US House of Representatives approves defense aid increase for Israel despite Obama Administration opposition

Bill passed Thursday, 282 to 138, to increase defense aid by $450 million; Approval comes following Obama Administration opposition, subject to possible veto

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The United States House of Representatives approved increased funding for Israel’s defense programs Thursday, despite opposition by the Obama Administration made on Tuesday. The bill passed by a majority of 282 to 138.

The House of Representatives passed an appropriations measure, passing a spending bill of $635.7 billion, $576 million of which is designated to Israel’s defense programs. The increased funding is $450 million more than requested by the Obama Administration, which may veto the bill.

According to reports, $268 million is designated to US-Israel cooperative missile and defense programs, $150 million for procurement of the David’s Sling missile defense system, $120 million for procurement of the Arrow-3 missile defense system, $72 million for procurement of the Iron Dome defense system and $25 million in research and development for US-Israel energy programs.

An additional $42.7 million will be reportedly designated to US-Israel anti-tunnel technology. On Wednesday, Israel announced plans to construct an underground, cement tunnel on the Gaza Strip border, the 60-kilometer wall to cost around 2.2 billion NIS.

Last month, the Senate Appropriations Committee submitted the proposal for the increased budget following the House of Representatives submission of a proposal to provide Israel with $600 million in US funding for its defense missile program, a $455 million increase in government funding for the 2017 budget. The request for increased funds came following extensive lobbying efforts by the State of Israel and pro-Israel lobbyist groups, mainly AIPAC. Under the current memorandum of understanding between Israel and the United States signed in 2007, Israel receives a total of $30 billion in aid over a ten-year period set to expire in 2018. Israel had lobbied and pressed for $5 billion in annual funding, opposed to the current $3 billion.

In the letter submitted to Congress Tuesday, the Obama Administration claimed that “At a time when ISIL [ISIS] continues to threaten the homeland and our allies, the bill does not fully fund wartime operations. Instead the bill would redirect $16 billion of Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funds toward base budget programs that the Department of Defense (DOD) did not request, shortchanging funding for ongoing wartime operations midway through the year. Not only is this approach dangerous but it is also wasteful. The bill would buy excess force structure without the money to sustain it, effectively creating a hollow force structure that would undermine DOD’s efforts to restore readiness.”