U.S. congressmen were impressed by last week's performance of the Iron Dome antimissile defense system in Israel. Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Valley Village ) yesterday introduced the Iron Dome Support Act, authorizing President Barack Obama to provide assistance if requested by the Israeli government to procure additional Iron Dome systems.
During last week's escalation in southern Israel, the Iron Dome system successfully intercepted nearly 60 rockets fired from within the Gaza Strip.
During the 2011 budget year, Congress approved $205 million in funding for Iron Dome.
"When Palestinian terrorists launched their latest round of missile attacks on innocent Israelis, the Iron Dome antimissile system saved innocent lives and prevented an escalation of hostilities and a full-blown crisis," Berman said. He added that "Israel must have the ability to defend itself from rocket and missile attacks, and the United States will continue to stand by our strong ally if called upon in times of need."
The Iron Dome Support Act is still in the initial stages of the legislation process. However, it has already won bipartisan support. Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL ) was one of the initial supporters of the bill, along with four other congressmen from both parties.
Israel is currently planning to set up a fourth Iron Dome system. Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, wrote in an opinion piece on the Politico website that "at least ten Iron Dome systems will be necessary in order to defend the whole country - for Israel, and for America as well, an investment in Iron Dome is an investment in diplomacy that helps create the conditions for peace."
Were it not for Iron Dome's impressive successes, this month's round of fighting could have ended differently. The public outcry after two Grad rockets struck Be'er Sheva, after the system malfunctioned, shows how important the batteries are. Air Force sources said nine rockets struck inhabited areas after the system missed them, due to a technical malfunction.
"The system was introduced at record speed. There aren't a lot of systems that have gone operational in the Air Force the moment the tests ended," explains David Shtemer, director of the missiles department at Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, which is developing the system.
"To a certain extent, Iron Dome is now providing the best show in town. This is a swing from one extreme to the other: from panic to calm. Neither is appropriate, but calm is preferable. Ultimately, the people want Iron Dome."
Meanwhile, the House Foreign Affairs Committee has cast doubt on continued funding for the Palestinian Authority, contrary to the position of the Obama administration. The White House believes that it is in Palestinian, Israeli, and American interests to continue funding the Palestinian Authority in order to stabilize the West Bank, and to improve the situation in Gaza.
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