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Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz arrived in Washington D.C. Thursday to visit the Pentagon and the White House and request $1 billion to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome. This visit comes after the latest, multi-week bombing campaign on Gaza, which killed more than 250 Palestinians, including 67 children, and displaced more than 70,000.
The Iron Dome, already partially funded by the U.S., is a missile defense system that intercepts rockets. Israel’s supporters in Washington, both Democrats, and Republicans, want the U.S. to replenish the system and other military supplies after the 11-day bombing campaign on Gaza.
According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the U.S. began providing funding for the Iron Dome in 2011, and 55 percent of the system’s components are currently manufactured in the U.S. The $1 billion would come on top of more than $3.8 billion of U.S. taxpayer money that goes to fund the Israeli military annually, stemming from an agreement signed under the Obama administration.
The Biden administration remained silent and uncritical of Israel’s actions during the 11 days, even as it bombed residents and businesses in Gaza, indiscriminately killing civilians, and bombed a tower used by international news agencies like the Associated Press. It also blocked several U.N. Security Council resolutions to denounce the violence and call for a ceasefire. Israel’s actions saw widespread international condemnation and protests.
A dozen Israelis, including two children, were killed in the violence, which came after Hamas shot rockets in retaliation for days-long invasion by Israeli forces of the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City, where Palestinian worshippers gathered for Ramadan.
In the lead-up to the events, Israel had also cracked down on protests against the forced expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah to make way for Jewish settlers. These events coincided with provocations by emboldened racist, nationalist elements in Israeli society, with Zionist groups marching in Jerusalem chanting “Death to Arabs.”
Human Rights Watch (HRW) and B’Tselem (The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories) have accused Israel of committing crimes of apartheid and persecution, documenting human rights violations. HRW’s latest full-length report on the region says Israeli authorities are committing “crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution” against Palestinians.
.@SecBlinken met with Israeli Alternate Prime Minister @Gantzbe. The Secretary recognized U.S. support for Israel and the importance of promoting equal measures of security, prosperity, and dignity for Israelis and Palestinians. https://t.co/aRHK0v0Ntj
The Hill reported that President Biden has already pledged to replenish Israel’s supply of Iron Dome rockets, even as some Democrats have pushed for reevaluating U.S. military aid to Israel over human rights abuse allegations and Israel’s actions during the May violence. But other Democrats continue to side with Israel on the matter.
According to a readout from the White House regarding Gantz’s meeting with U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, the pair discussed recent developments in the region and continued consultations “between the United States and Israel on regional security issues.”
“Mr. Sullivan reaffirmed President Biden’s unwavering support for Israel’s right to defend itself and commitment to strengthening all aspects of the U.S.-Israel security partnership, including support for the Iron Dome System,” the readout said. “They exchanged views on the current situation in Gaza, and Mr. Sullivan highlighted the importance of ensuring that immediate humanitarian aid can reach the people of Gaza.
“They also discussed their common interest in steps to enhance stability, peace, and security not just for Israelis and Palestinians, but across the entire region. In addition, they shared their concerns about the threat posed by Iran’s aggressive behavior in the Middle East and expressed their determination to counter these threats. Finally, they agreed that the United States and Israel would remain closely engaged in the weeks ahead to advance their strategic priorities in the region.”