The U.S. House of Representatives just voted 410-4 to authorize delivering an extra $205 million of our taxpayer dollars to Israel – on top of the $3 billion in military assistance already in the pipeline for FY2011. H.R.5327, the United States-Israel Missile Defense Cooperation and Support Act, was introduced just two days ago, after the Obama Administration notified Israel that it would support the authorization and appropriation of funds for Israel to purchase ten batteries of the "Iron Dome" missile defense system.
Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey, and nearly all the other "progressives" voted for the bill. (The complete roll call results are here.) The only "No" votes came from John Conyers, Dennis Kucinich, Ron Paul, and Pete Stark. Kucinich and Paul have pretty consistently opposed aid to Israel, but Conyers’ vote is a pleasant surprise, as he has only rarely dared to stand up to the Israel lobby. Stark, the least prominent of the four, is a moderately liberal Democrat who represents the southeastern part of the San Francisco Bay Area. According to Wikipedia, he is the first, and so far only, openly atheist member of Congress. Though he hasn’t often spoken out about the Middle East, he was among the 54 reps who signed the letter to Obama in January calling for an end to the siege of Gaza. And he, like Lee, was feted at the Democratic Party function last week in Castro Valley where some of us demonstrated to demand an end to aid for Israel – we were focused on Lee, but perhaps we had some effect on Stark?
The bill specifically authorizes funding for "Iron Dome," a high-tech system that’s supposed to defend against Katyusha rockets (fired by Hezbollah into northern Israel in 2006) and the Qassam projectiles Palestinian resistance forces in Gaza lob over the wall toward Sderot and adjacent areas. Israel has been working on the system for years, but Haaretz reported last week that "The Israel Defense Forces ducked away from funding the project with its budget, explaining that offensive readiness was a higher priority, and the Defense Ministry has been looking for other budgetary avenues." With Obama and Congress stepping into the breach, the IDF will now be free to devote all its resources to "offensive readiness."
The U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation has an action alert with useful talking points about the new bill here.