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      Obama Official Delivers Pro-Israel Speech, Hails 'Iron Dome'

      Top US official explains record-breaking aid: "Israel's defense is top US priority." Speech seen as transparent Obama call to pro-Israel voters.
      By Hillel Fendel
      First Publish: 7/18/2010, 5:36 PM / Last Update: 7/18/2010, 5:48 PM

      Rafael

      A top U.S. State Department official said the U.S. has tremendously increased its defense aid to Israel in light of increasing threats the Jewish State faces.

      The message was delivered in a rare speech on Friday by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Andrew J. Shapiro. He said that U.S. President Barack Obama has asked Congress to allocate $205 million to accelerate development of the “Iron Dome” anti-rocket system – and that the House of Representatives has already done so.

      One reporter at the State Department press briefing on Friday referred to Shapiro’s “Obama Administration loves Israel; please vote Democratic in November” speech.  The Associated Press similarly reported that “the election-year message of increased U.S. aid to Israel seems aimed at assauging [sic] the concerns of many Jewish voters that Obama remains committed to Israel's security.”

      "As surely as the bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable, our commitment to Israel's qualitative military edge has never been greater," Shapiro said.

      The $205 million for Iron Dome is “above and beyond the $3 billion in Foreign Military Financing that the Administration requested for Israel in fiscal year 2011,” Shapiro said. In 2010, he said the administration requested $2.775 billion from Congress in security assistance funding specifically for Israel, the largest such request in U.S. history.

      Shapiro noted that one of his colleagues in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs “recently had a chance to see the Iron Dome training battery while in Israel for bilateral consultations, and was able to witness a simulation of the system’s promising new capabilities.”

      The Iron Dome is designed to stop short-range rockets, such as the more than 8,000 used by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza, and another 4,000 launched from southern Lebanon, against Israel in recent years. Experts say, however, that it cannot stop rockets fired from a distance of under five kilometers, making it ineffective in protecting towns directly adjacent to the border.                      

      “U.S. support for Israel’s security is much more than a simple act of friendship,” Shapiro said. “We are fully committed to Israel’s security because it enhances our own national security and because it helps Israel to take the steps necessary for peace. As Secretary Clinton has suggested, we cannot entrust Israel’s future to the status quo. And the most certain way to ensure Israel’s future as a democratic state is through a sustainable regional peace.”

      The aid package, which is the most extensive in U.S.-Israel history, does not come without strings attached. “It is our hope that the Administration’s expanded commitment to Israel’s security will advance the process by helping the Israeli people seize this opportunity and take the tough decisions necessary for a comprehensive peace,” Shapiro said.  

      In a related item, Indian Ministry of Defense officials are in Israel to negotiate the purchase of Israeli-made David's Sling system, designed to intercept medium-range missiles (70-240 kilometers range). India is also reportedly interested in buying an Iron Dome system when the system is ready.