An internal dispute within the ranks of the Democratic Party led on Tuesday to the removal of a provision granting $1 billion for Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system from a key funding bill. The removal came after behind-the-scenes pressure from several progressive Democratic lawmakers.
The development led to sensational headlines about Democrats rejecting U.S. support for the Iron Dome, but in practice, Israel will still very likely receive the promised $1 billion emergency aid it requested earlier this year. That money, according to Democratic sources on Capitol Hill, will now be attached to a different piece of legislation, the 2022 Defense Appropriations bill.
The decision on Tuesday means more for Democratic politics surrounding Israel than the Iron Dome funding itself. It came about after lawmakers including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley and Pramila Jayapal threatened to vote against the funding bill, sources familiar with the matter tell Haaretz.
If that were to happen, given the razor-thin Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, it would have led to a government shutdown or debt default on September 30.
The $1 billion in aid, which the Biden administration publicly committed to following May's Gaza war, will now be attached to the final fiscal year 2022 Defense Appropriations bill.
The impetus behind the progressive pushback wasn't the funding itself, but rather its addition as a provision to the spending bill. The U.S. provides Israel with $3.8 billion in military aid every year, $500 million of which is for the Iron Dome. Progressives are not necessarily arguing against the necessity of that aid, and no lawmaker has publicly come out against it - although some may do that later on.
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Their main argument in their behind-the-scenes effort was the need for a transparent legislative process surrounding such vast additional military aid.
Rep. Jim McGovern, chair of the House Rules Committee, said following the provision's removal that Democrats are committed to passing the provision as part of the final defense appropriations bill.
The result is a political win for the progressive lawmakers – they achieved what they wanted via a discrete process, and the White House and Democratic leadership must explain why they opted to go down this route, rather than attach the new aid to the FY2022 defense bill in the first place.
Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid spoke to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on Tuesday night, who told him that the postponement is purely technical, and relates to broader discussions about the debt ceiling in the U.S. budget.
Hoyer reiterated the commitment of the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, and speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, who pledge that the aid will be sent to Israel shortly.
Lapid thanked his counterpart for his “commitment to Israel’s security” and spoke of the importance of “rebuilding” the relations between the Democratic Party and Israel “after years of neglect.”