WASHINGTON – The House Thursday by an overwhelming majority approved $ 1 billion in new funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, after a debate that revealed bitter divisions among Democrats over US policy toward one of its closest allies.
The vote was 420: 9 to help Israel replace missile interceptors used in heavy fighting in May amid a devastating rocket and missile war with the Palestinians, reflecting congressional bipartisan support for Jerusalem that persists for decades.
But that only happened after a group of progressive Democrats who accused Israel of human rights violations against Palestinians revolted, effectively threatening to shut down the government rather than backing the money. Democratic leaders were forced to remove it from legislation to maintain government funding beyond the September 30 deadline, which was passed by the House on Tuesday, and to separately approve Iron Dome money .
The Liberal maneuver shocked centrist and Jewish lawmakers, who expressed dismay and astonishment at their colleagues’ refusal to fund a defensive system to protect Israeli civilians.
“Whatever your take on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, using a system that has just saved hundreds, if not thousands of lives as political gossip is problematic,” said Representative Elissa Slotkin, Democrat of Michigan.
The Back-and-forth was the latest outbreak of a long-simmering feud between the party’s forceful progressive wing, which demanded an end to unconditional aid to Israel, and other Democrats who firmly support the party. Israel’s right to defend itself. Internal tensions arise as a growing number of Democrats in Washington, pushed by the party’s left flank, say they are no longer willing to give the country a pass for its treatment of Palestinians.
“We must stop allowing human rights abuses and the apartheid government of Israel,” Representative Rashida Tlaib, Democrat of Michigan, said Wednesday evening, announcing that she would vote against the bill.
Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, argued Thursday that the United States should no longer continue to provide funds to Israel “without addressing the underlying issue of the occupation.”
“It is not just one country,” Ms. Omar said. “If human rights are to truly guide our foreign policy, we must act like this everywhere. Otherwise, our words ring hollow.
The episode highlighted how thin the slim Democratic majority in the House is – and how any disunity can threaten the ability of party leaders to concoct the bare minimum of votes necessary to pass a bill.
Eight Democrats, along with a Republican, Representative Thomas Massie of Kentucky, ultimately opposed the measure. Two Democrats, Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Hank Johnson of Georgia, voted present.
Their comments on Thursday sparked a furious reaction from some of their colleagues, who argued that the legislation was limited to supporting an entirely defensive system. They noted that at the height of the fighting in May, the Iron Dome intercepted more than 90 percent of the flurry of rockets launched by Hamas that would otherwise have landed in areas populated by civilians.
In an angry speech in the House, Representative Ted Deutch, Democrat of Florida, said he would not allow “a colleague of mine to stand on the floor of the House of Representatives and call it the democratic state.” Jew from apartheid State ”.
“Falsely characterizing the State of Israel is consistent with those who advocate the dismantling of the only Jewish state in the world,” he said. “When there isn’t room on the map for one Jewish state, that’s anti-Semitism, and I reject it. “
Determined to show the party would stand side by side with one of the nation’s closest allies, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, No. 2 Democrat, who had been pushing for help, played down the drama during ‘a phone call to Yair Lapid, Israel’s foreign minister, calling it a “technical delay” and reiterating his “commitment to ensure that Israel receives this much needed aid”.
“After years in which the previous government neglected Congress and the Democratic Party and caused considerable damage to Israeli-American relations, we are now rebuilding a relationship of trust with Congress,” Lapid wrote on Twitter. , confirming the call.
Other pillars of the party, including President Nancy Pelosi of California and Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, chair of the Credit Committee, stood up Thursday to support the legislation, arguing that passing the additional funding was crucial to protect Israeli civilians and noting that it was an extension of a 2016 agreement reached by former President Barack Obama.
But eyeing an opportunity to remove Jewish voters from the Democratic Party, House Republicans have called the altercation a transgression against Israel. They said the progressives’ refusal to pass funding under the government’s broader spending bill was a missed opportunity to support Israel, even as Republicans overwhelmingly opposed the spending bill.
“By blocking funding to replenish the Iron Dome, Democrats have chosen to forgo an opportunity to stand with Israel and its citizens,” said Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, Republican No. 2.