House approves funding for Israel’s Iron Dome

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WASHINGTON – The House overwhelmingly approved $ 1 billion in new funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system on Thursday, after a debate that revealed bitter divisions among Democrats over U.S. policy toward the one of his closest allies.

The vote was 420: 9 to help Israel replace missile interceptors used in heavy fighting in a devastating rocket and missile war with the Palestinians in May, reflecting congressional bipartisan support for Jerusalem that has persisted for decades .

But the unbalanced vote came only after days of acrimony between progressives who accused Israel of human rights abuses and other lawmakers, including party leaders, who said they were dismayed and astonished by the refusal of their colleagues to finance a defense system to protect Israeli civilians.

Bitter complaints about the measure spread on the House floor Thursday, as some progressive Democrats who opposed it called Israel an “apartheid state” and supporters launched accusations of anti-Semitism. At the end, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, a fierce critic of Israel who had come under scathing criticism from pro-Israel activists for refusing to support the measure, was in tears after saying changed his vote from “no” to “present”. “

The Back-and-forth was the latest outbreak in a long-simmering feud between a forceful new generation of progressive Democrats – including many people of color – who have demanded an end to unconditional aid to Israel and to d ‘other party members who argue that the United States must not waver in its support for Israel’s right to self-defense. Internal tensions come as a growing number of Democrats in Washington, pushed by the party’s left flank, say they are no longer willing to give the country a pass for its treatment of Palestinians, a change that has disturbed senior Israeli officials.

Tensions have erupted at an inconvenient time for the party, as Democrats work to bridge internal divisions over domestic politics in order to save President Biden’s agenda.

The dispute began this week, after progressives revolted against including Iron Dome funding in an emergency spending bill, effectively threatening to shut down the government rather than backing the money. Democratic leaders were forced to withdraw it from the bill, which passed the House on Tuesday, and hold a separate vote to approve the Iron Dome money.

“I will not support an effort to allow war crimes and human rights abuses and violence,” Representative Rashida Tlaib, Democrat of Michigan, said Thursday. “We cannot speak only of the Israelis’ need for security at a time when Palestinians live under a violent apartheid system and are dying of what Human Rights Watch has called war crimes.

The Liberals ‘move shocked many other Democrats, who said their colleagues’ opposition to funding Israel’s defense was beyond pallor. They noted that at the height of the fighting in May, the Iron Dome intercepted more than 90 percent of the flurry of rockets launched by Hamas that would otherwise have landed in areas with civilian populations.

In an angry speech, Representative Ted Deutch, Democrat of Florida, said he would not allow “a colleague of mine to speak in the House of Representatives and call the Jewish Democratic State of Israel a ‘Apartheid state’.

“Falsely characterizing the State of Israel is consistent with those who advocate the dismantling of the only Jewish state in the world,” he said. “When there isn’t room on the map for one Jewish state, that’s anti-Semitism, and I reject it. “

Despite the angst, only eight Democrats – along with one Republican, Representative Thomas Massie of Kentucky – ultimately opposed the measure.

A few minutes before the close of the vote, Mrs. Ocasio-Cortez huddled in tears with her allies before passing her vote to “present”. The table underscored how heartbreaking the vote was, even for outspoken progressives, who were caught between their principles and the still powerful pro-Israel voices in their party. (A spokesperson for Ms Ocasio-Cortez declined to comment on her change in stance.)

Another Democrat, Georgia Rep. Hank Johnson, also voted in attendance.

Privately, some progressive lawmakers were furious with Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, Democrat No.2, who lobbied for the vote on Iron Dome funding after it was removed from the spending bill. wider this week.

His maneuver seemed intended to calm Israeli officials, who had watched with concern as the fight unfolded on Capitol Hill and closely followed the earlier efforts of young liberal lawmakers to halt US military aid to Israel.

After Yair Lapid, the Israeli Foreign Minister, called Mr. Hoyer and stressed the need for the House to approve the request as soon as possible, the congressman assured him that the initial revolt of the progressives was not nothing more than a “technical delay”, according to a report of the appeal released by the office of Mr. Lapid. Hours later, Hoyer announced that the House would vote to approve the funding later in the week.

Other leading Democrats, including President Nancy Pelosi of California and Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, chair of the Credit Committee, rose Thursday to support the legislation. They argued that the passage of the additional funding was crucial to protect Israeli civilians and noted that it was an extension of a deal made by President Barack Obama in 2016.

“This bill demonstrates that the commitment of Congress to our friend and ally Israel is bipartisan and foolproof,” Ms. DeLauro said. “It responds to our moral imperative to protect the lives of innocent civilians and helps lay the foundation for peace. “

But progressive critics have spoken harsh words about Israel’s conduct and argued that strong support for the nation in Congress should end. Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, said the United States should no longer continue to provide funds to Israel “without addressing the underlying problem of the occupation.”

“It’s not just one country,” she said. “If human rights are to truly guide our foreign policy, we must act like this everywhere. Otherwise, our words ring hollow.

Seeing an opportunity to remove Jewish voters from the Democratic Party, House Republicans called the altercation a transgression against Israel. They said the progressives’ refusal to pass funding under the broader spending bill was a missed opportunity to support Israel, even as Republicans overwhelmingly opposed the measure.

“By blocking funding to replenish the Iron Dome, Democrats have chosen to forgo an opportunity to stand with Israel and its citizens,” said Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, Republican No. ° 2.

The House also on Thursday approved by 316 votes to 113 a $ 740 billion annual defense bill that would add about $ 24 billion more to the Pentagon budget than Mr. Biden had requested. It would also require women to enroll in selective service and reform the military justice system to shift sexual assault and harassment cases out of the chain of command to an office of special prosecutors.

Lawmakers also approved amendments to the bill that would require the Biden administration to ban U.S. military support for the Saudi-led coalition war against the Houthis in Yemen and create a bipartisan panel to investigate the failures of the war in Afghanistan.

Luke broadwater contributed reports.


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