New U.S. Defense Bill Includes $600 Million in Aid for Israel

Legislation passed by the House to outline spending policies for the United States military will provide aid for Israeli security concerns as debate between Obama and Netanyahu rattles on.

Provided by the Israeli Ministry of Defense, the photo shows a launch of the David's Sling missile defense system, December 21, 2015.
Provided by the Israeli Ministry of Defense, the photo shows a launch of the David's Sling missile defense system, December 21, 2015. AP

A number of measures for Israel have been attached to a defense spending bill approved in the U.S. House of Representatives, including $600 million in missile defense cooperation.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Thursday welcomed the missile defense component of National Defense Authorization Act, the bill that outlines defense spending policies.

The spending “will help Israel defend its citizens against rocket and missile threats, and contribute to America’s missile defense,” AIPAC said a day after the House approved the act.

Of the $600 million, $269 million will go to overall research and development, $62 million will go to funding the short-range Iron Dome anti-missile program, and $270 million will go to funding the longer-range Arrow and David’s Sling anti-missile programs.

The House also approved an amendment to the bill, proposed by Rep. Brian Higgins, D-N.Y., and Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga., that authorizes the provision of assistance to Israel to protect gas fields it is developing in the eastern Mediterranean.

Another amendment approved, authored by Rep. Pete Roskam, R-Ill., would require the president to report to Congress what assistance the United States is delivering to Israel to improve its capability to protect itself against existential threats, “including nuclear and ballistic missile facilities in Iran.”

The fate of the act is not yet clear; the House version will have to be reconciled with the version of the bill that emerges from the Senate, which begins to consider its’ bill this week. The White House has threatened to veto the bill if certain House provisions remain related to shrinking the war-footing defense budget and the president’s National Security Council.

Separately, on May 13, a bipartisan slate of four senior House members introduced a non-binding resolution urging the completion of an agreement between Israel and the United States to extend the defense assistance package.

The resolution, introduced by Reps. Kay Granger, R-Texas, and Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., the top Republican and Democrat on the House Appropriations foreign operations subcommittee, and Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., and Ted Deutch, D-Fla., the top Republican and Democrat on the Middle East subcommittee, calls for “the expeditious consideration and finalization of a new, robust, and long-term Memorandum of Understanding on military assistance to Israel between the United States Government and the Government of Israel.”

The Obama administration and the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are currently negotiating the extension to the current arrangement, which expires in 2018 and which allocates to Israel about $3 billion a year in defense assistance. Obama administration officials say the package will be increased.

A sticking point reportedly is the Obama administration’s insistence on including in the defense assistance agreement the missile defense cooperation budget, which has until now been considered separately. Israel prefers to keep it out so it can ask for ad hoc increases periodically.

Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., secured the inclusion of an amendment in a separate bill yet to be considered by the full House, the Defense Appropriations Act, that requires the defense and intelligence communities to reveal to Congress the number of security clearances they have denied, and to name the countries when these are cited as the reason for denial.

Israel’s interest stems from the Navy’s denial last year of a security clearance to a New York dentist who treats sailors at a nuclear submarine program. The Navy, which reversed its decision this year, cited Gershon Pincus’ communications with his immediate family in Israel as a reason for denial.

Lawyers who specialize in appealing denials of security clearance say Muslims are much more likely than Jews to be denied security clearance, including those whose families live in countries allied with the United States.