We have probably heard more about the Iron Dome system in the past month than we ever have, owing to the politics surrounding its continued funding.
So what is Iron Dome and how did it become a political flashpoint?
Iron Dome is an Israeli missile defense system built to deal with incoming missiles, rockets or mortars. Specifically designed to counter short-range threats (Israel has different systems for enemies further away) it is a shield against Hamas and other Gazan terror groups.
Iron Dome is always deployed somewhere, but this system is particularly useful during times of conflict when hundreds of rockets are launched daily.
Each rocket defensively launched by Iron Dome costs roughly $100,000, so Israel depends on U.S. financial support to replenish its stockpiles after a conflict. It is this financial support that has knotted Israel’s missile defense system with American politics.
When a congressional continuing resolution containing funding for several unrelated items, including $1 billion for Iron Dome, was introduced in the House of Representatives, a handful of lawmakers, including “The Squad,” a group of progressive Democrats that has been mostly critical of Israel, defeated it. However, when the funding was reintroduced as a stand-alone bill, it passed by a 420-9 vote.
This is an amazing achievement, one that shows the still-overwhelming support Israel’s wellbeing has in Congress, even among those who might be critical of her.
Among the nine House members voting against the funding was Republican Thomas Massie of Kentucky. When the bill passed to the Senate, only Senator Rand Paul, also a Kentucky Republican, opposed it, again showing the support Israel has in Congress.
The reasoning behind the lack of support from Massie and Paul is flawed. This money is such a small sum (relative to our GDP) that allocating it is far from fiscally irresponsible. Israel is our greatest ally in the Middle East; despite its increasing strength and prosperity, though, it still depends on the United States for security assistance.
U.S. troops are stationed around the world protecting our allies at a cost exponentially larger than what it costs to provide Israel with security assistance, and no U.S. soldier has ever died defending the Jewish state. We have let both Massie and Paul know of our disagreement with their stances.
As for the other eight House members who voted against the funding, their attempts to demonstrate support for the Palestinians through this vote rings hollow. Iron Dome is entirely defensive and has saved thousands of Israeli lives.
It has even saved thousands of Palestinian lives. Without this system, Israel would be forced to invade Gaza to stop the missile attacks, leading to a much worse outcome for the Palestinian residents there.
The overwhelming congressional support for Iron Dome also demonstrates the success of pro-Israel advocates. BDS (the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement) is predicated on economic pressure on Israel so severe that it must make national concessions it wouldn’t normally consider. Though BDS has a few high-profile accomplishments, it has been generally ineffective in influencing U.S. policy.
Iron Dome is an amazing piece of life-saving defensive technology, shared with several armies around the world, including the United States’. Israel and Gaza are safer because of it.
(Matt Goldberg is director of the Jewish Community Relations Council.)