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U.S. Congress Acts to Replenish Israel’s Iron Dome

Israel’s war on its 25th day saw a UN- brokered 72 hour humanitarian cease fire dissolve in less than 90 minutes after going into effect. An IDF team was ambushed  by Hamas commandos emerging  from a tunnel near the Rafah frontier.  Two IDF soldiers were killed in the suicide attack. The Hamas bomber killed himself and two other Hamas fighters were killed in the ensuing fire fight. Unfortunately, a young 23 year old IDF 2nd Lieutenant Hadar Goldin, was captured by the remaining Hamas fighters in the tunnel attack. His status and whereabouts are not known. The IDF retaliated with artillery and aerial bombardment on Rafah.  IDF forces in Rafah spread a search for the missing officer.  Hamas rockets returned with a vengeance to rain down on southern Israel.  An estimated 65 Palestinian civilians were killed in the Israeli retaliation.

The death toll to date in Operation Protective edge is 1,500 Palestinians,an estimated one third of whom are believed to be Hamas fighters, 63 IDF soldiers and three Israeli civilians.   At a White House Press conference President Obama condemned the kidnapping and Hamas’ violence requesting the immediate unconditional release of the kidnapped IDF officer.  Noting that this was the sixth breach of a truce by Hamas, Obama said that  made prospects “challenging”  for any possible cease fire and that both sides should restrain actions that might result in further civilian casualties.

Israel may have won a media battle for the moment because of Hamas’ duplicity.  Operation Protective Edge is turning out to be one of the toughest actions for Israel reminiscent of the October War of 1973.  During that War with Egypt, President Nixon ordered the replenishment of tank and aircraft parts flown directly from the US to Israel.  In Operation Protective Edge in 2014, Israel requested replenishment of the Tamir anti-rocket missiles and ammunition, the later from the US War Reserve Stock in Israel.  Secretary of Defense Hagel had requested $175 million for Iron Dome in an Emergency Supplemental Appropriation.  Subsequently, the request was increased to $225 million by US Senate Appropriations Committee led by Chairwoman Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland).

In an impassioned speech on the Senate floor on July 30, 2014, Mikulski told of receiving a letter from a friend who had made aliyah to Israel, She and her husband, a Professor at Hebrew University, live in Ashkelon near the border of Gaza in southern Israel. Her friend told of the daily rain of rockets that sent her and her husband scampering to find shelter in less than two minutes with the sounding of a wailing red alert siren.  Her friend said that Iron Dome was their only protection from death from the skies sent from Gaza.  Senator Mikulski then noted that Hamas has launched over 2,700 rockets.  The nine Iron Dome Batteries had intercepted 515 of them aimed at Israeli population centers for an effective shoot down rate of 90 percent. She further noted that each Tamir anti-rocket missile in the Iron Dome System costs $50,000 to produce. Do the math; the 515 interceptions cost $25,750,000. Mikulski noted that Israel had developed Iron Dome at a cost of $1 billion. The US has provided previous funding of $900 million for this defensive anti-short range rocket system. Earlier this year Congress had appropriated $235 million for further Iron Dome research.

Watch this Senate Appropriations video of Sen. Mikulski’s floor speech:

But there was a catch, the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill (S. 2648), besides funding replenishment of Iron Dome included other funds.  There were  funds for Emergency Humanitarian Crisis caused  deluge of unaccompanied minors flooding our Southern Borders and funding to combat wildfires out West.  That is known as “Christmas treeing” in the argot of Congressional legislative legerdemain.  That was objected to in a statement by the Zionist Organization of America, who urged Israel supporters to contact Senators and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to sever the legislation, in fear that the Republican minority would reject the packaged Supplemental Appropriations bill.

According to the Washington Jewish Week, that warning by the ZoA may have worked. On Thursday night, July 31st, the Republican minority  blocked the packaged legislation by a vote of 50 to 44.

