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Rep. Mark Pocan: Iron Dome should avert need for Israeli retaliatory strikes

Pocan, a leading figure among Israel critics in the House, organized a series of floor speeches criticizing Israel last week

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Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI)

Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), a left-wing Democrat who has frequently been vocally critical of Israel, argued on Wednesday that Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system should remove the need for it to launch its own strikes in response to terrorist rocket attacks, as it largely prevents rockets from striking Israel.

“I’ve always supported the Iron Dome. Because the idea is when a missile comes in, if you take it out, no one’s been killed on either side, and there’s de-escalation,” Pocan, who organized an hour of speeches on the House floor criticizing Israel last week, told reporters. “If you use it for that purpose, then you still send 20 times the number of missiles back, that’s not the intention.”

The Israeli Defense Forces have said that more than 4,000 rockets have been fired at Israel since this conflict began, most of which have been intercepted by the Iron Dome. Israel has carried out hundreds of retaliatory strikes on Hamas targets. 

When pressed on the fact that the Iron Dome does not deal with the sources of the rocket attacks, Pocan did not address the issue directly, responding that “they should be de-escalating by doing a cease-fire.”

“You can’t justify taking out media buildings, roads to hospitals, scores of children. This is not what this is about,” Pocan claimed. The Israeli military has accused Hamas of using “human shields” — hiding military equipment, facilities and personnel in civilian locations, including an office building which housed The Associated Press and other international media organizations.

As part of the 2016 memorandum of understanding between the U.S. and Israel regarding military aid, the U.S. provides $500 million per year to support missile defense efforts in Israel, including Iron Dome. Pocan and some fellow House Democrats have pushed to place additional conditions on this aid.

Like Pocan, other proponents in Congress of conditioning aid to Israel have also expressed support for the Iron Dome specifically amid the latest conflict, while criticizing Israel more broadly.

“Israel is an ally of the United States and Congress supports Israel by providing military aid. And I vote for that aid package. The Iron Dome missile defense system that’s stopping Hamas rockets is funded out of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee which I chair and I support funding for Iron Dome and it will be in the bill that I write this year,” Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) said in a speech last Thursday in which she accused Israel of violating Palestinian human rights.

Pocan is supporting a resolution from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY) which seeks to block a $735 million sale of guided bomb equipment to Israel, calling this sale a “pressure point” that the U.S. can use to push Israel toward a cease-fire with Hamas. Some Republicans sought on Wednesday to tie the efforts to block this sale to the Iron Dome, even though the arms sale does not appear to be related to the missile defense system.

“[President] Joe Biden and [Vice President] Kamala Harris out to have the courage to stand up to the crazy left and instead of giving into their demand that we cut off essential weapons needed to defend Israel and protect Israel from terrorism, we ought to be replenishing today the munitions needed for Iron Dome,” said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).

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