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Bipartisan group of senators, including Dem VP nominee Kaine, urges more funding for Israeli defense

Posted by Tip Staff - July 26, 2016


A bipartisan group of senators has signed a public letter urging the Senate Armed Services Committee to include an additional $320 million for Israeli missile defense systems in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which sets the Pentagon’s annual budget. Nineteen Republicans and 17 Democrats, led by Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), have so far signed onto the letter, which proposes that the Senate version of the bill should match the funding levels for Israeli defense included in the House’s bill. Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine (D-Va.) was among the senators who signed the letter, a stance in line with a March declaration by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton calling for the U.S. to bolster Israel’s missile defense. The House version of the NDAA voted to fully fund Israeli missile defense systems, including the Iron Dome, the Arrow, and David’s Sling. These systems would be co-produced in the United States, bringing economic benefits to the United States. Senators and Representatives are planning to combine the two bills to “produce a conference report to both chambers for approval before sending it to the president’s desk,” The Hill reported.
These joint U.S.-Israel programs continue to yield critical defense capabilities that protect Israel from missile and rocket threats from as near as the Gaza Strip and Lebanon to as far as Iran,” the senators wrote. “As you know, investments over the years in U.S.-Israeli missile defense systems have saved the lives of countless civilians from indiscriminate rocket and missile attacks,” they added. During Israel’s 2014 war against the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas, Iron Dome had a 90% success rate in intercepting rockets headed toward Israeli population centers, knocking down more than 600 rockets. Such missile defense systems are important in protecting Israeli infrastructure, which prevents military escalation and gives Israel options short of launching a ground invasion. “It took down about 85% of rockets that would have hit downtown Israeli cities and the fact that they couldn’t hit our cities gave us time, gave us space,” then-Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Oren recounted in an interview with MSNBC about the 2012 war with Hamas. “It actually not only saved Israeli lives, it saved Palestinian lives, because we didn’t have to operate on the ground. It gave us time to work out a ceasefire with then-Secretary of State Clinton.”


The international community must use diplomatic and economic efforts to confront Hezbollah before it instigates another conflict with Israel, one that is likely to be much worse than the 2006 Lebanon War, a retired Israeli general said Monday.
Nowadays, with effective diplomatic and economic means, you can reach a point that … the chances and the potential destruction of this kind of escalation [with Israel] would be far less than it is currently,” Brig. Gen. (ret.) Yakov Shaharabani said while speaking on a panel hosted by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) about the potential of another war ensuing between Israel and the Iran-backed terrorist group. Shaharabani warned that if the current trend line continues without interruption, the next conflict between Hezbollah and Israel “might be very destructive.”
The international community currently has the chance to “impact Hezbollah while it is quietly weakened by its involvement in Syria,” he observed.
Asked about ways the United States could help mitigate the risk of a major conflict breaking out, Shaharabani’s co-panelist Jonathan Schanzer, FDD’s vice president for research, said that Congress can ensure that Israel’s defense systems are bolstered. Limiting Hezbollah’s ability to inflict major damage on Israel will help lessen the severity of Jerusalem’s response, he explained.
When you look at the lessons of the Gaza War of 2014, whatever you say about the way that it ended or the way that it was not resolved, the key to preventing a much more bloody conflict was missile defense for the Israelis. I don’t know exactly how much Israel has or how much Israel needs in order to counter 150,000 rockets from Lebanon, reports are that it can be roughly 1,000 or more a day during that conflict. If those rockets hit northern Israel, if they hit deeper into Israel, that will precipitate a ground conflict, there is almost no doubt about that. So the key here is to ensure that Israel remains safe through missile defense, through those countermeasures. If it’s not able to do so, then we have a real problem. So I think that in terms of what Congress can do, it’s just essentially to make sure that Israel is prepared for this from a defense perspective. That might prevent the war that we don’t want to see.

Shaharabani agreed with Schanzer’s assessment, adding that current Israeli missile defense systems like Iron Dome and David’s Sling are “a strategic game changer” that give the Israeli government more time to consider a wider range of retaliatory options.
In a recently released FDD report, Schanzer and co-authors Tony Badran and David Daoud noted that in the event of a conflict, Israel may need increased funds for interceptors for missile defense systems, as well as for “tunnel detection and destruction technology. Israel will almost certainly need to replenish the prepositioned U.S. military stocks based in [the] country, too. The defense of energy infrastructure, both on the ground and at sea, will also be a major concern.”
They also recommended that the U.S. should take steps to clamp down on Hezbollah’s global fundraising network to supplement new measures recently imposed on the group by Congress. Schanzer noted that the new set of sanctions already exacerbated Hezbollah’s financial woes, even though the terrorist group still enjoys the support of Iran, which has been significantly enriched by last year’s nuclear deal. (Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah recently affirmed that “as long as Iran has money, we have money.”)
The report’s authors further called on the U.S. to reexamine its policy to empower Iran in Syria; enact targeted sanctions against Iran for arming Hezbollah in defiance of UN Security Council resolution 1701, which called for the dismantlement of all militias operating in Lebanon; predicate assistance to the Lebanese government and armed forces on their “divorce” from Hezbollah; request a report by the U.S. military on the legality of targeting Hezbollah’s underground tunnel network, which snakes through residential areas; and in the event of a conflict, ward off Russian intervention (which could lead to an outcome that empowers Moscow) and refrain from pressuring Israel to implement a ceasefire before it completes its strategic objectives.
Achieving a “significant outcome” using “diplomatic means in time of war will be very difficult,” Shaharabani noted toward the end of the FDD panel. “Now, we have time.” (via TheTower.org)

The foundation stone of a new museum dedicated to the most innovative Israeli technologies was laid at a ceremony at the Peres Center for Peace this week in Tel Aviv. Known as the Israeli Innovation Center, the museum will tell the story of Israel and its cutting edge inventions that have changed the lives of millions of people around the worldIsraeli President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and former President Shimon Peres took part in this week’s ceremony. The finished museum will be spread over four floors of the Peres Center building and is expected to open its doors to the public in 2018. Peres has said that in order to continue moving Israel forward and maintaining its advantage as a powerhouse and global leader in innovation, it is important to educate the future generations to think outside the box. The Israeli Innovation Center’s vision “is to create the next generation of Israeli entrepreneurs, necessary to maintain Israel’s international position as a technological power,” said Peres. “Innovation stops very quickly in societies that fail to combine lateral higher education and a climate that encourages business and free enterprise,” Netanyahu said at the ceremony. Among the many innovations to be exhibited at the new museum are technologies including drip irrigation, Waze,Pillcam, and ReWalk. (via Israel21c)


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