Israel to U.S.: We'll Share the Burden of Sequester Cuts
In a gesture of goodwill, the Israeli government has indicated it is willing to waive any protection from cuts in the U.S. budget sequester, giving up nearly $55 million of the annual military aid that the U.S. provides to build the Iron Dome anti-missile system. President Barack Obama promised on a visit to Israel in March that funding for Iron Dome would not be cut by the sequester, but Israel has declined the offer, according to outgoing Israeli ambassador Michael Oren, who revealed his government's gesture to Defense News.
“Our position is we must bear the burden that our American friends are bearing,” Oren told Defense News.
President Obama's recent budget earmarked $1 billion for joint missile defense programs, $607.3 million of which is to be spent on funding Israel's Iron Dome system over a three-year period. The Iron Dome system was designed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries to intercept and destroy short-range rockets of the type fired by terrorists at Israeli civilians from Gaza or southern Lebanon.
Israel has also declined any protection from sequester cuts that would affect other military programs that are partially funded through its annual $3.1 billion military aid package from the U.S., such as the Arrow and David's Sling, two other missile-defense programs designed to intercept longer-range missiles. The move indicates Israel's strong desire to avoid being seen by the American public as an obstacle to fiscal discipline as Congress heads into heated debates over the debt ceiling, the budget and tax reform in the fall session.
Defense News quotes Alan Makovsky, a former senior staffer on the House Foreign Affairs Committee: “Assuming this [report] 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....The goodwill they will engender will be far more valuable than the funds they forego.”
While support for military aid for Israel enjoys wide bipartisan support, some members of Congress have called for reconsidering foreign aid in a time of budgetary crisis. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), for example, has suggested that the U.S. gradually wind down foreign aid--though he said on a recent visit to Israel that he would prioritize aid to Israel while withdrawing aid from countries that are not U.S. allies first. He has led efforts to withdraw aid from Egypt, for example, amidst its political tumult and anti-American posturing.
Photo credit: Susan Walsh/AP