US Congress approves £475m Israel missile defence aid

US Congress yesterday overwhelmingly approved legislation to provide extensive funding to support Israel’s missile defence.

The Senate yesterday voted in favour of the bill by 92 votes to seven, after the House of Representatives had voted 375 in favour and just 34 against. The legislation, known as The National Defence Authorisation Act covers numerous aspects of US defence spending during the 2017 fiscal year.

The legislation includes provision for around £215m in research and development for joint US-Israel missile defence programmes, £50m for procurement of the Iron Dome short-range missile interception system, £120m for the mid-range David’s Sling system and £95m for the long-range Arrow-3 system.

The three missile defence systems are part of Israel’s layered aerial defence system, which is being developed in coordination with the US and aims to provide Israel with a protective umbrella to counter all forms of ballistic threats.

The legislation also allocates around £10m to US-Israel cooperation to counter the threat of tunnels, which were deployed by Hamas during Operation Protective Edge in 2014.

This is the last occasion on which separate American funding will be granted for Israel’s missile defence for at least a decade. A huge ten-year military aid package was signed by American and Israeli officials in September in Washington, which will be implemented in 2018.

The memorandum of understanding, as the agreement is know, is the largest military aid package ever granted by the United States and is worth a total of £29bn over ten years in ten roughly equal instalments. It includes £377m annually, specifically for developing Israel’s missile defence systems.

US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter is scheduled to visit Israel next week, where he will attend a welcome ceremony for the first aircraft in a new fleet of state of the art F-35 stealth jet fighters, which Israel recently purchased from the United States.

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