Pen Pals

Bipartisan Senate letter backs full funding for 2023 Israel missile-defense aid

Forty-four senators voiced their support for providing $500 million for joint missile-defense programs with Israel

Gage Skidmore

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand speaking with attendees at the 2019 California Democratic Party State Convention at the George R. Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, California.

Forty-four senators voiced support on Friday for providing full funding — $500 million — to Israel in 2023 for the Iron Dome, David’s Sling and Arrow 3 cooperative missile-defense programs as laid out in the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding between the U.S. and Israel.

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Mike Rounds (R-SD) led a letter, obtained by Jewish Insider, to Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), who chairs the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee, and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), the ranking member of the full Appropriations Committee.

The signatories to the letter include 34 Democrats and 10 Republicans. Gillibrand and Rounds, both of whom serve on the Armed Services Committee, have paired on similar letters in past years. A similar letter sent last year garnered 38 signatories.

“This vital funding will help Israel save lives and defend itself, while also strengthening U.S. national security, and furthering research and development,” Gillibrand said in a statement. “The U.S.-Israel relationship is unshakeable and I’m proud to lead this strong group of bipartisan senators to ensure Israel has the resources needed to protect its people.”

“We have had a great deal of success in improving our missile defense systems working with Israel,” Rounds added in a statement. “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. 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 describes the joint programs as “instrumental to the defense of Israel.” It also notes that the programs “support key elements of the industrial base and important jobs in the United States.”

The letter also emphasizes the importance of continued collaboration on countering hostile drones — a key area of concern for U.S. leaders, particularly from Iran.

“Iran and its proxies’ increased use and sales of [drones] only heighten the importance of these systems,” the letter argues. “The collaborative defense program has created an important flow of data to support U.S. service members in theater, U.S. missile defense technology, and our strategic ally, Israel.”