US senators propose $558mn more for Israeli missile defense

US senators propose $558mn more for Israeli missile defense
A Senate committee markup of the 2018 Pentagon funding bill would give $705 million to Israeli “cooperative” missile defense programs, a $588 million increase from the budget request made by President Donald Trump.

The Senate Armed Services Committee draft of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would allocate $268.5 million for research, development, testing and evaluation for “multi-tiered missile defense systems” and another $290 million for purchasing them.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) identified the systems that would benefit from the funding as Iron Dome, David’s Sling, Arrow-2 and Arrow-3.

“These funds will help Israel defend its citizens against rocket and missile threats, and contribute to America’s missile defense programs,” AIPAC said Thursday, in a statement thanking the Senate and House armed services committees.

The David’s Sling weapon system and the Arrow program would receive $120 million apiece, while $92 million would go towards Israeli procurement of Tamir interceptors for the Iron Dome short-range system through co-production in the United States, according to the Senate committee markup.

The 2018 Senate proposal would be a $105 million increase over the funds approved for 2017, AIPAC noted.

“As Israel faces dramatically rising security challenges, AIPAC urges inclusion of these vital funds in the final versions of the Fiscal Year 2018 defense authorization and appropriations bills,” the lobbying group said.

The US has “a very strong cooperative missile defense partnership” with Israel, the head of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) told lawmakers earlier this month.

The MDA budget includes funding for “co-development and co-production” of the David's Sling and Arrow weapon systems. The Senate markup of the 2018 NDAA allocates $8.5 billion to the agency “to strengthen homeland, regional, and space missile defenses.”

MDA also plans to test the Arrow-3 system, intended to defeat intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), from a site at Kodiak Island, Alaska sometime in 2018.

Despite the substantial investments, missile defense remains a hit-or-miss proposition. Earlier this month, the MDA made the first successful intercept on an ICBM-like target over the Pacific Ocean. However, last week’s test of a joint US-Japanese ship-mounted interceptor off the coast of Hawaii was a failure.

Missile defense funding was one of the bones of contention during the 2016 negotiations between the US and Israel over a 10-year military aid package. One of the conditions the Obama administration insisted on was that eventually all the funding would go back to purchases of US weapons, which Israel eventually agreed to.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has enjoyed a more cordial relationship with Trump, calling him a “good friend.” Trump visited Israel as part of his first overseas tour in May, becoming the first serving US president to pray at the Western Wall.