Senior Israeli officials said they expect the U.S. Congress to approve $1 billion in funding for the Iron Dome antimissile system in the next weeks, despite its removal from the budget bill on Tuesday.
The Democratic Party is now preparing alternative legislation to approve the funding, and the Israeli officials said they have no worries about it passing.
One Israeli government official said that for Israel, it makes no difference what bill the funding is included in, as this is merely a technical issue of how the money is transferred. “It’s none of our business, and we don’t really have any influence over it,” the official said.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid implied that the funding’s last-minute removal from the budget bill was due to the relationship that developed over the last decade between former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Democratic Party’s leadership.
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“After years in which the previous government neglected Congress and the Democratic Party, causing significant damage to the Israeli-American relationship, we’re currently rebuilding relations of trust with Congress,” he said on Tuesday, following a conversation with Steny Hoyer, the House majority leader, who promised that the funding would be approved soon through a different bill.
But another government official rejected the claim that the developments in Washington reflect Israel’s political standing in the United States. “You have to put things in the proper perspective,” this official said. “This incident wasn’t connected to Israel at all. In a situation in which the American administration needs every vote in the House of Representatives to pass the budget proposal, a single-digit number of legislators seized on this political situation to exert pressure through it. Does that mean we won’t get the money? Quite the contrary.”
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Nevertheless, the last-minute removal did take Jerusalem by surprise. In recent weeks, Lapid was in touch with members of Congress, including Hoyer, and so was the Israeli Embassy in Washington. Just a few days ago, Hoyer called Lapid to ask how urgent the funding was and Lapid requested that it be approved as soon as possible.
On Tuesday afternoon, a few hours before the vote, embassy staffers informed their colleagues in Jerusalem that they had a copy of the bill and the funding appeared in it. That evening, however, they warned Jerusalem that a crisis seemed to be brewing due to friction within the Democratic leadership and claims that the proposed budget deficit was too high.
In any case, one government official said, Israel currently has enough missiles to operate the Iron Dome system, so a few weeks’ delay shouldn’t impede Israel’s ability to defend itself.