Israeli regime supporters were driven into a frenzy after House Democrats, in the United States Congress, removed 1 billion dollars in funding for Israel’s Iron Dome air defence system from a stopgap government funding bill.
In reaction to the move by some democrats, to withhold their vote for the stopgap government funding bill if it was to include the Iron Dome funding, the 1 billion for the Israeli weapons system was removed. This sparked outrage at what pro-Israel advocates called a pro-Hamas move and led to accusations against the pro-Israeli Democratic Party of being both anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.
Democrats introduced a new bill, last Wednesday, to fund Israel’s Iron Dome, following immense pressure from the Israel Lobby and prominent Republicans. It was expected that the 1 billion in funds for Israel’s air defence missile system would eventually pass, and if struck down again, would likely be attached to a 2022 Defence Appropriations bill. Instead the bill was voted through the House with only 9 congresspeople voting against it, even progress congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez voted “present”, seemingly after coming under pressure from Nancy Pelosi.
Also of significance is that the Iron Dome Air Defence system was developed with US taxpayer funding and is the premier air defence weapon sold by Israel to foreign countries.
Israel has tested the Iron Dome during its 2012 and 2014 military offensives against the illegally besieged Gaza Strip, during which thousands of projectiles were fired at Israel in response to their attacks. Previously the Palestinian armed groups, now united under the ‘Joint Room’ of resistance factions, possessed largely ineffective rockets, allowing Israel the ability to market the Iron Dome as having an unrealistically high effectivity. At the time, international buyers did not pay attention to the rockets having been largely inaccurate – many akin to “fireworks”, as they have been described by the likes of scholar Norman Finkelstein. The buyers were also not exposed to statistics which would have poked holes in the Israeli propaganda which sought to market the technology as far-superior to its competitors.
During May’s 11-day war with the armed groups in the Gaza Strip, earlier this year, the myth of the Iron Dome’s effectiveness was put into great question. Hamas’ armed wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, along with others had acquired greater weapons capabilities than were expected by their Israeli enemy and were able to strike anywhere inside of Israeli territory, effectively. At the beginning of the war, during the first day, the Israeli military offered several excuses as to why the systems had not been effective against the Palestinian rockets, including that they hadn’t been turned on in certain areas. Israel then sought to cover its tracks, with contradictory information later being published on the nature of the Iron Dome’s failure.
The Iron Dome system, developed by Israeli weapons company Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, is very expensive. A battery costs about $100 million, whilst its individual missiles reportedly cost at least $50,000 each. The rockets fired by the Palestinian armed factions reportedly cost between $200-$800. Roughly 4,500 rockets were reportedly fired back in May, so evidently the cost to the Israeli’s to combat these rockets was far beyond what it cost the Palestinians to fire them.
On top of this, Palestinian armed groups do not possess any precision guided missiles, most of the munitions that they used are still fairly inaccurate and cannot compare to those of any modern army. So if the likes of Lebanese Hezbollah, which possess precision-guided missiles, were to engage in any battle or war with Israel, the Iron Dome would be put to a real test and there would be no possibility for Israel to deceive people on its effectiveness.
Even Israel’s biggest ally, the United States, earlier this year saw through the Iron Dome and decided not to purchase it from Israel. The US military ran its own conclusive tests of the Israeli surface to air missile defence system before deciding not to purchase it – opting for a US-made weapons system instead.
The Iron Dome, embarrassed by cheaply made Palestinian rockets, is now seeing a great drop in its credibility and has temporarily lost its financial backing. The system does need to be replenished if it is going to be frequently used in the future.
For now, it seems that the Israel Lobby in the United States still has enough influence to force such funding through for the Israeli government and its military, despite rising numbers of US citizens changing their views in favor of the Palestinian plight. Especially during this time, when American’s are suffering through immense economic strains, many see it as questionable for the US government to be placing such priority on financing Israel. Yet despite the Israel Lobby still having its way, the blocking of funds by more progressive members of the Democratic Party signals a shift.