On Friday morning, August 1st, the Supplemental Appropriations of $225 million for replenishment of the Iron Dome System was passed by unanimous consent by the Senate, virtually assuring passage by the House. The only addition was funding to combat wildfires in the US West.  The Times of Israel reported that Friday night, August 1st, the House passed the Iron Dome Emergency Supplemental by an overwhelming vote of 395 to eight, with four Republicans and Four democrats voting against it.  House Speaker John Boehner  was quoted saying:  “Israel is our friend and Israel’s enemies are our enemies.” The bill now goes to President Obama for his signature.

Perhaps, a motivation for Congress to act quickly before the August recess was the Hamas violent rejection of the 72 hour truce.

The Iron Dome system, development arrangements and funding between Israel and the US are tied into the overall missile defense umbrella that includes Iron Dome, David’s Sling and the Arrow II and III anti-ICBM systems. See our NER article, The Iranian Missile Threat (August 2011).

The Israel  developer Rafael designed and built its existing “Iron Dome” defense system with funding from the US.  However, the critical need now is to replace the Tamir missiles already fired.  That led Israel to approach Massachusetts company Raytheon to help expand its missile defenses. According to a report in The Boston Globe, the venture would be likely to succeed because:

Raytheon’s contracts with Israel would indirectly help the US economy recoup some of the nearly $1 billion in US aid that enabled Israeli designers to develop the Iron Dome system in recent years. The Obama administration requested $175 million for Israel’s Iron Dome in the 2015 budget, and that amount has been doubled by congressional defense committees. The House measure required that much of that money be spent on US components, which is likely to be beneficial to Raytheon.

This is all related to the structure of US aid to Israel, comprised largely of loans and buy backs. This would contribute to the buy-back program.

The Iron Dome is not the entire missile shield – it is one layer of it. It is only intended to tackle missiles with ranges between 2.5 to 43 miles. The second layer is David’s Sling, or “Magic Wand,” which targets ballistic missiles and medium-range rockets, unmanned and manned aircraft, cruise missiles and guided weapons in the 43 to 155 mile range. This layer has been under development with Raytheon and has, from all accounts, been very successful in tests. It is slated for operation later this year. The third layer is the Arrow missile system which will be used to bring down long-range ballistic missiles. The Arrow system uses the two-stage Arrow 2 interceptor with a fragmentation warhead to destroy an incoming target. This is unlike the Tamir, which only knocks the missile out of the sky, but doesn’t destroy the warhead, according to an MIT Professor Ted Postol in a recent MIT Technology Review report. Its successor, Arrow 3, is also a two-stage interceptor and destroys an incoming threat with an exoatmospheric kill vehicle. This generation uses a “hit-to-kill” approach instead of a fragmenting warhead. It will expand the engagement range up to potentially four times.

There was one note of lunacy courtesy of the United Nations, Human Rights Council related to Iron Dome. FoxNews reported:

The United Nations slammed Israel for possibly committing war crimes in its fight against Hamas — and then backed that accusation by suggesting the Jewish nation ought to be sharing its Iron Dome defensive technology with the very terror group it’s fighting.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, a Southern African Judge of Tamil Indian origin,  said to members of the media at an “emergency” meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council that Israel was falling short in its duty to protect citizens in the Gaza Strip from getting killed by its rockets.

Ms. Pillay also condemned the United States for helping to fund the Iron Dome for Israel, but not granting any such accommodations to those in Gaza.

Ms. Pillay is delusional that Israel would provide its protective missile shield to Hamas. That would completely seal the destruction of the Jewish state. Perhaps she ought to trying living in Ashkelon for a day to experience what Senator Mikulski’s friend has to live through, but for the protection of Iron Dome.  But this is the UN Human Rights Council presided dominated by Human Rights violators.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of Israeli children looking at the Israeli military′s Iron Dome defense missile system, designed to intercept and destroy incoming short-range rockets and artillery shells, deployed in Gush Dan, the Tel Aviv metropolitan area, on November 17, 2012 (AFP Photo / Roni Schutzer.

RELATED VIDEO: Shaping Tomorrow Together: Iron Dome