U.S. May Delay Aid for Israel's Anti-rocket System Due to Budget Woes

Delay comes as a result of Obama's difficulties in pushing next year's budget through Congress due to Republican opposition.

American aid to Israel for developing and buying additional Iron Dome anti-rocket batteries might be delayed for at least a few months due to President Barack Obama's difficulties in pushing next year's budget through Congress.

The delay will mean a long wait before the weapons can be bought from Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.

Iron Dome rocket-defense system - Defense Ministry
Defense Ministry

In May, the House of Representatives approved Obama's decision to grant $205 million in special aid to Israel to buy the additional batteries and intercept missiles. Israel has so far funded the development of only two batteries by Rafael.

Obama has had problems getting the budget passed due to disagreements with the Republicans over health care reform and other issues. So he signed a presidential order outlining the administration's activities until March 2011.

The order extends the current budget, allowing the administration to spend one-twelfth of the 2010 budget every month until March. But under these circumstances, funding for Iron Dome will have to wait until the annual U.S. budget is approved in March.

Another benefit delayed by the administration's budget woes is the increase of general defense aid. In June 2008, the Bush administration approved an increase in defense aid to Israel of $3 billion a year for 10 years, up from $2.4 billion. Israel was to have received $3 billion in 2011, but in the meantime it will remain at this year's level of $2.775 billion.

The problems are expected to be solved within a few months, but they will affect defense officials' annual planning.

The delay in Washington is not Iron Dome's only problem. The cabinet has yet to decide on additional funding to buy more Iron Dome batteries. Lacking either Israeli or American funding, no plan or estimated timetable is in place for producing and purchasing the system.

The Israel Air Force has already received the two systems Rafael has made, but they have not yet been declared operational. The IAF reportedly prefers to conduct more tests.

Moreover, all signs indicate that the Israel Defense Forces does not intend to deploy the systems in the western and northern Negev, as politicians had initially indicated. Instead, it is likely to place them on alert at an IAF base in the south.