Friday, May 14, 2010

Obama Seeks $205 Million for Israel Iron Dome System

al-Manar reports:

The budgetary difficulty that has been delaying Israel's armament with the anti-missile defense system Iron Dome has apparently been resolved. The Pentagon has issued a message to Israel's Defense Ministry that U.S. President Barack Obama has approved the transfer of special assistance totaling $205 million for the purchase of more than ten Iron Dome batteries.

The Iron Dome missile defense system aced a test run in January, and event that convinced senior defense officials that the defense system was on its way to becoming operational and that it will be able to effectively protect against short-range missiles, such as Katyushas and Qassams, which often hit Israeli settlements.

Produced by Israeli state-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., Iron Dome uses small radar-guided missiles to blow up rockets with ranges of between 5 kilometers and 70 kilometer, as well as mortar bombs, in mid-air.

However, the plan 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. Among other things, Israel has struck a deal with an unnamed eastern Asian country (Singapore, according to a recent report in a French magazine) to participate in the funding of future phases in the project.

Israel has recently raised the possibility that the U.S. assist in the funding of the project by transferring a sum of money beyond the U.S.'s annual defense assistance. The request was reviewed closely during Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak's last visit to Washington earlier this month, and during talks between Barak and Obama and other senior American defense officials.

Its development was spurred by the 2006 Lebanon war and the Gaza Strip war a year ago. In both cases, Israeli towns within reach of short-range rockets were in some respects defenseless.

"The president recognizes the threat missiles and rockets fired by Hamas and Hezbollah pose to Israelis, and has therefore decided to seek funding from Congress to support the production of Israel's short range rocket defense system called Iron Dome," White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said.

Two Iron Dome batteries are under construction, an Israeli defense official said in February. Designed to be towed by vehicle, they will be available for any Israeli front at a few hours' notice.

Bryan Whitman, Pentagon spokesman, said it was the first direct US investment in the Iron Dome system. "This funding will expand what they can produce and deploy, and how quickly they're able to do it," he said. The decision was made to pour funds into the system after US officials observed tests last fall, officials said.

The money comes on top of annual US assistance to Israel.

According to the State Department, US military aid to Israel in 2009 totaled $2.55 billion. This will increase to $3 billion in 2012, and will total $3.15 billion a year from 2013 to 2018.