US lawmakers are considering an aid allotment of $680 million to strengthen Israel's Iron Dome short-range rocket shield.
The move by Republican lawmakers comes in the face of previous attempts by the Obama administration to prune defense aid to Israel.
Senior Republicans Howard McKeon (R-CA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) criticized Obama for his lack of support of a “vital defense cooperation program.”
The Obama administration earlier announced that an “appropriate” level of funding will be provided for this program, but did not request any specific sum for 2012.
The refusal to specify a funding commitment for Iron Dome – Israel’s advanced anti-rocket system – has effectively stopped Congress from allotting the funds at all.
According to IDF officials Iron Dome intercepted over 80 per cent of some 300 targets in March. Presently, Israel has three Iron Dome systems, which must be constantly redeployed based on regular threat assessments.
Defense officials want to have at least nine Iron Dome units in operation by 2013, while the IDF says it needs at least 15 to properly protect Israel's populous urban centers.
The US spent over $200 million aiding in Iron Dome deployment in 2011. However, while the US has approved $235 million to finance the lesser-known Israeli anti-missile systems “Arrow” and “Magic Wand” for 2012, the Iron Dome allotment remains undefined.
US military aid to Israel is set to be delivered as part of a $30 billion 10-year military-aid package signed by President George W. Bush administration in 2007.
From 2009 till 2018 the US is expected to grant Israel some $3 billion per year. Israel may spend 26 percent on locally-manufactured systems while the remaining 74 percent must be spent on US-manufactured systems.
The Obama administration says, like its predecesors, that it considers Israel to be "the protector of peace in the Middle East," whose "strength and superiority in the region is critical to regional stability."
"We don't just support Israel because of a long standing bond; we support Israel because it is in our national interests to do so," US assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs Andrew J. Shapiro said last November.