for Israel's right to self-defense while urging greater protection for Palestinian civilians. He cited Iron Dome as a concrete way the U.S. is helping "make sure that Israel is able to protect its citizens."

The Iron Dome system has emerged as a game-changer in the current round of violence, with Israeli officials citing a success rate as high as 90 percent.

The system uses radar, advanced tracking technology and anti-missile batteries to follow the trajectory of an incoming rocket or mortar shell and determine if it is headed for a major population center.

If an urban area is threatened, interceptors are fired to detonate in the air in close proximity to the missile. Projectiles not posing a threat are allowed to fall in empty fields. The system targets rockets with a range between 2 miles and 45 miles.

The interceptors cost as much $100,000 apiece.

Created by Israel's Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, Iron Dome has enjoyed strong U.S. technological and financial support. Throughout its history, the U.S. has provided more than $700 million to help Israel cover costs for batteries, interceptors, production costs and maintenance, the Congressional Research Service said.

The total already appeared set to climb above $1 billion after Senate appropriators doubled the Obama administration's request for Iron Dome funding for fiscal 2015. Now it seems likely to rise even further, with Obama expected to sign the bill swiftly into law if the House approves it.

Some of Congress' Iron Dome money could go to U.S. defense contractor Raytheon, which can manufacture components of the system after a March 2014 agreement between Israel and the United States.

Raytheon and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems also are collaborating on a system targeting midrange rockets that can travel between 45 miles and 200 miles to protect Israel against Hezbollah in Lebanon and President Bashar Assad's government and Sunni extremists in Syria.

A Section on 08/02/2014