In a nearly unanimous bipartisan vote, the U.S. Congress decided Wednesday to tighten security ties with Israel.
The bill was formally sponsored by House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD). But the measure had 294 co-sponsors ahead of the 411-2 vote that passed the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012.
Nine representatives voted “present” but not “yes” on the legislation, and two voted against: U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), who has been a candidate in the Republican presidential race, and U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich).
"This bill reaffirms Israel's right to defend itself against threats and puts Congress on the record about America's long-standing commitment to the US-Israel strategic relationship, a unique and special relationship founded on shared interests and shared democratic values,” said Cantor in his remarks to the floor.
“This bill recognizes the profound threats the U.S. and Israel face in the region and reiterates our commitment to standing side by side with Israel during this pivotal and dangerous period of transition and instability.”
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) strongly supported the bill and applauded its passage in a statement issued after the vote.
"This vote is a testament to the broad, bipartisan support of the American people for bolstering the ties between the US and our ally Israel,” the AIPAC statement said. “The United States benefits greatly through enhanced cooperation with Israel, and this bipartisan bill recommends new avenues for the US-Israel relationship to grow and strengthen in the fields of missile defense, homeland security, energy, intelligence, and cyber security.”
The U.S. Congress recently voted to increase its military aid allocation for the Iron Dome missile defense system in Israel to $1 billion in fiscal 2013. Each missile used by the system to intercept a terrorist Grad Katyusha rocket fired at southern Israeli civilian population centers by Gaza terrorists costs $50,000.
Israel was forced to use at least 50 of the interceptor missiles in early March during a barrage of attacks launched from the Hamas-controlled region. More than 200 missiles and rockets were fired at southern Israel from Gaza by Palestinian Authority Arab terrorists during that period alone.