WASHINGTON — Despite pledges by US President Barack Obama and key congressional leaders to shield the Israeli Iron Dome from sequestration cuts, Israel has offered to waive funding protection, insisting it should bear its share of the burden.
With more than US $1 billion earmarked in the president’s budget through 2015 for US-Israel cooperative missile defense programs, Israel’s share of the burden would come to nearly $55 million; a painful, yet pragmatic price for the goodwill to be generated among longtime supporters in Washington, sources from both countries said.
After decades of perennial Israeli requests for additional security assistance and so-called congressional plus-ups, the Israeli offer to forgo fenced missile defense funding is somewhat akin to “man bites dog,” said Alan Makovsky, a longtime regional observer who recently retired as senior staff member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
“Assuming this is accurate, it’s a very magnanimous, yet very wise decision on their [Israel’s] part. It shows friendship, appreciation and sympathy for our fiscal difficulties … even to the point of giving up special favors which it’s fair to say Congress would have been willing to grant, considering the threats they face,” Makovsky said.
He added, “The goodwill they will engender will be far more valuable than the funds they forego.”
During Obama’s visit to Israel last March, he said he was “pleased to announce that we will take steps to ensure that there is no interruption of funding for Iron Dome.” At a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Obama underscored his intent to work with Congress for future funding Israel needs against the growing rocket and missile threat.
According to sources here, the amount that would be shielded from some 9 percent in automatic cuts triggered by sequestration is $607.3 million for Iron Dome over the 2013-2015 three-year budgetary period. That means Israel is voluntarily forgoing some $54.7 million given the 9 percent sequester.
Israel is also slated to receive another $65.8 million in Arrow-2 Weapon System funds, $181.7 million for the Upper Tier Arrow-3, $213.9 million for David’s Sling.
Similarly, Israel has not requested, nor was it promised, exemption from the approximately 5 percent sequester on its annual $3.1 billion in grant foreign military financing aid scheduled over the next three years.
“Our position is we must bear the burden that our American friends are bearing,” Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador in Washington, told Defense News in a wide-ranging interview to be published in an upcoming edition. ■