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Bipartisan Senate letter expresses support for 2022 missile-defense aid to Israel

Thirty-eight senators called for Congress to provide $500 million for joint missile-defense programs with the Jewish state

U.S. Senate

Sens. Mike Rounds (R-SD) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)

In the wake of the recent war between Hamas and Israel in Gaza, and as Congress begins to debate the 2022 federal budget, 38 senators voiced bipartisan support for providing Israel with $500 million in funding for the Iron Dome, David’s Sling and Arrow 3 missile-defense programs.

Under the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding between the U.S. and Israel — which was codified into law last year — the U.S. is required to provide this aid annually for cooperative missile-defense programs, on top of an additional $3.3 billion in military aid.

The senators, led by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Mike Rounds (R-SD), voiced their support for the $500 million appropriation in a letter to Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT) and Richard Shelby (R-AL). Tester chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, and Shelby is the ranking member of the Appropriations Committee.

“Not only does this critical funding help Israel defend itself and save lives, but it also strengthens U.S. national security, aiding research and development,” Gillibrand said in a statement. “Our relationship with Israel is unbreakable and I’m proud to lead this bipartisan push each year to ensure Israel has the resources needed to protect its citizens.”

“The advancements we have been able to make in this cooperative effort will benefit our defense capabilities as well as those of our ally Israel,” Rounds said. “This missile defense system has also saved the lives of countless Israeli and Palestinian citizens living in Israel. It is important that we continue to authorize and fund these systems.”

The letter comes as Israel is reportedly requesting an additional $1 billion in 2021 funding to resupply Iron Dome, which was used to intercept many of the nearly 3,500 rockets fired at Israel from Gaza in May.

The letter describes joint missile-defense programs as “foundational to the defense of Israel since the 1980s,” and emphasizes that they have not only saved lives but also created data to support U.S. missile-defense technology and supported the U.S. economy. The senators also express support for U.S.-Israeli cooperation on efforts to counter hostile drones.

Gillibrand and Rounds — both members of the Armed Services Committee — have been longtime leaders in advocating for cooperative missile-defense programs, having led similar letters several times in the past. 

The letter’s full list of signatories includes: by Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Steve Daines (R-MT), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), James Lankford (R-OK), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Brian Schatz (D-HI) Krysten Sinema (D-AZ), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), John Thune (R-SD), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Mark Warner (D-VA), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Todd Young (R-IN).

Read the full text of the letter here:

Dear Chairman Tester and Ranking Member Shelby: Thank you for this committee’s strong support of U.S.-Israel collaborative defense programs, including Iron Dome, David's Sling, and Arrow as well as our continued cooperative work on Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). As you begin work on the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Defense Appropriations bill, we write seeking $500 million for continued support for these in order to meet the United States’ and Israel's national security needs.   Joint U.S.-Israel missile defense collaboration on Israel’s multilayer missile defense system has been foundational to the defense of Israel since the 1980s. Congress has consistently supported this project. Israel’s missile defense system is made up of four operational layers: Iron Dome (short-range), David’s Sling (medium-range), Arrow 2 (longer range), and now Arrow 3 (very long range). The U.S.-Israeli cooperation has resulted in a system that can, and has, countered numerous missile threats from state and non-state actors from adversaries in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Iran, and elsewhere. This system provides Israel with the ability to protect lives at home and on the battlefield, keeping its citizens and soldiers out of harm’s way.   This cooperative program has also created an important flow of data and invaluable insight to support vital U.S. missile defense technology while safeguarding our strategic ally Israel and our service members in the region. This program synergizes with our ongoing operations in the area increasing interoperability between U.S. and Israeli systems and forces. Moreover, the program supports critical elements of the industrial base and important jobs here in the United States through co-development and co-production agreements.   Another area of critical importance to both the United States and Israel, is in the field of UAS, and perhaps just as importantly, counter-UAS. In February 2020, the U.S. Defense Innovation Unit announced it had selected Israeli firm D-Fend Solutions to field a counter-drone system for the FBI and U.S. military. This technology was co-developed with the U.S. Combatting Terrorism Technical Support Office. CTTSO has played a crucial role in U.S.-Israel cooperation and innovation.   For FY 2022, in addition to ballistic missile defense, $500 million will continue critical work on research, development and test activities to counter hostile unmanned aerial systems. This funding will further development of a range of systems designed to handle the imminent threats American and Israeli forces face.   Together, these programs confront the compelling challenges facing both Israel and the United States and form a strong foundation of the enduring friendship of our nations. We look forward to working with you on these important programs.