House Dems remove Iron Dome funding from spending bill amid pressure from progressives

House Democrats removed funding for Israel’s Iron Dome defense system from the short-term government spending bill yesterday, in what activists hailed as “an unprecedented moment for Palestinian rights.” The move came in response to pressure from progressive Congress members.

An eleventh hour request was tacked onto a bill that has to be passed in order to avert yet another government shutdown. It would have given Israel $1 billion to replenish its Iron Dome system, on top of the $3.8 billion in military aid that it already gets from the United States government.

According to Politico, the aid was opposed by the same group of House Democrats that tried to block a Biden administration arms sale to Israel back in May. This would include Rep. Ocasio Cortez, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI). It’s currently cosponsored by Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO), Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN), Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) , Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WI), and Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN). 

A member of Congress told The Times of Israel that Ocasio-Cortez and McCollum pushed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to remove the funding with mediation from Rep. Rosa Delauro (D-CT).

House Republicans weren’t expected to back the spending bill with or without the funding, but that didn’t stop many of them from denouncing the move. House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said that Democrats were capitulating “to the antisemitic influence of their radical members.”

“Just a few months ago, Israel was attacked by over 4,000 rockets launched by Hamas,” said Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “The Iron Dome saved lives and helped limit civilian casualties during this terrifying escalation. There is strong bipartisan support to supply our friend and ally Israel with the tools to defend itself against future threats and I would urge Democrat leaders to reconsider this dangerous decision.”

The decision was also publicly criticized by a number of pro-Israel Democrats in the House. Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) said that he was “incredibly angry” and “bitterly disappointed.”

Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) tweeted, “A missile defense system (i.e. Iron Dome) defends civilians from missiles. Hence the name. Only in a morally inverted universe would this be considered a ‘controversy.’”

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) said that Iron Dome “protects innocent civilians in Israel from terrorist attacks and some of my colleagues have now blocked funding it. We must stand by our historic ally — the only democracy in the Middle East.”

The development was praised by activist organizations. “The times are changing. Congress is no longer a place that will rubber stamp unconditional military funding for the Israeli government,” tweeted Jewish Voice for Peace Action. “This is an unprecedented moment for Palestinian rights.”

“The courageous and principled progressive Members of Congress who just succeeded in stripping out $1 billion in additional weapons to Israel from today’s continuing resolution have effectively ended our decades-long policy of providing a blank check to Israel to oppress the Palestinian people,” said Americans for Justice in Palestine Action Executive Director Dr. Osama Abuirshaid in a statement. “Through their action, they’ve stated that enough is enough.”

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), the rabidly pro-Israel House Majority Leader, last night assured Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid that the holdup is merely a “technical” issue that the request will ultimately be approved. On Tuesday night Hoyer announced the House will consider legislation to fund Iron Dome this week.

The House has to pass the bill by September 30 to keep the government funded through the beginning of December. 

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