Congress Okays $1 billion for Israel's Iron Dome

September 29, 2021 - 17:1

TEHRAN - The U.S. House of Representatives has overwhelmingly given the green light for $1 billion in fresh funding for Israel's Iron Dome missile system, a system whose failure to bring down Palestinian missiles was on full public display in the 11-day Sword of al-Quds battle. However, the green light did come after a debate that exposed divisions among Democrats over U.S. policy towards its closest ally.

The house vote was 420 to 9 to help Israel replace missile interceptors used during heavy fighting in a devastating rocket and missile war with the Palestinians in May, reflecting the widespread bipartisan support in Congress for the regime that has persisted for decades.

But the lopsided vote came only after days of acrimony between some lawmakers who have accused Israel of human rights abuses and other lawmakers, including party leaders, who said they were appalled and astonished by their colleagues' refusal to fund a "defense" system to protect Israelis. 

Nevertheless, the passing of the legislation with such a majority highlights the reality of the Zionist lobby's power over the American Congress.

An exchange of accusations over the measure spilled onto the House floor, as some Democrats who were opposed called Israel an "apartheid state," and proponents hurled accusations of anti-Semitism. By the end, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, a "vocal" critic of Israel who had come under heavy criticism from pro-Israel activists for refusing to back the bill, switched her "no" vote; to "present."

It also highlights what many observers say that any criticism of the Israeli regime automatically leads to accusations of anti-Semitism. 

The exchange of words was the latest flare-up in a long-simmering feud between a small new generation of Democrats. Many of them were people of color that has called for an end to conditions-free aid to Israel and others in the party who argue that the United States must not blink in its support for Israel. 
The internal tensions come as a growing number of Democrats in Washington; say they are no longer willing to give what right groups call an apartheid regime a pass for its treatment of the Palestinians, which has unsettled top Israeli officials.

The dispute began this week after emerging progressives within the Democratic Party rejected the inclusion of the Iron Dome funding in an emergency spending bill. That would, in effect, potentially shut down the government if the spending bill is not passed. Democratic leaders were therefore forced to take it out of that bill, which passed the House on Tuesday and arranged a separate vote to approve the Iron Dome money.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, a "vocal" critic of Israel, switched her "no" vote; to "present."Democrat Representative Rashida Talib of Michigan, said "I will not support any effort to enable war crimes and human rights abuses and violence. We cannot be talking only about Israelis' need for safety at a time when Palestinians are living under a violent apartheid system and are dying from what Human Rights Watch has said are war crimes."

Such statements have left many other Democrats furious, who said their colleagues' opposition to funding Israel's missile system was beyond the pale. They claim that during the peak of fighting in May, the Iron Dome "intercepted more than 90 percent" of the flurry of Hamas-launched rockets and missiles. However, the footage on the ground during the peak of the battle in May suggests the opposite, with widespread destruction at vital Israeli infrastructure, which indicates the iron dome was unsuccessful in intercepting the surprising barrage of rockets by the Palestinian resistance in the besieged Gaza Strip. 

Despite the anxiety, only eight Democrats — and one Republican, Representative Thomas Massie of Kentucky — ultimately opposed the measure.

With minutes before the vote closed, Ocasio-Cortez was seen tearfully huddled with her allies before switching her vote to "present." The images again underscore the controversy of the vote was even outspoken progressives, who have been caught between their principles and the still powerful pro-Israel voices in their party. It should be noted a spokesman for Ocasio-Cortez declined to comment on her change of position. Another Democrat, Representative Hank Johnson of Georgia, also voted present.

Other critics also delivered harsh words about Israel's conduct and argued that solid backing for the regime in Congress should come to an end. Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, said the United States should no longer continue to provide Israel with funding "without addressing the underlying issue of the occupation."

Privately, some progressive lawmakers were reportedly furious with Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 Democrat, who pushed for the vote on Iron Dome funding after removing it from the broader spending bill this week.

His maneuver appeared to be intended to calm Israeli officials, who had been watching with some alarm as the fight unfolded on Capitol Hill and had been closely following previous attempts by a younger liberal generation of lawmakers to cut off U.S. military aid to Israel.

After Yair Lapid, Israel's minister of foreign affairs called Hoyer and emphasized the need for the House to approve the request as soon as possible, and the congressman assured him that progressives' initial revolt was no more than a "technical delay." That's according to an account of the call released by Lapid's office. Hours later, Hoyer announced that the House would vote to approve the funding later in the week.

Meanwhile, The House on has also approved by a 316-to-113 vote a massive $740 billion annual defense bill that would add about $24 billion more to the Pentagon's budget than even President Joe Biden had requested.
 

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