House Democratic leadership, under pressure from its “progressive” wing, removed the appropriation earmarked for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system from its spending bill. The move is designed to save the party’s most radical members from having to cast a direct vote against Israel and against a strictly defensive system that shoots at incoming rockets. It follows Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez‘s (D-NY) proposal to withhold a $735 million sale of precision-guided missiles to Israel.
Both are sops to Iran on the part of “progressive” Democrats doing the Biden administration’s dirty work.
It is Iran that wants Israel’s missile defense funding curtailed while the mullahs use the windfall permitted by the administration’s sanctions relief to fund offensive missiles for Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthis in Yemen. It is Iran that wants to delay the resupply of precision missiles to Israel to protect its proxies. And it was Iran that wanted U.S. Patriot air defense systems pulled out of Saudi Arabia while the Houthis fired Iranian-supplied missiles into Saudi cities and industrial facilities.
The Biden White House is working hard to give the mullahs what they want.
Congressional Democrats’ proposed budget is admittedly a messy thing, but no one has explained why it so desperately needs the money from Israel’s Iron Dome project, most of which will be returned to the U.S. in the form of joint R&D and procurement. And why do this at a moment when the number and sophistication of rockets aimed at the Jewish state by its adversaries is increasing? Hamas rockets fired into Israel have provoked new rounds of fighting. Earlier this year, a month of incitement and escalating fire preceded the first Israeli retaliatory strike in Gaza.
How does denying Israel either its existing defensive capability (precision-guided missiles) or additional R&D and production for the defensive Iron Dome improve things?
Here’s an idea: Just get the bad guys to stop. Then Israel won’t need retaliatory missiles or missile defenses. But that’s not the Biden team’s goal—its goal, and the goal of anti-Israel members of Congress, is to make Iran happier in hopes that a happier Iran is a nicer Iran.
Ocasio-Cortez accused Israel of targeting “international media outlets, schools, hospitals, humanitarian missions and civilian sites for bombing.” “We have a responsibility to protect human rights,” she added. A total canard, but it isn’t the first time the congresswoman has borrowed Obama administration tactics on this issue. Perhaps she doesn’t know that Israel responded to the Obama threat by building a better missile, one that can have its trajectory altered or in some cases be aborted.
There are several reasons Ocasio-Cortez’s amendment is unlikely to pass. First, it is a sale, not a budget expense; second, Biden already approved it, so some Democrats will want to back it; third, the vast majority of Democrats don’t yet want to be tagged with her blatantly anti-Israel position.
On Iron Dome, however, House leadership appears to want it both ways. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) said the money that disappeared from the budget bill will reappear in the defense budget, which will be put to a vote a few months from now; a delay, not a defeat. That is not comforting—or assured. What would keep progressives from threatening the leadership next time, as well? Next time will be closer to the midterm elections. Never mind that—like Scarlett O’Hara, they’ll think about it tomorrow.
As president, Barack Obama regularly tried to pull the money Congress appropriated for Israel’s missile defense. He failed. In his last year, he took the tack of the memorandum of understanding with Israel, adding language that said Congress couldn’t add more money to the figure the administration sent to the Hill. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) called the move a violation of the Constitution—spending is supposed to originate on the Hill—and said senators would add money as the Senate saw fit.
The two concurrent issues—coming to a head on the Jewish holy day of Sukkot, when Jewish organizations are unable to organize an opposition—make it clear that the “progressive” wing of the Democratic Party is determined to “solve problems” by attacking Israel. Unfortunately, the problem they apparently want to solve is how best to bribe Iran.
Shoshana Bryen is senior director of the Jewish Policy Center and editor of inFOCUS Quarterly.
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.