Why Should Americans Pay for Israel’s “Iron Dome” Missile Defense?

Last week, the Obama Administration notified Israel that it would support the authorization and appropriation of $205 million of U.S. taxpayer money to Israel to purchase ten batteries of the “Iron Dome” missile defense system.

If authorized and appropriated by Congress, this money would be above and beyond the Obama Administration’s record-breaking FY2011 budget request for $3 billion in military aid to Israel.  To see how much military aid to Israel your community provides, and what else that money could fund in your community, please click here.

Yesterday, Rep. Glenn Nye (VA-2) introduced H.R.5327, the United States-Israel Missile Defense Cooperation and Support Act.  This morning we learned that the House of Representatives will be voting today on this resolution, which if approved would constitute the first step in the process of getting this additional military aid to Israel.

* Israeli missile “defense” will increase its offensive capabilities.  Israel is portraying “Iron Dome” as a means to shoot down rockets fired at its civilian population.  Israel, like every other country in the world, is entitled to self-defense.  However, there are scenarios when a nominally “defensive” weapon such as an anti-missile battery dramatically changes the strategic balance and enhances offensive capabilities.

With an effective missile defense shield in place, Israel will feel emboldened to launch additional wars of aggression, similar to or even larger in scale than those launched against Lebanon (July-August 2006) and the Gaza Strip (December 2008-January 2009).  In a future war, the cover of missile defense will allow Israel to kill thousands of Palestinian and Lebanese civilians as it has done in past wars without risking any casualties on its side from cross-border rockets.  In other words, war will become risk-free for an already aggressive Israel.  It’s Palestinian and Lebanese civilians who need a missile defense system from U.S. missiles Israel repeatedly fires at them.

* If Israel wants missile defense, then it should pay for it.  President Obama has proposed a record-breaking $3 billion in military aid to Israel in the FY2011 budget.  Israel and Egypt have special exemptions written into the budget that allow them to spend a certain amount of their military aid on their own domestic arms industries rather than in the United States.  In the FY2010 budget, this amounted to almost $584 million for the Israeli weapons industry — enough money for Israel to buy nearly 30 “Iron Dome” batteries with our money.

The reason why Israel doesn’t want to spend its own money — or the money the United States already gives it — on missile defense is to maximize its offensive capabilities.  According to Ha’aretz, “Iron Dome” funding “was not allotted an adequate budget.  The Israel Defense Forces ducked away from funding the project with its budget, explaining that offensive readiness was a higher priority, and the Defense Ministry has been looking for other budgetary avenues.”

* Israel is violating U.S. law by misusing U.S. weapons and shouldn’t be eligible for additional aid.  During the Bush Administration, Israel killed more than 3,000 innocent Palestinians, often with U.S. weapons, in violation of the Arms Export Control Act, which limits the use of U.S. weapons to “internal security” and “legitimate self-defense.”  Israel’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip is not “internal” and intentionally killing civilians and destroying civilian infrastructure is never “legitimate.”

In addition, Israel’s systematic human rights abuses of Palestinians and its apartheid policies toward them place Israel in violation of the Foreign Assistance Act, which prohibits U.S. aid “to the government of any country which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.”

Congress needs to follow the letter of the laws that it passed and hold Israel accountable for its violations of U.S. law, not reward it for doing so with even more military aid.

* Taking care of unmet needs of U.S. citizens is more important than funding military aid to Israel.  Even before tacking on a possible additional $205 million in weapons for Israel, military aid to Israel comes at a financial price that the United States can’t afford.

$3 billion in military aid to Israel could fund instead 364,000 low-income households with affordable housing vouchers, or retrain 498,000 unemployed workers for green jobs, or provide early reading programs to 887,000 at-risk students, or provide access to primary health care services for more than 24 million uninsured Americans.  Find out how much your Congressional district pays in military aid to Israel and what it could fund instead by clicking here.

FYI, Capitol switchboard: (202) 224-3121.  For more information about the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, go to <endtheoccupation.org>.

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