Last week, Israel deployed the Iron Dome missile defense system which is equipped with cutting-edge technology capable of intercepting short-range rockets. Positioned in southern Israel near the Gaza border, the Iron Dome system first successfully struck down an incoming rocket on April 7, 2011, and has since prevented multiple other rockets from causing damage or killing Israeli civilians.
The United States' strong support for this new and effective defense mechanism can be attributed to the efforts of President Barack Obama and his administration. On July 23, 2008, then-Senator Obama visited Sderot and witnessed firsthand the damage caused by Hamas rockets. He said, "If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I would do everything in power to stop that, and would expect Israelis to do the same thing."
As President, in May 2010, he demanded $205 million in funding for the Iron Dome system-to help make the program a reality. The funding would be included in the 2011 federal budget. As White House spokesman Tommy Vietor put it, "The president recognizes the threat missiles and rockets fired by Hamas and Hezbollah pose to Israelis, and has therefore decided to seek funding from Congress to support the production of Israel's short range rocket defense system called Iron Dome." Thus, the United States-Israel Rocket and Missile Defense Cooperation and Support Act was sponsored by Representative Glenn Nye (D-VA) in the House and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) in the Senate. Following almost unanimous approval by both chambers, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) said, "With nearly every square inch of Israel at risk from rocket and missile attacks, we must ensure that our most important ally in the region has the tools to defend itself."
US assistance for this essential program was in question as the 2011 federal budget was negotiated. Despite Republicans holding up a budget agreement in the House for months, an agreement to be voted on later this week appears highly likely to include Obama's request for this crucial funding.
As we've seen this week, the Iron Dome is saving the lives of Israelis-and making a critical difference, surely to the dismay of Hamas. Tremendous credit for American support of this vital system goes to Obama-stemming from before he was even President. Thanks to Obama's unwavering commitment to Israel's security, Israel now has the technology and capability to defend its borders from rocket attacks.
See the BBC for photos and explanation of the system.
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