The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved President Obama’s request for an additional $205 million in assistance to Israel for a short-range missile defense system.
The vote approving funding for “Iron Dome” passed Thursday 410-4. The money is above the $3 billion in annual defense assistance Israel already receives from the United States.
The Democratic leadership framed the passage in terms suggesting unstinting support for Israel, part of a friendship offensive after several weeks of tensions between the Obama and Netanyahu governments over Israel’s settlements policies.
“With nearly every square inch of Israel at risk from rocket and missile attacks, we must ensure that our most important ally in the region has the tools to defend itself,” said Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “The president’s unprecedented request and the House’s quick approval speak for themselves—both President Obama and the Congress are actively and unshakably committed to Israel’s security.”
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee also praised the bill’s passage. “Make no mistake, the United States stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of Israel in their quest for peace and the right to live lives free of terrorism,” it said in a statement.
The bill seeking approval of Obama’s proposal was initiated by Rep. Glenn Nye (D-Va.), who has experience in the Middle East from his earlier career with the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Netanyahu Says Israel’s National Security Exercises Routine
Israel’s national home front exercise is routine and not the result of a worsening security situation, Benjamin Netanyahu said.
In announcing the exercise, which will include warning sirens throughout the country, Israel’s prime minister said Sunday at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting that “This is a routine exercise that has been scheduled for some time. I would like to make it clear that it is not the result of any exceptional security development.
“On the contrary, Israel aspires towards calm, stability and peace. However, it is no secret that we live in a region that is under the threat of missiles and rockets.”
The exercises began Sunday and will run throughout the week. It marks the fourth consecutive year that the exercises are being held.
On Wednesday, a 90-second siren will be heard throughout the country at 11 a.m., at which time all residents will go to their nearest protective shelter and remain there for about 10 minutes, according to the Israeli army.
New gas mask kits will be distributed on a test basis in several communities during the week.
Emanuel in Israel for Son’s Bar Mitzvah
Rahm Emanuel arrived in Israel to celebrate the bar mitzvah of his son.
The White House chief of staff reportedly landed in Israel over the weekend and traveled to Eilat. He reportedly will return to a hotel in Jerusalem for the rest of his stay, according to Ynet.
The bar mitzvah for Zach Emanuel, which is reported to be scheduled to be held at the Western Wall, is also for Emanuel’s nephew, who accompanied Rahm Emanuel and his son to Israel along with the chief of staff’s brothers Ezekiel, a White House health policy adviser, and Ari, a Hollywood agent, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Emanuel may meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his private visit to the country, according to Ynet.
Israeli extremists had threatened to demonstrate at the bar mitzvah.